If you watch the video, at first it seems like it’s a shot of a peaceful and beautiful tidepool. But as you watch, a variety of different life forms become evident. Two crabs, urchins, anemones, a fish. Can you spot more? You can also hear us talking. I’m the one who can’t pronounce anemone, ha ha. This is some of what Jim and I did at the beach at Yaquina Head: we would find an interesting pool, and then hold still and quiet and watch. It is better than TV!

Parking is at the top of the bluff holding the Yaquina Head Lighthouse that I talked about in my last post, and we followed those stairs down to the beach.

Jim stands at the top of the stairs surveying the tide pool scene below.

From the stairs we could see how the shape of the rocks in the water created tide pools. We also saw that lots of other people thought it was a good day to be at the beach.

LOTS of other people.

When Jim came out to the coast to visit from his home in Minnesota (halfway between the two US coasts), he had his hopes pinned on tide pooling. For those who haven’t done it, tide pooling means finding a beach that has pools left on shore when the tide drops. After the tide is out, you can explore the pools and see ocean wildlife up close and personal. I told Tara our plans, and Tara enthusiastically suggested Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. The U.S. Burea of Land Management oversees this natural area, and interpretive guides were on site to keep people out of restricted areas, but also to answer questions and help us get the most awe and wonder out of our day.

On our way down the steps we could hear a raucous cacophony of bird colonies. Then we spotted them atop the rocks.

A gulp of cormorants clustered atop a rock. Can you even guess how fun it was for me today when I researched what to call a group of cormorants and learned that the proper term is “gulp?”

The beach had no sand but instead these small round rocks that were hard to walk in, but beautiful.

We hit the beach at about 20 minutes before lowest tide, which is perfect. The weather had improved all day and became warm down on the rocks where we were protected from wind. The bright sky did provide a serious photography challenge. I was pleased when I could find rock shadows to counteract the shine on the surface of the water.

This anemone is exposed to the air, now that the tide is out.

The two anemones on the left have closed up to wait for incoming tide. I’m guessing this must be for protection.

Ocean grass beneath bubbles on the surface.

A brave girl showed me how to touch them.

Jim at the beach.

It was hard to find good shots that weren’t washed out due to glare on the water. But look through the glare to see the pink and peach colours of some beautiful coraline algae.

Fascinating sea communities were dulled in the brightly reflected sky.

I know I already showed you the Giant Green Anemone, but they are SO COOL!!

We had a blast and played with little sea critters for a long time. We had a hard time finding starfish, but finally Jim found one and then climbed precariously to a spot to get a photo. When he was done I made the same poor choice, because climbing around sketchy rocks to get a photo is pretty much my MO.

Jim catches a photo of a starfish while trying not to fall into the sea.

This is the sad result of when I climbed out there and did the same thing. At least the starfish is visible, its legs all curled up.

One of the larger pools filled with entertainment.

“Dragon Claws!” I exclaimed when I saw these. But upon investigation, found that they are called Gooseneck, or Leaf Barnacle. I like my idea better.

A gumboot chiton. Yes, that’s an animal.

A relative chiton. Sadly, we were told by an interpretive guide that this one is dying, or dead, and that’s why it’s riblike structure is exposed.

The mood on the beach was effervescent. I think that was because so many kids were there, genuinely enjoying the outing, and so many adults were allowing themselves to get into the spirit of discovery and delight. Even teenagers in packs were climbing around the rocks, discovering things and calling their friends over to see. It made people talkative with each other, while we shared the common experience. I asked a mom if I could photograph her daughter’s little hand with white fingernail polish while she showed me how to touch an anemone. The mom gave permission, and then remarked at how it had not even occurred to her to be protective of her child in that environment. “I think people are safe here,” she decided. I agreed.

A family looks out across the water.

The ocean swells eventually began carrying the tide back to us.

I finally found a section of the beach where there were copious shadows and I could finally take clear photos of the tide pools.

I don’t think I know of a more gorgeous shade of purple than the colours the Purple Sea Urchin wears.

It looks like a mermaid’s toybox.

Here’s a close up.

We sated our bouldering and sea creature desires after a few hours, and headed back up the stairs. The lowering angle of the sun gilded the hillside.

Goodbye cormorant gulps.

Goodbye sea stacks.

Goodbye glowing hillside of purple fireweed.

Chinese lions glare at each other.

I neglected my doors post! As if fourteen billion posts from my New England trip wasn’t enough, I also took photos of doors, which I obviously can’t resist, and they have been patiently waiting in a “Doors” folder on my desktop. Finally, the time is upon us!

Please take a look at the collection of doors I liked from my trip this spring. I have forgotten where most of them came from, which is a loss. But I think they are a lot of fun even without some of the context.

My friend, Will, and I traveled from Maine, to New Hampshire, to Massachusetts, to Rhode Island. These were scattered along the way.

I do like columns at the entryway.

Columns with a pretty curved roof.

Columns are even better when surrounding a detailed metal door like this.

These columns are not as impressive, but I appreciate the sign at the gate: “Home for Aged Women.” It was built for Benjamin Crowninshield, a member of Congress and Secretary of the Navy before he died in 1851. His son, William Crowninshield, was born in this home, and grew up to be a Supreme Court Justice and the Secretary of War, who died in 1900.

The simplicity drew me to this one. I wonder if the dog sticker is to help people identify the right address?

The aging actually makes it more attractive.

Bricks are often gorgeous.

Don’t miss the bull’s head above the awning.

Churches have the most beautiful doors.

Not a “door” but a doorway.

A typical door in Boston’s financial district. But the sign over the door says, “Site of the first meeting house in Boston, built 1632.”

A residence door painstakingly aged.

And last but not least: the door of a liquor store that made me bust up laughing. The T-shirt in the window says “I got it in the Bunghole”

I have learned to time my collections of doors, when I have them, to be able to participate in Norm’s Thursday Doors community. His idea is a great one, and by the number of responses, clearly an idea that resonates with bloggers.

It was a beautiful day as I waited for Jim at the Portland International Airport. So beautiful that I waited outside under the covered approach lanes, instead of inside PDX.

In July I got to meet a friend in person that I have known for years online. Just over two years ago, I spotted a profile photo that I loved, on a dating website. It was of a man with red hair and beard, holding the outstretched paw of a statue of a red dancing bear. The man appeared to be dancing with the bear. Jim, who lives in Minnesota, agreed that we are not a good match for dating, but I couldn’t resist writing to him to tell him how much I loved that photo.

We’ve been writing to each other ever since. We’ve shared our dating woes and successes, our complaints about work, photos from our travels, stupid jokes we found online. We do not see eye to eye on everything, but we do recognize in each other that there is a person somewhere in the world with the same drive to be good to others, to have adventures, to poke irreverent fun at sacred things, and challenge the status quo.

Jim was about to take an Alaskan cruise with his family and they would be leaving from Seattle, two hours north of me. So he flew in to Portland early, and I hosted him until it was time to drive him to Seattle. On one day we explored Portland and on the other we went on a road trip.

One of the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean from Highway 101.

We stopped at Tillamook Country Smoker to buy jerky snacks and pepperoni sticks. Then we stopped at the Tillamook Creamery for ice cream.

For the road trip we went directly to the coast, because – duh, he’s from Minnesota. We left my house for Astoria, then turned south along the coast highway. We stopped for overlooks and we stopped for a train! An honest to goodness steam train parked in Rockaway Beach, Oregon. We snapped photos and asked questions and found out it’s the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, a tourist train that runs a 5-mile route between there and Garibaldi, the next town south.

A restored steam train in Rockaway Beach, Oregon.

The conductor takes a break.

The grate is real wood.

The other side. (You know you wanted to see the other side.)

Our goal that day was tidepooling, and I got so many photos that I’ll include them in a separate post, but at at the tidepooling location was the eye-catching Yaquina Head lighthouse that we explored when we were done pestering sea creatures in the tide pools. The lighthouse has a white 1000 watt bulb in its first order Fresnel lens, and the light pattern is 2 seconds on, 2 seconds off, 2 seconds on, 14 seconds off.

I thought I was being very clever: catching the sunlight through the Fresnel lens.

The evening weather was clearly more lovely than it was in the morning, making the tower glow.

View of Yaquina Head Lighthouse as we walked from the parking lot.

Look how happy I get when I see a lighthouse!

Upon leaving Yaquina Head we drove due East, inland, until we reached Interstate 5 and turned north, which took us home for the night.

Our day in Portland was mostly occupied with a tour of the Pittock Mansion. I’ve talked about it before. This is a beautiful old mansion on a hill overlooking the city of Portland that has been turned into a museum. I love this place so much that I go there about once a year.

The outside of the Pittock Mansion.

View from the second floor balcony.

Furnishings in the curved hallway.

Henry Pittock was born in 1834 in England but raised in the United States. He and his wife Georgiana came to Portland at a time when many news publications had been started and it was a competitive business. He worked as a typesetter for The Oregonian but the business was not thriving, and he eventually was offered ownership of the paper in lieu of back pay. Pittock kept the paper alive, and then some. Today, The Oregonian is the largest newspaper in Oregon and the oldest newspaper on the West Coast.

The success of the paper allowed Henry and Georgiana to build a remarkable home when they had reached their later years. The couple was able to occupy the residence in 1914, and sadly died four years later. Family lived there until 1958, when it was put up for sale. It sat empty, got damaged in a storm, and then slowly fell into disrepair until the community rallied and brought it back to life in 1965 as part of the Portland Parks and Recreation system.

Great efforts have been made to fill the house with original furnishings when possible, such as this photo of a Mansion party.

When people in the community discover they are in possession of a piece of Pittock furniture, they will sometimes donate it to the museum.

I really love this kitchen made to look as though it’s in use. I would recommend a remodel to open it up though. Talk about a galley kitchen.

I get a kick out of the bathrooms here. They are truly wonderful.

What the heck do you suppose this was for? Sitting in, I guess. My feet would get cold. I think in this curved tower room I would prefer a tub.

The medicine cabinet is stocked with period items.

Look at the crazy old pipes for this tub and shower.

Array of pipes in the shower.

A direct line to every room.

This is the dumbwaiter, and buttons for each of the four levels of the home.

After we were done wandering all over the house into every room we were allowed to enter, and that includes the basement, we then walked around the grounds. The old coach house is now the admission and gift shop, and the groundskeepers home has been restored and is open for touring as well. From this magnificent estate on a hill, we gazed out across the city of Portland at the peak of Mt. Hood rising as she does.

View of the valley from the Pittock Mansion.

I then turned the tables on Jim and enlisted his help with my own project. I needed to rent a car because my Jeep was scheduled for some repairs. I don’t often have a second driver in my home, but Jim’s visit was perfect timing. Before we went to the rental office, however, we had time for one more important stop: VooDoo Doughnuts.

The logo for VooDoo Doughnuts, a Portland original that has now spread across the country. A friend of mine posted this summer from VooDoo Doughnuts at Disneyworld in Florida!

The inside of the shop is so wild that you can stay entertained while you wait in line. There is always a line.

We then picked up a rental car, and each drove one of the vehicles to the repair shop. I dropped of the Jeep and Jim drove us both up to Seattle as it got dark. We found his hotel and said goodbye after two super fun days together.

Kids in the new kitchen. That’s Tara in the middle.

I did not expect that when I spent this summer jobless I would be busier than ever, but it’s true! I thought that those hours when I used to be glued to the computer I would now spend more time in the garden, or just relax on the deck with my kitty. What happened is that I just filled up all the rest of the spaces. Looking back, I realize my 10-hour work days might have been the closest thing to physical rest I got, other than when I was sleeping.

One of the most fun things I did this summer was to finally show off my new kitchen. You remember my whining about the remodel woes earlier this year. It took 10 months instead of the projected 2-4 months. The Project Manager TRIED to charge me double the estimated price, but he didn’t realize that the person he assumed was a dumb girl, that he had been ignoring and disrespecting the whole year is actually a wildcat. I got advice from a lawyer and submitted a letter to the PM with a corrected invoice, and a check for what – in my opinion – was the correct balance. …and then I sent a copy to his boss at the parent company. A month later I received a response accepting all my corrections except one. No apology. But whatever. It saved me over $10,000!! Gold star for Crystal.

Now it was time to have people over. First let me show you a before and after:

This photo is from last spring. I’m standing in the front room, facing a wall that holds a utility closet and a pantry. Behind all that (you can see the stove and microwave) is the tiny galley kitchen.

A photo of what it looks like now, while standing in the same place.

Tara wanted to have a big 22nd birthday party at my place in July, and said it was ok if I invited a bunch of my friends (since most of them know Tara anyway) and had a kitchen-warming party at the same time. Tara’s partner, Brynnen (orange hair), came over, and Tara’s best friend also came over the night before, and they insisted on making dinner. I unhesitatingly agreed.

We had the party on a Friday, and I told people it would go from 3pm to 8pm. That way, people could come and go all day long. A few of my friends stayed the night too, and so obviously the party really went till 1am or so. We had a fire in the fire pit and talked and laughed till we were finally spent.

While the photos of the perfectly clean kitchen are lovely, I like the following pictures better because this is the whole point of a kitchen: to gather and eat and drink and laugh.

The kids filling their plates after they finished making dinner.

Friends in the kitchen. My front room is still dark, but believe me it is so much lighter now after the remodel.

Three of my best friends and former co-workers.

Hosting parties is not typically my thing, and this part where people just break off and talk to each other without my help is magical to me.

Tara’s friends rigged up the TV to play video games and spent their time in that room.

Tara and a couple of my friends.

Here are the same two friends, who are also newly married, and took the opportunity to go for a long walk.

Speaking of friends… earlier in July I had the chance to spend a day with a blogger friend, Marlene, and help with her yard sale. I am fortunate to call several of you friends, and I lucked out when one of you bloggers turned out to be a neighbor (she’s an hour and a half away, but that’s pretty close). Anyway, I spent one of the best days of my whole summer with Marlene and a few of her beautiful family members. If any of you follow her at insearchofitall, please let me assure you that she is even more sincere, generous, and wise in person than she seems on her blog. Marlene wrote a great post about the yard sale. She also handed over some bowl cozies that she made specifically for Tara and Brynnen. These are bowl-shaped hot pads that you set your bowl into before you put it into the microwave. When your soup is hot, you can just wrap your hands around the cozy and pull it directly from the microwave without burning your hands. Brilliant! Tara and Brynnen are huge fans of soup, and use the cozies constantly.

Marlene wears a great apron that of course she made for herself.

Customers survey the treasures for sale when two homes get merged into one.

Blue and green leaf pattern chosen specifically for Tara’s cozies.

Another thing I did with Tara and Brynnen in honor of Tara’s birthday, is take them to see the Broadway show Wicked, a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman. Tara is a huge fan of Broadway. They listen to the Broadway Pandora channel and know most of the songs for most Broadway shows by heart, despite only having seen a few of them. Tara has been dying to see Wicked for years, but it took a very (very) long time to come to Portland, then it sold out the first two years before I could get tickets, then we were busy, but finally it all came together. I read the original book by Gregory Maguire (based on the original original by L. Frank Baum) and couldn’t imagine a Broadway show of that book. However, the performance takes only some of the key ideas of the book, and to my delight, keeps a lot of the creepiness of the uncomfortably strange world, while also showing a way to connect with that world.

The Keller Auditorium in Portland, with crowds of people who want to see Wicked.

Merchandise for sale in the lobby. I’ve always liked the artwork and design for this show.

Though not allowed to photograph performances, I always try to get a shot of the stage before shows that I see. This one is one of my favourites ever because…. Yes! the DRAGON! (It’s eyes lit up and its head moved, too)

If you don’t know, Wicked is about the days when Glinda (The Good Witch from the Wizard of Oz) and Elphaba (The Wicked Witch of the West) were college students together. How they started out as friends, but how politics and society told them that in order to pursue their dreams they had to present as enemies. In a way, one ended up on the right, and one on the left, and society didn’t allow them space to respect each other (sound familiar anyone?). Though they always cared about each other, publicly they were forced to denounce each other, and privately they didn’t really understand each other. There was also a very strong story line about discrimination of a group of citizens that the people of Oz felt were too different to be welcomed into society. And a third strong story line about how Elphaba didn’t fit stereotype of a pretty and desirable woman (her skin was green after all), and how handsome party boy Prince Fiyero not only falls in love with who she is, but is also motivated to become a better man after watching her example. The show makes us reconsider everything that the beloved television special The Wizard of Oz taught us, and makes us realize that the “truth” of history is a function of who gets to tell the story.

A whole string of good advice, wise warnings, biting criticism, intentful introspection, and positivity with tolerance. Great songs, great actors, and all of us went home very happy to have seen it.

We were, however, curious about the strange sights in the parking garage as we entered and left.

This sight on the wall near where we parked inside the parking garage. So creepy we actually laughed out loud!

On the way down the stairs to street level, we laughed again. It’s a play on a famous line from the 1977 film Star Wars.

A magnificent ocean-dweller, on land for a time.

Yesterday I showed scenes of Faerieworlds 2019 so that I could try to bring you with me. Now that you have a sense of the setting, let me introduce you to some of the citizens. If you want to see all of my photos and get a real sense of it all, please visit my Flickr page.

The festival is three days long and I have never attended more than one day. Most people camp on site, and live fully in the realm. Friday used to be a work day for me, and Sunday used to be a half day, so Saturday was always my top choice. This year when I do not have work on Friday and Sunday was a full festival day, I found that I was still only able to make it on Saturday. The fae folk often have new outfits on each day, so imagine how much more there is to see if one is there three days in a row.

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In the following photos, you’ll see Toby Froud. He is fantasy royalty, and one of my favourite celebrities. I’ve spoken with him a little in previous years, even included his photo once before. Toby is the son of Brian and Wendy Froud, of whom I am also a huge fan. Brian Froud’s faery art is what made me realize I am in love with faeries. Wendy Froud’s puppets in the movie The Dark Crystal are something I’ll never forget. I spotted him this year when he paused to talk to some folks outside the beer garden, where I was sitting with a pint and chatting with a wizard. I gasped, “Is that Toby Froud?” The wizard turned to look and then confirmed for me, “Yes, it is.” It did occur to me that I was in my element when not only did I not have to explain who Toby Froud was, but the total stranger sitting next to me also recognized Toby Froud on sight. Nerds of the world, Unite!

I had seen something in an article about Toby living in Portland, and when I left the beer garden to go talk to him, I asked him when he lived there. “I’m still there!” he said. “I’ve lived in Portland for ten years!” I am astonished. He’s been here all along, and now I am even more delighted. He said he moved here from England for work, and listed off some of the places he has lent his talents (including Laika), where he worked on the movie the Box Trolls and the TV series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and then talked up his next project. If I was a better fan, I would remember what it was. Instead, I was proud of myself just for not passing out.

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I am happy to have finally been forced to figure out how to use the Word Press gallery option. It’s a good way to smash entirely too many photos into a single post.

I can never have too many sparkly things.

This post is out of order. I have wonderful stories to tell you about what happened before Faerieworlds 2019. But I do know that faeries, sprites, goblins, pirates, mermaids and all sorts of folk will be combing the Internet looking for photos of themselves this week. For their sake, I’m posting now, though today’s post will be scenes and not characters. (Hey faeries! Go look at my flickr page too!)

I have been attending Faerieworlds since 2007 when it was in Veneta, Oregon. Then it moved to Mt. Pisgah in Eugene. Now it’s up north here in Hillsboro, which is conveniently close. It’s a three-day musical festival with a faery theme. All manner of magical creatures show up, including goblins and elves, dragons, unicorns, and the Green Man, and things that have no name, like a man made of rocks. The best thing about Faerieworlds is the atmosphere, which welcomes everyone, and that means everyone. So if you are in a costume that does not fit the theme, you are appreciated just as much. With that in mind, I pulled out my Renaissance Faire dress that my mother made for me, added green and blue gauzy wings and a flower crown. And lots of sparkly things. Because this faery loves sparkly things.

The setting is in this forest, beside this lake.

There was a pirate ship in the forest, but not on the lake!

Vendors set up tents that fit the theme and are lovely to see and to walk through.

Here Herb Leonhard holds court in his artistic realm.

A copper merchant sells a vessel to a crow.

“Take me home”

Fairy lamps

Tents are arranged into little villages of commerce.

Visitors can browse the tents or spread their wings.

Activities for kids included gigantic bubbles to play with.

Here a red fairy organizes resistance while the Big Dark Fairy Catcher tries to catch little faeries. And Spider-Man.

Even big faeries find time to play.

Who knows what these characters find to joke about together?

Magical beings take some rest and nourishment.

A stage at the bottom of the hill hosts performers all day and into the night.

This is my average level of happiness when I’m in The Realm.

I wanted this first post to give you a sense of what it is like to be there. I will dedicate tomorrow’s post to portraits of characters, and they are simply wonderful.

View of Mt. Jefferson as I drove to Bend.

One of Tara’s summer classes this term was geology field camp. Oregon State University has a great geology program, and Tara has field trips as part of a class multiple times a year. But field camp is when the entire class is on location. This latest class was 5 weeks out in the desert of eastern Oregon, near a tiny town called Mitchell. OSU geology students have been going out to the field camp location for so long that locals in Mitchell refer to them as “dirt nerds.”

The students had only two days off during the entire class. In addition to those two days, once a week they did get what the professor called “free days,” which were not so much free, as a few mandatory field trip days. The professor felt these were days off because the material was not testable, but students were still expected to learn. On one of these field trip days, which would be around the Bend, Oregon area, I got permission from the professor to meet up with the group when they went out to Smith Rock.

It’s a 4 hour drive to Bend from my home. After I arrived I checked in with my AirBnb host and then got some coffee while I waited for Tara to let me know where they were. It was clear immediately that either I was in a very geology-friendly town, or PALATE is a geology-friendly coffee shop. In the bathroom I found this gorgeous giant rock with a note that said, “I thought the Bolivian Rose Quartz needed a friend.” Not sure if what I saw was the rose quartz, or if this rock is the companion. I got my coffee and took it outside to enjoy the sun, and saw that the entire courtyard was surrounded by rocks. There was a lot of obsidian – very common in this highly volcanic part of the US.

In the bathroom of the coffee shop.

Courtyard of the coffee shop.

Tara got in touch with me right away because the group had come into a zone with cell phone service (not at all commonplace out there in the desert). They said they were on a hike and expected to arrive at Smith Rock State Park around 4pm.

With hours to kill, I had time to play in Bend. I used my AllTrails app to find something quick and easy, and soon found myself walking along the Deschutes River South Canyon Trail. I walked first toward the center of town, along a very pretty waterfront walk, clearly a hit with summer tourists. The trail crossed the river and I headed back out of town for an unexpectedly great 3-mile loop back to my car.

Walking the Deschutes River Trail in Bend, Oregon.

poppies

desert blossom

As the trail got closer to the city center, there were murals and outdoor coffee shops and people using all kinds of wheeled contraptions on the paved trail.

I get a kick out of duck butts.

This is the bridge I used to cross the river and head back out of town.

The Deschutes River South Canyon Trail provides educational signboards along the way that taught me about the health of the river, the fish, the flora and fauna in the area, as well as some geological perspective. There are also name plates that identified trees and bushes. It was nice to see a lot of people on the trail enjoying the weather and the outdoors, but people do tend to visit Bend, Oregon for that reason.

Lots of people were in the water on this warm day.

Through the arches I could see a woman fishing on the other side of the river.

The trail is in good condition and hugs the river when possible.

View of the Deschutes River from the bridge at the far end of the loop trail. Clearly, at this point, I had left city boundaries.

Once I found my Jeep again, I drove out to Smith Rock State Park. I arrived before the kids and had time to relax in the shade while I waited. Soon the OSU vans showed up and I joined the group. I listened while the professor took them all to the ledge and pointed out stuff they should notice about the formations surrounding us.

If you’ve ever seen a photo of Smith Rock, you’ll recognize it. It’s a cliff formation surrounded by comparatively level ground, with the Crooked River winding its way through the base of of the cliffs. It’s the biggest, most eye-catching thing around. The tuff and basalt cliffs are famous for being the place where the sport of rock climbing began in the States. Trails for all levels of athletes wrap around the huge rocks on all sides. I’ve been on a lot of them in visits over the years.

The iconic shot of beautiful Smith Rock State Park, looking East.

This is a less commonly photographed angle, looking due North.

Tara spotted this shallow cave and had to climb inside to explore.

I was especially sad not have my good camera when we hiked down to the bottom of the valley, because we spotted this astonishing sight. Can you see it?

Yes, the black speck between the two peaks is exactly what you think it is.

Our visit to the State Park was very brief! The professor had been so excited to show the students so many things all day long that they were way behind schedule. They absolutely had to get back to Mitchell by a certain time, because they had reserved dinners at Tiger Town Brewing Company. When we were released we hurried down to the trails at river level.

Tara and I talked a blue streak because we hadn’t seen each other in weeks, and we barely had time to look around us when it was time to jog up the steep steep hill to get back up to the parked cars. Tara got permission to ride back to Mitchell with me, to our delight. We were able to continue our chatting and catching up during the hour and a half drive out to the desert again.

The students were clearly pleased to be at Tiger Town. I gather that most of the time they eat camp meals prepared on site (Tara said the food is good!), but once in a while there is a splurge and the class gets to eat dinner out. They had to buy their own beers from the seasonal selection of craft brews. I paid for my own meal (and my own beer. I opted for the Danger Melon.) and the great staff at Tiger Town agreed to put my order in with the kids.’ For the next hour I sat outside in the warm evening air and listened to the kids talk about what was on their minds, joke with each other and with their professor. After a while they decided I was ok, and they included me in their conversations. It was a treat to have this peek into Tara’s world that I usually don’t get to see. All too soon it was time to go and I hugged my goodbyes and made my way back to my Airbnb room.

Looking at volcanic peaks in the background, rising over the Crooked River.

The next morning I left early in order to get home early, but I simply was not able to drive past Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint without stopping. From the highway I could see the snowy peaks of volcanoes and wanted to pull the car over so I could get a photo. Early in the morning, I could access the parking lot, but the road to the cliff was still gated. I parked and walked through the dewy grass, fretting a little about the time I was wasting by stopping to look. But oh, it was worth it.

Sadly, the elevation of the Viewpoint was lower than the highway and it was not a good view of the volcanoes. However, there was an incredible view of the canyon.

Mt. Washington, Black Butte, and Three Fingered Jack are barely visible above the trees.

Train bridge over the canyon.

Looking into the rising sun over aptly named Crooked River High Bridge.

It was really time to get back on the road though, and I hustled back to the Jeep and headed north again on Highway 97. I snapped a few shots while driving (bad Crystal habit, do not try this at home), then I settled in and spent the rest of the day driving back to Rainier.

Mt. Jefferson peeks around a scenic bluff beside Highway 97.

I was about to enter the forest and leave the fabulous views behind, so I took one parting shot of Mt. Jefferson and then put the lens cap back on the camera.

Lil’ Hussies when they truly were little.

Remember that I adopted chicks this spring? Well they are growing! It took me a while to find a way to protect them, and I lost another since I last mentioned my chickens. But these days they are thriving.

My original group of hens were dubbed The Hussies, and when my friend started calling my new babies the Lil’ Hussies, I loved it. I started with 4 Hussies, and I only have one left. The matron is Jamie. I saved her life a couple months ago when I heard her squawking and I sprinted out of the house and down to the chicken pen to find a raccoon chasing her in circles around the pen. The raccoon was not bothered by my presence, and soon had its teeth around Jamie’s neck and had her pinned to the ground. I was barefoot and unprepared, but I ran over and somehow got the raccoon to let go of her. I put the stunned Jamie carefully inside the chicken house and then turned to the arrogant raccoon, who was not leaving while there was still a chicken that wanted killing.

I was furious and tried to get it to leave by yelling and flailing and stomping my feet at it. It did not flinch. I picked up sticks and rocks and threw them at it, but it watched them approach and then swatted them to the side. I waited, but the raccoon didn’t budge. After a stalemate for awhile, I opened the chicken house door again to peep inside at Jamie, whom I had not yet inspected. She seemed ok.

In that 20 seconds while I wasn’t looking, the raccoon had somehow dashed outside the pen. I had wanted to watch it exit, to figure out how it was getting in. The only thing I could think of is that it is climbing the walls.

At the time of that incident, the Lil’ Hussies were getting big and I had been trying to decide when to bring them into the big pen with the adults – now adult. I realized that until I made the place safer, they could not live here.

First of all I needed to block the gap beneath the front door. I knew raccoons had come through there in the past because they dragged the rocks I placed, out of their way. I had to place a rock too heavy to drag. Concrete is a heavy rock! I bought a couple bags, built a form, then mixed the concrete and filled up the threshold beneath the door. There is no way a raccoon will either fit through or be able to move the concrete. I used the leftover concrete to reinforce the bottom of the walls of the pen in places where the chickens dig holes to take dirt baths.

New concrete threshold. My land is sloped here, so the slanted door and threshold follow the contour of the land.

Next I solicited advice from friends and family, and read articles online and watched YouTube videos, trying to figure out the most reasonable way to protect my girls from the raccoons who would still get inside by climbing the walls. The option I went with was a suggestion from a fellow blogger. The entry point for my girls for 4 years has been a chicken-sized opening into their home. No door. They come and go as they please. I think it was Maureen who suggested putting a door on the chicken house and locking up the girls every night. It was the cheapest and most reliable option.

“Cheeks” I called her for awhile

What’s all the activity about?

New door, held open by a bungee.

Close up of latch.

In the shop I found an old cabinet door from before I remodeled the kitchen. It had been smeared with blue paint at some point, but the chickens wouldn’t care.

Next I needed to get the right hardware. The Internet assured me that raccoons will be able to figure out any latch and the only guarantee would be a padlock. Well…that’s a bit much for now, but I did find a two-step latch with a ring in case I ever do want to use a padlock. I also bought hinges and screws and charged my wireless drill.

I had to remove the ramp and replace it farther down the wall, to allow the door to close. Then because the door was an inch thick and rested on the outside of the wall, I had to attach another piece of wood so that the latch could be mounted level. I needed to figure out a way to keep the door open during the day. I collected all my tools and began figuring it out.

Jamie, the only hen residing in the pen at that time, hovered around me. Like all chickens, she’s nervous of anything new, but also desperately curious.

What, exactly, are you doing to my home?

When it was done I put all the tools away. Now. How to get six excitable middle-school aged hens from the other side of my lawn into this pen? The easiest method would be to wait for nighttime, and that’s what I did. In their separate pen, my babies were still huddling into a cardboard box filled with straw each night. I waited till it was dark and they become paralyzed. I threw a blanket over the top of the box, and carried the whole box into the chicken house. I set the box into a dark corner, uncovered it, and quietly backed out and locked the whole place up for the night.

The next morning I was eager to find out what the Lil’ Hussies thought of their new home. I opened up the door and waited for them to come out and explore. I kept waiting. Then I peeked inside.

The girls had no interest in leaving their home at first.

The chicken house is a big place for the little girls to explore.

Finally they stood in the doorway and looked around.

Jamie is happy to share her home with other chickens again.

I gave up waiting after half an hour or so. I went back to the house and made some coffee and began my day. A couple hours later I went back down the hill and coaxed and coaxed, and finally got them to come out into the world. They were scared of everything, and kept climbing back up the ramp and going back into the house.

Two months later, the teenage Hussies are comfortable and have explored every inch of the new pen. One thing I find very amusing is that they love to climb the tree. Have you ever heard of tree-climbing hens?

Lil’ Hussies are tree-climbers!

Interested in the cedar tree.

Ok, I’ll show you the trick! The tree is sloped.

I think it’s so funny that my hens climb the tree.

The chickens include Easter Eggers (the ones with the cheeks, that were sold as Ameraucanas), Buff Brahmas, and Jamie, who is a sexlink (mixed breed).

The door has worked wonderfully, but the lives of my babies depends entirely upon me. One night, about a week later, I forgot to lock the door. In the morning, one of the babies was dead. Killed by a raccoon. Now there are only five Lil’ Hussies plus Jamie.

The next major challenge is what to do with them when I leave. You know me, I travel! So far, when I’ve only been gone a day or two, I leave them trapped in the house the whole time. I’d rather have alive chickens who feel imprisoned, than dead free-range chickens. Eventually, though, I will be gone a long time. I do not know what to do. I have two neighbors. The next door neighbors I do not want on my property for any reason. The folks on the other side of them are good people, but older and not in the best of health. They have offered to free my chickens during the daytime for an upcoming trip of four days length. But if I’m gone for two weeks in the future, I feel like that’s a lot to ask of people who have much more important things to worry about. I need a mechanical door on a timer!

I like to sit in the pen with my girls and watch them do their chicken thing.

 

I always assume the best when I find broken robin’s eggs like this. I imagine a fat baby bird in a nest somewhere, getting stronger each day.

I came across multiple nests this spring. I have learned a few things while watching them. Most excitingly, I can now identify the species of parents of those gorgeous blue eggs with brown spots. All three nests I found belonged to Dark-eyed Juncos. I see the Juncos all the time at my bird feeder. I also learned that Juncos have a habit of building their nests on the ground, and that it is just as bad of an idea as it seems to be.

I told you about the first one: I was cutting very tall grass with the trimmer and accidentally exposed a nest that had been built into a blackberry bush inside the grass. I realized immediately that I had exposed it, and picked up the tall grass and stacked it all around with only a tiny entrance hole. But it didn’t work. Three days later the branch was bent over and the egg was gone. It looked like the work of a raccoon.

The egg I accidentally exposed while working one evening.

Same nest, the next morning. I couldn’t tell if the parent had come back or not at this point.

Next I was pulling weeds by hand beside the house and vaguely aware of an angry bird flitting from the rooftop to the ground, to the garbage can, and back to the roof, all the while chirping angrily at me. The bird was on all sides of me, harrassing. I was getting closer and closer to a great big burst of weeds and tall grass beside my house when the bird finally got through to me, and it dawned on me that I was being scolded for my behavior. I stopped just in time, and peeked carefully into the weeds I had not yet pulled. There was a beautiful nest.

Perfect nest with gorgeous eggs, right next to the foundation of my home.

It was my opinion that building a nest on the ground in this forested area was simply not a good idea. But of course, Mother Nature is most times wiser than me. I gave the spot a wide berth from then on. For the next several days I tried to stay away, but sometimes had to be in the area and that’s when I would see the Dark-eyed Junco fly off the nest and resume scolding me. The Juncos are very common here.

The ground below my bird feeder. Two Juncos are there, with the black heads.

Sadly one day, not even a week later, I saw all the weeds trampled. I hurried over to check and there were no more eggs on the nest. Again, it looked like evidence of raccoon. So sad. I really had hopes for her, or him, whomever had been scolding me anytime I came near.

The worst nest location choice of all was the nest I discovered on the ground while mowing the lawn on my riding lawn mower. I happened to be looking at the ground beneath the mower as I was backing up and turning around in a wide open area. Somehow, I had driven right over the top of a nest twice – once forward, once backward – and it had survived. But now the freshly cut grass exposed it completely.

See the nest in the bottom left, out in the middle of my lawn?

I picked up the nest, trying to decide what to do with it.

There were no trees above that it had fallen from – it had been built right there on the grass. There were no trees or bushes close enough that I was sure the parents would find the nest if I moved it. It was a very bad location with no camouflage. At a loss, I laid the nest back exactly where I had found it. The very next day the egg was gone. I had known it would be.

It’s always a fight out here in the country. We are all battling each other for the same piece of land we believe is our own land.

While everyone else is battling for their lives, I have the luxury to sit here, sheltered from the rain, and think about it.

I’m most aware of my personal battles. I fight the deer that eat everything I plant, the raccoons that eat my chickens, the worms that are building webby nests in my apple trees, the moles that tear up my grass, the rats hoarding chicken pellets, termites in the wood pile. It’s not just me though. All I need to do is look around and see that the fight for a safe and comfortable life never ends. The heron eats the fish in my pond. The raccoons eat the Juncos. Opposums eat the frogs. The cougar eats the deer.

It isn’t personal; it’s just what life looks like.  It’s all about the battle to make a home and keep it. The critters aren’t targeting me, just doing what they can.

In life, remember to look up. You never know what you will see.

On my very last day on the East Coast in May (you thought I would never get to the end of this journey, huh?), my plane left in the afternoon so we had the morning to explore. We walked from our downtown Boston hotel to a bakery and one of us spotted a travel trailer on top of one of the high buildings in the city. Is that for the CEO when she’s worked too late and doesn’t want to make the trip home?

We looked for a store called The Fairy Shop, because I love fairies. It’s in a lovely part of town and is a beautiful place, but should be named the Harry Potter Shop.  Apparently it used to have fairies and gnomes and frogs and crystals and what one might expect with a name like that. But today, there is only Harry Potter merchandise. Luckily, I am a huge Harry Potter fan.

View inside The Fairy Shop that should be named the Harry Potter Shop. Sorting Hat right there in the center.

Next we went to Graffiti Alley in Cambridge. I am always a fan of wall art, and fascinated with the whimsy and political statements and sometimes jaw-dropping beauty I find on walls. This alley is right off Massachusetts Avenue, painted on all sides. It had been raining all morning and I appreciated the colourful awning.

Graffiti Alley off Mass Ave in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This made me smile.

A little 3D catches my attention.

We wandered all the way through and found more art in the parking lot behind the alley.

At the end of the alley, looking back the way we had come.

How dare those cars park there and ruin the view?! ha ha

Wall art packed with faces.

We still had some time to kill so we made one last stop at Castle Island. It’s really only a peninsula, despite the name. Because it was windy and raining, we had the place to ourselves. Even though it was the site of another old military fort, and built way back in 1634, and you know I love that stuff… my heart wasn’t in it. The weather was rotten and after two long weeks I really just wanted to go home.

Will dropped me off at the airport. It was a direct flight back to Portland, and six hours later I was greeted by my favourite volcano.

The weather in Portland was gorgeous that day, and our late-day arrival gave us a stunning view of Mt. Hood.

I never get enough of this mountain.

Whew! I finished that whole action-packed trip. Can you believe how much stuff we did? It was fun almost every single day and I got to see so many friends and especially got to know Will better. I might have to make a New England trip with Will an annual event or something.

In the meantime things have been happening here at Dragon Manor, and I have so many things to tell you about my summer so far. I have lots of photos of my daily delights around the place. I’ll post them because it makes me happy. I hope you like some of them too.

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