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Monday morning before sunup I looked out to see that a doe had slept in my yard for the night. I love the idea that they feel safe here, beneath the “Fairy Crossing” sign.

Panoramic view of my pretty yard, with the pond on the left and house on the right.

Another panorama, of just the pond.

Some days it’s just another day. And some days everything happens at once. They say when it rains it pours, but while in early May that rainy idiom is typically applicable in my town of Rainier, Oregon, Monday was unseasonably sunny and warm.

After I took photos of the deer on Monday morning, I put on some boots and clogged out to the chicken house. I saw a pile of red feathers inside the pen and gasped “No!” But it was true. I lost my favourite chicken, Tawny. Ugh. I cannot figure out what’s happening. I thought it was a raccoon, because I’ve known them to attack and kill ducks before. But I had circled the pen and blocked every entrance point big enough for a raccoon. Now I think it’s rats. Rats come into the chicken house all the time to eat their food. Periodically I have to poison them to reduce their population. Before moving here I did not know that so many rats live in the forest. I never had to deal with rats in any city I ever lived in, but out here in the woods, rats are as common as mosquitos. Do rats kill without eating their prey? Why? Why does something keep killing my hens and just leaving their bodies? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

I frequently spotted Tawny under the birdfeeder in front of my office window, as she is here last weekend.

There’s my girls on Sunday. Tawny and Jamie, the only two I had left until Monday, because something is killing them.

See that gap under the door into the chicken pen? I thought raccoons were getting in, so I blocked it with large rocks.

I am so sad to lose Tawny. She was my sassiest Hussy, a Rhode Island Red. She was bold and pecked me without reserve, but not maliciously, just to get attention, or to tell me they’re out of food. She would always come running to me when she spotted me, and hovered inches from my legs at all times, and would let me pick her up, or just pet her soft feathers. She’s the one that always broke out of her pen to go directly to my flower beds and begin tearing them up. It would have been more of a problem except that the way to catch her was merely to call “Hey pretty girl!” and she’d come running right to me and I’d scoop her up and take her back to the pen. She laid ginormous dark brown eggs.

Ohh, my girl. I am so sorry I couldn’t protect you.

I’m also worried that I won’t be able to protect my Lil’ Hussies when they grow up and move into that pen, until I can solve the mystery of what is killing them. I am so frustrated.

Just as I finished disposing of Tawny’s body, the bee people showed up. It’s time for bees again! I host them on my property every summer and fall, and get paid in honey.

Bees moved this year to a different place on my property so that they get more hours of sunlight.

Foklift moves hives from the truck to the grass.

The new bee colony at the very back of my property.

Ooooh! Look at them all buzzing around and getting their new home in order. Click the image for a larger version and you can see them.

I went back into the house to my office to do some computer work planning for my upcoming trip to New England, and spotted two more visitors. Hello? Were you two invited?

Squirrel discovered the bird seed. I am used to a tiny grey squirrel and a tiny black squirrel I call the Squirrel Ninja. This one is big and has probably been eating the bird seed at someone else’s house too.

And then right before my eyes, the neighbor cat came hurtling into the garden and up the tree, after the hummingbirds. You could film an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom at my house. (Ooops, did I just expose my age again?)

Then it was time to clean all the rat caches out of the chicken house, and block all their nasty holes and entrances. The caches are cubby holes they pack full of stuff they want to keep. This time it was pineapple tops I had thrown in there, straw, chicken food, and naturally, rat poop. Then I fed them poison because I needed to do something for my broken heart.

For good measure, I then grabbed my poisoned worms that had recently arrived in the mail, and baited 20 mole holes, those little bastards.

Moles were tearing up my yard all winter.

And that reminded me to poison fleas. So I grabbed Racecar and dosed her in flea killing oil. Once a month I dab it on the back of her neck to keep the fleas away. She hunts chipmunks and birds and mice so she collects new fleas from her prey. In answer to your question: No, no she does not hunt forest rats.

It makes me shudder to think of all those toxic chemicals I just put into the world on Monday, but I was mad. And also….I haven’t found anything effective that eliminates these pests without toxic chemicals.

Raccoon paw prints on the cat carrier.

Done with my office work I went back outside and spotted another pest. The cat carrier no longer hosts chickens, but was still sitting on the porch because I hadn’t put it away. A raccoon’s paw prints show that a raccoon was on my porch last night, investigating. Grrrrr! Luckily I can’t prove the raccoon is getting my hens, or I’d find a way to poison it too.

I was mad again and a good way to deal with that is to go to work, so I hauled out the weed whacker and filled the tank and checked the string and harnessed myself up and off I went. I went at it for four hours. It definitely helped. By then I was exhausted and my back was killing me.

I took down the tall grass all the way around the pond, and around all the trees on the far side of the pond.

Me getting dirty. I think it’s so hilarious how splattered I get with what I call “weed guts.” Green glop gets sprayed from top to bottom, coating my glasses, sticking in my hair and onto my face. I guess a person can’t expect to be glamorous when she’s working on the farm.

I went to check on the Lil’ Hussies to make sure at least someone in my realm was ok. They were ok.

Babies had a great day and they are doing fine over there beside the horseshoe pit and the apple tree in bloom. But what is that in the distance by the pond?

Great Blue Heron is hunting the frogs in my pond. I’m cool with that. You do you, beautiful bird.

This is one of the rare times I’ve ever had a chance to photograph this bird properly.

Enough for one day!! It was time for dinner and some pomegranate cider. I have to make my salads look amazing to trick myself into eating them, ha ha.

Wish with me that Jamie stays safe now and that the Lil’ Hussies grow up safe and strong and do not ever have to battle rats.

One day I was sitting at the dining room table and heard a thumping in the cupboard. I had a suspicion that I knew who was in the cupboard, and began recording. Viola! My cat, Racecar, emerged from where she clearly does not belong. I explained to her about cats and clean pots, shooed her away, then did some dishes. Sigh.

Early this spring, my financial advisor told me that in his opinion, I could afford the kitchen remodel I have wanted since I moved into this house. There is great light coming into the house from the north side, where the small kitchen and dining room are. It’s dark as a cave on the south side, where the living room and woodstove are. My idea: knock down the wall and make one giant open room!

My sudden loss of a job last month was unplanned, but much of the upfront fees for this kitchen remodel had already been paid.  I had no choice but to follow through, despite the fact that right now is bad timing for spending money unnecessarily. The bright side is: I am home and available to let construction workers in.

Before photo. From the living room, looking toward the kitchen. You can’t see the kitchen because there is a utility closet (door on left) and a pantry (door on right) blocking your view.

My front room is a very big room, and off in one cramped corner was a kitchen. The appliances are black and the cabinet doors dark brown. Inside the cupboards were particle board shelves on plastic pegs with peeling, wrinkled contact paper. The countertop was old school formica with gold flakes in it. I plan to update everything.

You noticed in the paragraph above, I used past-tense verbs.

First step was to remove the furniture and art, and to empty the pantry.

The next step was sorta drastic.

Everything that had to be removed was removed. The water heater will be replaced with a tankless (on demand) water heater in the future. For right now, they will leave this tank here so that I still have hot water.

This is what it looks like right now, the first week of November. See the extra framing to extend the dropped ceiling?

There is still a problem with light. I just have a dark house. I’ve included some of the better photos above, so you may not notice the darkness. With the room opened up though, it is significantly better, and that makes me happy.

The plan is for the new cabinets (already completed and sitting under a tarpaulin in the garage) to be installed against the two walls you see. From the electric panel to the corner, and from the corner to the big window. There will also be an L-shaped island where the pantry used to be. The floor footprint of the kitchen will match the dropped ceiling area.

Old floors had three styles meeting. The tile has all been ripped up and the natural wood on the right will cover the kitchen as well.

Dark cupboards are gone! I am holding a sample piece of oak with the new light finish.

I am not allowing myself to get excited yet. This project has taken so long just to barely get started. I know construction always takes longer and costs more than expected, but I can’t tell you how impatient I am already. Like I said at the top, this began in the Spring. I settled on a plan with the contractor in April, and it is still only this far. I’m trying not to go crazy, ha ha. He assures me that it will only be another 6 weeks, possibly 8. So there is a potential for this to be done by Christmas. I’m going to plan on a Valentine’s Day kitchen instead!

bat+open door = oops

So. Much. Stuff. Happened. Last night.

Except sleep. Sleep did not happen much.

The evening was fine until I got a text from someone who pissed me off. And I could not stop thinking about it. I was mad, mad, mad. I went to bed and stared fiercely at the shadowy ceiling while I tried not to worry about the 6:30 am alarm that would be coming soon.

My cat Racecar likes to sleep on my neck. It’s hard to breathe, but she’s soft and warm and she’s my comfort blanket. Except last night it was 87 degrees and neither one of us could get comfortable. I had opened the deck-side sliding glass door a little, and the window, but there was no cross breeze. Racecar walked across my throat, stepping on a boob now and then, back and forth, back and forth, but could not pick a satisfactory place to curl up on my neck. Too hot. She finally found a place at the foot of the bed and it suited us both fine.

Even with my comfort blanket down at the foot of the bed, the damp sheets, and no cross breeze, I finally fell asleep, who knows when. But I do know it was 11:47 when I heard a “mrrroowr! meeeooowww!” from a strange cat that woke me out of a dead sleep. It had managed to squeeze through the opening in the sliding glass door and got all the way to the kitchen to eat my cat’s food, and then couldn’t find it’s way out. I started yelling and it found the door and skeedaddled. Racecar, worthless cat, was still curled up at the foot of the bed, clearly not defending me from foes.

Then I was awake again.

Ugh. It was so hot. Against my better judgement, I went to the other side of the room and opened the door to the back yard. And opened the glass door wider, trying to bring the outside air in. I figured the strange cat probably wouldn’t come back. I tossed and turned for at least another hour. I was hot and mad, trying to sleep. You know how you silently yell at yourself, “go to sleep NOW!” and it doesn’t work?

Then I started wondering what that fluttering sound was. Such a soft, pretty sound. Probably a moth. Fluttering around and around the room. Racecar got up and started following it around the room. “Good girl,” I thought in my fogginess. “Eat the moth so I can sleep.” Flutter flutter. Moth wings have a sort of fur on them, which must be making that lovely sound. Then there was a quiet “eeeek” on one of its passes over my head. Funny, it reminded me of a bat. Racecar started jumping as the moth swooped close.

Actually the flutter was pretty loud. That must be a damned big moth. I picked up my phone and turned on the flashlight app and shined it up to the ceiling so that I could see into the blackness…and saw a BAT swooping around my bedroom! Shadows cast by my phone covered half the room. Wing shadows, probably teeth shadows, but I didn’t hang around to look. Obviously it came in through one of the wide open doors and now couldn’t find it’s way out.

A bat! A Bat! In my bedroom!  I slunk off the bed, crouched, arms over my head, and duck-walked to the door to the living room. Once out, I closed the door behind me. The bat could find it’s way out of my bedroom eventually, but I needed to sleep in a bat-free zone.

I checked to make sure kitty had come out of the bedroom with me, then padded down the hall in bare feet to Tara’s room (unoccupied while T is at college), and climbed into bed, pretty much awake.

I took deep, slow breaths, calming myself, thinking some more about the 6:30 am alarm. Still mad about that text message, planning all the clever mean things I would text back in the morning. Tara’s room was a little cooler, and the bed is comfortable. My eyes began to close and I began to drift off.

thump I hear from the living room. Thump thump…bump. CRASH! What the?? I sat up and listened. Whack-bump! thud.

Jeeze Louise.

I got up and walked into the living room in the dark and found Racecar leaping from the furniture into the air, trying to get the BAT that had followed us out of the bedroom! I ducked.

I wouldn’t even walk through the living room. I went out the front door of the house, outside in my bare feet, around the house to the deck, opened the living room sliding door so the bat could get out, then through the sliding door into my bedroom again, and dropped to the still-damp sheets. Is this for real?

Fully, fully awake. I checked my phone. 2:12 am. I went to the bathroom and swallowed a sleeping pill. I had to work in the morning. Sleep was critical. It worked after another 45 minutes, and I finally fell asleep after composing a perfect text response in my mind.

There was a time warp and in four minutes, the alarm went off. “Like hell,” I mumbled. Turned off the alarm and went promptly back to sleep, only to be awakened immediately by cluck, cluck, cluck…brrrrr cluck? Clearly chicken sounds, and clearly too close. “Arrrggghhh!” I said to no one, looked at my phone, which said 6:33. I heard it again, cluck cluck?

I got up and opened the door to the living room, and crept in while crouched, eyes at the ceiling. No bat. But there, in the living room, was one of the Hussies. Of course this would be the morning Tawny got loose, and of course she came up on the deck and found all the doors open, and came on in. Because, she’s a chicken. Chickens are dumb, and annoying. I love them, but it’s an honest relationship.

“Come on, chick! chick!” I called, and dumb, happy Tawny followed me out the door, across the porch, down the steps, across the grass, and to the chicken pen. I’m Momma Chicken to her.

Back in the house, I checked for poop (none! yay!), and resigned myself to starting up the work day.

As I settled in at the computer in my home office, I heard CCCRRRREEEERRRR….CCRAAAACCKK! BOOM!

Pretty little elderberry tree by the creek.

Exactly 24 hours later. Can you see the massive tree that has fallen across the creek?

I ran outside, and saw that a huge Alder in my back yard had just fallen. No wind. No storm. It just…gave up and fell. An enormous tree that now lies in the creek. Just last night I had stood there, captivated by glowing evening light on the elderberry bush beside it. That must have been an omen, the light on the bush. Earth was saying to me, “Pay attention and enjoy this moment of peace. Because… well… you know.”

It was pitch black through my nighttime adventures, and I couldn’t get a photo, not that I was even thinking of it. I told a few people today, “I’m gonna write a blog post about it, and Allie Brosh will do the illustration.” Sadly, I don’t know Allie personally. So I had to do the illustration myself a-la-Hyperbole and A Half.  This is me, crouching behind my bed, arm up as protection against the bat:

In lieu of Allie Brosh.

Here’s another photo of the downed tree. You still can’t get sense of how big the tree is by looking at the photo, but it’s a little better.

All those sideways branches=one tree


My lawnmower broke a second time this year, and while I was unable to mow, the daisies took over! What a delicious silver lining.

My lawnmower broke a second time this year, and while I was unable to mow, the daisies took over! What a delicious silver lining.

I couldn't get enough of the daisies. I never did mow them because I didn't have the heart. Just let them die and then pulled them up.

I couldn’t get enough of the daisies. I never did mow them because I didn’t have the heart. Just let them die and then pulled them up.

I am reluctant to say goodbye this year. Last summer was dry and hot for so long. That’s the way I like it. First, because I am crazy for dry & hot weather (don’t ask me why I live on the Columbia River, 45 miles from the ocean). Second, because when you have full-on summer, it makes you hungry for Autumn. This summer was cool and wet. Bleh. And while the crisp mornings and short sunny days and October colours are my favourite season… this year I’m still yearning for summer. Just when will summer start anyway? I think I was warm enough to wear sandals without socks on about six days in total, and those weren’t in a row! I look at the calendar and see I may as well give up hope and start looking forward to summer 2017.

Here’s a goodbye to my summer. As you can see, the sun did shine now and then, and I ran outside with my camera!

First I am excited to show off some new birds I have spotted this year, as well as some I’ve seen before. I just learned that the Eurasian Collared-Dove first arrived in the contiguous 48 US states in 1980, in Florida. And look! Happy and healthy over here on the West coast already.

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Western Tanager

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

This was Thomas, while I was taking photos of the Yellow Throated Warbler.

This was Thomas while I photographed the Common Yellowthroat Warbler.

You talking to me?

You talking to me?

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Beneath the bird feeder I've collected two Juncos, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a chipmunk.

Beneath the bird feeder I’ve collected two Juncos, a Black-headed Grosbeak, and a chipmunk.

How cool is this?!

How cool is this?!

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

Even though I see them on a nearly daily basis, I still love the deer that show up. There have been two regulars all summer, both small does, but one is noticeably smaller than the other, so I have wondered if they are mother and daughter. The smaller one loves to play, and prances, and bows, and sprints in circles trying to get the bigger one to play. The bigger one twitches her ears and reaches down for another mouthful of grass. I love getting up in the morning to see them sleeping beneath the apple tree.

The littler, spunky one that loves to play.

The littler, spunky one that loves to play.

The mellow deer, eating from my garden.

The mellow deer, eating from my garden.

Waiting for the apples to ripen.

Waiting for the apples to ripen.

Thomas and Chaplin love it here, but there are continued problems. They fight with my Racecar and with each other. Do you know anyone in Oregon who wants to adopt?

Chaplin is named for his mustache, and because he's in black and white!

Chaplin is named for his mustache, and because he’s in black and white!

Thomas is wary of the freshly escaped chickens. (Don't worry, they are back in their pen.)

Thomas is wary of escaped chickens. (Don’t worry, they are back in their pen.)

Bullfrog enjoying a rare sunny day.

Bullfrog enjoying a rare sunny day.

My pond is evaporating again and it’s distressing. I really need to find a way to keep that thing filled. I can’t count on another humongous flood this winter like last year, to fill it up again. I have enlisted the input from my neighbors. There are three homes in a row here, and no one else in sight. And it’s nice that I can only see forest and fields in all directions except one, but why cram all three houses together with all this land? I just don’t get what people are thinking sometimes. So anyway, I’ve talked to the neighbors farthest away, because their back deck looks down onto my pond and they are always worried about it. They have lived here 22 years and know exactly how to take care of it. Their ideas are great, and their offers to help are great, so now we just wait on the spare change to collect so I can purchase the needed equipment. Stay tuned…

In fact, rain and lack of funds is keeping me from my annual 5-day solo backpacking trip this year. It’s such a sad thing. I toyed with the idea of driving down to New Mexico or Utah, to get some sun, but then there is also the problem of taking care of the animals. I’ve opted for a couple overnights locally. Hopefully it is just as fun, if not as epic, to stay one night somewhere nearby, and do it again a few days later.


I started running again, in the mornings before work. Here's downtown Portland at my favourite time of day.

I started running again, in the mornings before work. Here’s a marina in Portland at my favourite time of day. I work in one of those tall buildings.

My blogger friend Marlene (insearchofitall) asked in her post: “What are you up to?” All the usual little bits of life are going on at breakneck speed.

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”                         ~ Lewis Carroll

Tara voted for the first time in the Oregon primaries. This is a photo of Tara volunteering to get other college students registered to vote.

Tara voted for the first time in the Oregon primaries. This is a photo of Tara volunteering to get other college students registered to vote.

Interesting bit of news: my father is moving to Romania. A modern romance is behind it, of course. He met his wife online because they both play the same computer game. They have interacted for years, flirted and fell in love for a year, then last summer my Pa flew to Romania and married her. The plan originally was to bring her to the U.S., but the paperwork is proving too much of a challenge for two intelligent humans to overcome, so Pa has given up and will move to Romania. He expects to be gone in less than a month. Hopefully together at last in time for their one-year anniversary.

Last month I made an emergency trip to his place on the Snake River, south of Boise, Idaho, to help him pack up the giant house. That was after two of his sisters and a nephew-in-law showed up to host a yard sale for him and start the packing. This week a sister and a niece will arrive to do more of the same: haul things to the donation store, maybe hold another yard sale, pack more stuff. It was good to see my Pa, and I made a bonus stop at a fave winery just up the road from his place and accidentally bought two cases of Ste. Chapelle wine.

One of my dearest friends moved from Honolulu after 16 years and now lives right here, almost beneath the St. John's Bridge!

One of my dearest friends moved from Honolulu after 16 years and now lives right here, almost beneath the St. John’s Bridge!

I have been asked to take two of his four cats. Yes, my Pa is the Crazy Old Cat Man. Thomas and Yeowler won’t be going to Romania and need homes. Racecar is going to hate life for awhile, as she doesn’t get along with any other cat – ever – for as long as they live together (I know this through painful experience). I may get in touch with my grumpy side too, if this cat interaction goes like the last attempt did. My hope is that, since all of them are older cats, and since the boys have group skills they could teach to my princess, maybe it will be ok. I am also hoping that I can keep the two cats alive. They aren’t mine and I’m feeling extra pressure  to keep them well. Anyway, cross your fingers for us.

It took around two months, but the chicken pen is done. The chicken pen man is also my wood delivery man. He is getting married in a week, and getting ready for the wedding has taken precedence over the chicken pen, which I can certainly forgive. Also, we had a few setbacks, the biggest being when we discovered that only 10 inches down is an enormous slab of rock underground, so he couldn’t bury half the 12-foot 4x4s into the dirt for stability. Instead, he had to buy concrete and set them that way. Not to mention having to saw the tops off half the 4x4s so they would be the same height as the ones buried two feet into the dirt.

Hen fence under construction.

Hen fence under construction.

Jailed hens

Jailed hens

I used Paint Shop Pro to lighten this up from a dark morning shot.

I used Paint Shop Pro to lighten this up from a dark morning shot.

Chainsaw carving inside the lawnmower repair store.

Chainsaw carving inside the lawnmower repair store.

The three remaining hens (because Lacey got hit by a car): Tawny and the twins: Jamie & Phil are now behind wire. So far, no escapees. I suspected a higher wall would do the trick. It has no top, but chickens aren’t the best fliers, so I believe this will be sufficient as long as winged predators don’t find them. As I told Marlene, they get distressed when they see me at a distance and can’t come running like they do (omigosh it’s the sweetest thing ever to have fat, saucy chickens running to you at the moment they hear your voice). But, like goldfish, they soon forget they are in a pen, and get happy again for a couple hours, till they remember again that they are penned up. I will get new chicks, but not this year, as I simply don’t have the bandwidth to add babies to my list of chores.

I mowed the huge lawn one time, and noticed the riding lawnmower was not running well. My neighbor borrowed it and when he brought it back he said the same thing. So I called and asked about repair time. They said it would be about 10 days, and I figured that was fair, so with the help of my neighbors and their trailer, I got the tractor to the shop. When I dropped it off he told me, “Better plan on two weeks, to be safe.” Thirty-five days later I finally got it back. I need to remember it’s the country, and country schedules are not the same as city schedules. Besides which, it’s probably the worst time of year to take in a lawnmower, since everyone else in the county has also just discovered their machine isn’t working at its best.

My best friend's son feeding chickens.

My best friend’s son & chickens

Neighbor girl: chicken wrangler

Neighbor girl: chicken wrangler

The grass got deeper and deeper, so I called a professional lawnmower, who was going to stop by and look at the place and give me an estimate. But he threw out his back. A week later he called me up, and since my tractor was still not home, I said I was still interested. We agreed on a time to mow. That morning he contacted me once more to say his tractor had to go into the shop (the same place mine went to). He figured it would be back in a couple days, and said he could mow my lawn the following week. I told him nevermind.

We've had a couple bonfires to burn up the branches collected over the winter.

We’ve had a couple bonfires to burn up the branches collected over the winter.

Light blue irises from the Morrison House, and purple Irises from Mom.

Light blue irises from the Morrison House, and purple Irises from Mom.

I began my jungle mowing project last night in the rain, and some of the grass is chest high. It is slow going. Grass that high mostly just lays down when a mower goes over it, rather than acquiesce to a haircut. I anticipate a multi-week project to get it under control again. If you remember my story from the first time around, this one will be worse. Plus side: the riding lawn mower has a drink holder. Turns out, Ste. Chapelle in a tumbler fits nicely.

Irises are in bloom and when the first one put up a bud, I cried. My mother brought me several plants down from her north Idaho mountaintop when she was alive and visited us every year in Portland. She also brought lavender and peony which I still have. Anyway, the flower blooming was like having my mother here, and that’s what made me cry. I miss her so much. She brought the flowers when I was living on Morrison Street, and we called our house the Morrison House. I always name my houses – strange that I haven’t named the current one yet. Then we moved to the Blue House, where I lived when most of you got to know me. The irises have come along. Amazingly, the light blue ones bloomed this year, when they never bloomed at the Blue House. The blue ones are from the Morrison House, and I thought those were all lost. But now I have a little piece of that home too, and it is good for my soul. I’m sentimental that way.

The view from my office.

The view from my office.

Vulture in the forest.

Vulture in the forest.

Evening Grosbeaks

Evening Grosbeaks

Blackheaded Grosbeak

Blackheaded Grosbeak

I installed the first of several bird feeders outside my office window. It took a week for the birds to discover it, and now they are there all the time. Most beautiful so far is probably the Evening Grosbeak. One of the many Blackheaded Grosbeaks flew into a window one day, and did not recover. So far, no new and exciting birds from what I’ve already seen out here, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time and season before word of the feeder spreads.

Speaking of exciting birds, vultures have been perching outside my window. Not sure what it is about this particular spot, but I’ve seen four at a time up there in the trees. Typically they are deep in the foliage, and disappear as soon as I go outside. I did manage to get a shot of one on a stump, through the window.

…and so that’s what I’ve been up to. Oh yeah, there is my job which makes it all possible and yet keeps me too busy to ever really enjoy my place. I put in about 60 hours a week at my job, including commuting. If you add up all the hours when I sleep, it really doesn’t leave much left. Somehow, I manage to mow the damned lawn, wash dishes, do  laundry, see my boyfriend, help my dad, camp with my kid, volunteer for the Cherokees, and update facebook! ha ha! Life is a giant puzzle and I find such delight in discovering pieces that fit.

Natta-chan crawled into Tara’s lap for a warm welcome

Tiny shopfront

You eat pizza, it turns out. Or curry, or rice, depending on what you’re craving. There are even more choices for drinks. With many iced choices on the menu, it is a great place to visit on a hot summer afternoon. One can order tea, coffee, soda, or food, or simply forget all that and just focus on the felines.

Chocolate gets some lovin’

As soon as Tony told me about the Cat Cafe south of Hiroshima, I knew it would be on the agenda when my daughter, Tara, arrived in Japan for a visit.

But what is the deal with the cats? I had to ask. I had never heard of a place like this.

A Cat Cafe is a cafe that has a bunch of resident cats who freely roam the establishment. Patrons pay a fee to enter (typically by the hour), and then can interact with the cats.

A girl tries to get Subaru-kun to play

The first Cat Cafe in Japan was opened only 8 years ago in Osaka after one in Taiwan became famous with the Japanese. Today these cafes are wildly popular in Tokyo, even requiring reservations, but we found a relatively undiscovered one very close to Yokogawa Station, south of Hiroshima.

Natta-chan is more fun to watch than the television

Just inside the door of the tiny Cafe Maneki Neko, we slipped off our shoes and placed them on shelves. We washed our hands at the sink, then a staff member doused our hands in disinfectant gel, which we rubbed in till it evaporated. We paid 1000 yen each for a full hour of kitty time.

Hangin’ out

We were shown down the narrow cafe past bar stools at the front, and a table in the rear, to a room in the back, then were asked where we wished to be seated. It was explained to us that the benches were to hold drinks or cats, but no people butts. We sat on the floor in the back and ordered iced drinks from the menu.

gorgeous fluff

At first the cats were all dozing in the warm midday lull, but the staff gently roused them. A boy and girl came in and began playing with them as well.

With time, more and more cats woke and came to investigate us. We were able to see around 18 cats, and we were able to pet 12 of them. One lovely and soft Natta-chan let us pick her up, but most of them were not in the mood for laps.

The felines who really wanted to avoid people stayed behind a glass wall that ran the length of the cafe. There was a narrow entrance that allowed cats to pass through, but was not large enough for people. We could see them, but the cats behind the glass knew they wouldn’t be mauled by kitty-loving humans if they stayed back there.

The cafe was clean and comfortable due to the attentive staff. When they weren’t cleaning or looking after a human, they also helped the cats entertain us. They handed out sticks with feathers at the end, and little rattly balls, to tempt the cats to play. And when that didn’t work, they rolled up an aluminum foil ball to toss around. Now *that* did the trick! Cats in Japan are as tempted by foil balls as cats in the states.

it snowed a little more last night

Hey! No more apologies from this girl for not having a snow worthy of note. This is a snow that would get even New Englanders excited. Day NINE campers, and this baby hasn’t given us a break yet.

Only, might I please say once again, that Portland is just not set up for this kind of winter. If the city even owns plows at all… they are either at the airport, or in emergency centers, or at the very least downtown. We saw a news clip of guys with shovels sitting in the back of a city truck heaped with sand. The truck drove slowly, and the guys shoveled grit onto the snowy street. There are not even enough sand spreaders here!

brooms are not the tools we need right now

The airport is totally shut down. Well, basically. 90% of their flights appear to be cancelled. I can’t believe parts of the city are still functioning. But it is! Good on ya, mates!

My supervisor called me last night to say that work would be opening at 10:00am. I checked the federal website this morning ( and it told me what I expected to see: Department of Veterans Affairs Benefits Office – closed. Yipes. So glad I didn’t have to get out there and try to hustle myself to work. Moseying around in the snow for fun is one thing, but it would bite to be trying to get to work on time this morning.

Cookie girl is the smart one

Yahoo TriMet! You guys are the champs! Still, busses are getting stuck in snow, even on their snow routes. It’s certainly a noteworthy storm.

Our kitty Pumkin, whom we affectionately call “Big O” has finally decided that it’s yucky out. He’s got a case of cabin fever which actually is worse than ours. He tries going out every hour or so….but can’t find a good route. The snow is now much deeper than him. I tried to shovel him a path to get underneath some hedges, but that’s not exactly what he’s looking for.

snow girlie

No one owns snow shovels, so we’ve been shoveling with heavy old metal dirt shovels. and BROOMS! We’ve been clearing snow with brooms. And when it’s freakin’ 15 inches deep, that’s simply ridiculous.

We’ve decided we’ve been trapped in the house too long. We are going to head out this evening. We’ll bundle up and take whatever busses might arive, and go downtown and take photos of the Made In Oregon sign in the snow. We’ll find a coffee shop open and check out the lights downtown and just soak up the feeling of EVENT, you know? When storms happen, people get a little giddy.

People have been bringing food and helping out travelers stranded in Union Station, and stranded at the airport. That is really lovely. My daughter and I baked piles of cookies because that’s what you do at Christmas. But we don’t need them all. She suggested we take them downtown and give them to homeless people.

remember back when this was impressive?

It’s an excellent idea – which will help us get them out of here. Maybe we’ll pack our backpacks with cookies tonight, and hand them out in town. Where I work, there are so many people who sleep on the streets. I can’t imagine how they’ve survived this week. It must be horrible.

OK, well that’s the current news from Lake Woebegone– um, I mean from snowy East Portland. Love and smiles!

shoveling a path to the cars with a regular metal shovel

Big O surveying his domain yesterday

opossum in the kitchen

I think that word is just fun to say: opossum. Then, I can drop the “o” off and call it a possum, and I feel all redneck, like I’m back home again. Cute little critter, ain’t he?

So, we were lying in bed last night about 10:15. Though that is way past my bedtime, it was too hot to sleep, and we were talking and waiting for the inevitable evening breeze that eventually kicks up and blows through the open window onto our faces.


“Crunch, crunch.” I hear, coming from the kitchen. Have you ever heard a noise that’s not so remarkable in itself, but you notice it for some reason…and it’s the noticing that makes you realize it’s unusual?

time for you to go OUT

My man got up to investigate, and found this opossum, who had tried to hide beneath the cabinets when he turned on the light. He put on gloves and reached in to pick it up, and the thing flashed some vicious, vicious looking teeth and looked for all the world like it was about to turn Tazmanian Devil on us. …but it was a ruse. It never even tried to bite, and for the most part gave up the impression of it too.

The critter had come in to eat cat food. Knew right where to go, I guess, which makes us think it was not visiting us for the first time. I leave the door to the basement/kitchen/outside open all night some nights, to keep the air moving through. It must have come up the stairs for a treat.

Yesterday was an animal day.

I went out to pick raspberries from the back yard before I went to work. They are an unbeatable snack. It was a little after 5:00am, and just barely light enough to see which ones were ripe. A couple of raccoons popped up from the “hole” in the back yard (a notch carved out of the hill for a vehicle to park). One at a time, they loped through the grass, looked at me, moved on, sniffing the ground, and then moseyed on around the side of the house.

And of course, our two kitties who are growing to despise each other more every day. Major, major, fight in the house yesterday. Pumpkin, who used to just lie on his back, bewildered, when Cookie would hiss her pants off at him. He wanted her to play, but she only growled and howled at him. Then he started chasing her for sport  and then laughing at her when she took off like a rocket in a panic. Now, after two months, I believe he’s lost his patience with her for screaming and spitting and growling every time she spots him. When he sees her now, he simply attacks her. It’s bad.

I don’t know what to do when kitties fight even more, the longer they live together. What a bummer. My daughter, who comes home in a week – for good! – will be upset to see her two cats behaving like this.

P.S. oh yes, you saw the tattoo? If you are like most humans who have seen it, you recoiled. But I looooooooove it! This gorgeous work of art has no lines, only shading, in Dan Henk’s typical style. Henk is a great guy, and was a champ trying to make this go as quickly as possible since he was only a visiting artist when the work was done. Over four solid hours with no breaks! It is a human-shaped gargoyle (actually something of a Henk self-portrait) who is supposed to be a protector, to help my boyfriend fight his demons. But the gargoyle is actually a punk, so he’s got a bad attitude and isn’t always reliable. However, as a close up view of the tattoo shows, he does fight alongside my man, and he’s got the blood and battle scars to prove it.

Cookie exploring her new home

We’ve got a new girl in the house.

My daughter had a cat at her dad’s, and a cat at our house. Her dad is moving to California and didn’t want to keep her cat, so we’ve agreed to take her in. Cookie has been here a week now, and is still not totally sure she likes living with Pumpkin. He is happy with the new roommate, and is practically beside himself waiting for her to relax so they can play. He chases her every chance he gets, which terrifies Cookie, and she spits and growls and speeds away in a cloud of black calico fluff. Pumpkin is usually hot on her tail, thinking it’s great fun, but then she hides under the bed and he loses interest.

Pumpkin feeling playful

We let her out this morning, and after a couple of hours she cried at the door to come back in, so that’s a good sign that we’ll be able to let her out.

In other news, my girlie graduated from the 5th grade yesterday. Today she will be at the coast all day with her Girl Scout Juniors troop, sharing the last time they’ll all be together in Scouts. Since their school only goes to 5th grade, a couple are going to a different school than the rest, and of course, my daughter is one of them. I picked her up from a sleepover, and took her to the house where all the scouts departed from, and said my goodbyes there.

She is moving to California with her dad, and will be there till the third week in July. Then I’ll go pick her up and bring her home for good. For good! I am so thrilled. My family will be all together again. She will still get to see him on her vacations from school, so it’s important that she gets a chance to go set up her space down there. They will be moving in with her dad’s girlfriend and daughter, so this period of adjustment will be important. They’ve all lived together before, so hopefully the transition will be ok.

My man quit his job Thursday! Woo hoo! It’s about time. He was in a poisonous environment. though he likes the work, he couldn’t work out his differences with his boss. My man tends to keep his mouth shut in all situations, and his boss tends to completely go ballistic at the slightest little problem. Between the two of them, communication just steadily broke down. Also, his boss felt that paychecks and reimbursement checks were a minor detail, and so the employees only got paid when they pestered him enough that he finally got fed up with them and paid them. It took him over a month to pay back $1130 in field expenses to my boyfriend, which he finally received on Thursday. It’s unacceptable, not to mention stressful.

Though we are now unsure about how we’ll pay the mortgage, it had finally reached the point where more damage was being done by him staying there than what will be done by not receiving a paycheck.

He’s got a good lead on another position, so my spiritual fingers are crossed for the gods to bless us with another employment opportunity soon. It would be with the company he left in Massachusetts, who just opened a Portland branch office last week.

My house in Mass still hasn’t sold. Got one offer and signed a contract and everything, but then the potential buyer backed out. I think three other people have looked at it in a month, but in general, it’s looking like it’ll be a thorn in my side for some time to come.

This is Pride Weekend. The Uncles are driving the square dancing and bowling floats again. I really want to go. I had so much fun last year. I’ll be thinking of Kevin though, and it will be an emotional day. Actually, that’s sort of the reason I need to go – to remember him. I hope my guy will go with me, and I hope it won’t be too hard on him.

I applied for a couple of jobs last week too. I LOVE my current job, but it has nothing at all to do with anthropology. If I can work in the field I was trained in, that would be a reason to leave the Oregon veterans. Otherwise, if I am not offered the position, it won’t be a big deal.

J and H invited me to a PetAid concert at the Edgefield yesterday. That was really fun. I got to see Nada Surf, Spoon, and Presidents of the USA. Being an old fogie, of course I most wanted to see the Presidents. I have to say, the best moment of the night was watching the crowd freak out to “Peaches.” Hundreds of ROCK ON hands and fists in the air, beating time like wild hardcore rock maniacs, shouting the lyrics, “I love peaches!” “Millions of peaches, peaches for me!” That kind of comedy knocks me out.

The McMennamins Edgefield
is a beautiful, beautiful place, and I’m dying to go back and explore it more. Lots of Grateful Dead paraphernalia around, so I really want my Deadhead boyfriend to go check it out too.

The sun is shining again, you know that makes my heart smile. Life is interesting…. but good.

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