Saturday, August 20, 2011

The other thing

Well, we went. This was to be a fast route over a portion of last year's epic paddle. Fifty-eight miles to the pickup point in Albany and only two days to do it in. We'd be picked up at seven in the evening, so the second day's paddle was to be extended to pull it off.

We succeeded, and Risa's arms are not as sore as she could have expected. But she was not as mentally and physically prepared for this journey, after climbing South Sister, as she had meant to be. She slipped stepping into the boat at the put-in and got one leg wet, and she and Beloved, the shuttle driver, felt a premonition. But, ever the rationalist, Risa put blade to water and went round the bend in the river, barely remembering to look back and wave.

Every year, of course, a dynamic water system like the Willamette is completely different. This year the water was higher and faster than last year, and all the deadly cottonwood "sweepers" had shifted to make new traps. There was never a dull moment, seldom an opportunity to hook up boats to drift and be chummy. It was work. Beautiful work, but work.

And then came the railroad bridge at Harrisburg. "These places can be dangerous," said Risa, as she aimed the kayak to pass a smallish, unimpressive whirlpool loaded with snags. The next thing she knew she was in ten feet of water next to an upside down boat, going in circles, emitting a muffled whimper. She reached for, and got, her passing paddle, righted the 'yak, draped her arms over it, and kicked rather feebly in imitation of a swimmer. Daughter backpaddled to give her a tailhook to cling to.

"Tow me to that gravel bank," Risa said. "Kinda slowly."

Daughter's calm, methodical navigation past the snags was superb, and halfway to the gravel bank, Risa's feet hit welcome bottom. She walked ashore under her own power, cold water pouring out of everything from her hat to her shoes.

The gravel bank was the perfect recovery place -- total southern exposure, not strewn with jetsam, and with some welcome shelter from the eternal river headwind.

Daughter helped unpack and dismantle everything. Clothing and other articles were spread in the sun to dry. The sleeping bag, which had been underwater in Risa's dry bag for at least four minutes, was in pretty good shape. The rest was wetter than the river. All the electronics were gone; double-ziplocked is not enough, as it turns out.

No, wait -- Daughter, who had seen wet cell phones before, took over. "Your screen's about to go. But I think I can get one call out." Beloved received a message assuring her we were intact; and would she please bring a camera to the pick-up?

Risa's had been stripped from a Velcroed pocket in her PFD and was now lying, shiny and new, somewhere among the rocks and snags in ten feet of whirlpool.

Then the phone, as predicted, died. Daughter set it aside and served a great lunch.

Risa stood up and finished stripping down to her bra and panties. She noticed the bra, a bit of padded vanity, was heavy, and so leaned over and wooshed what seemed like a half gallon of snowmelt onto the rocks and sand. Daughter was amused.

"Mommy, I'm always going to remember this trip as you standing here in your underwear!"

Well, it beats the other thing she could have ended up remembering.

Just ... happy to be here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Let's hope

Finally it looks somewhat August-like around here; a few paltry tomatoes, but plenty of zucchinis and beans, and even some cucumbers. We are tidying up for our annual open house, Meteor Night, though this year it falls on the full moon, so everyone will be lucky if they spot even one meteor -- perhaps we should have called it "Teahouse of the August Moon." If you show up, bring a dinner dish, maybe some breakfast makings, a flashlight, warm layered clothing, bedding, and a sense of humor. And let's try to keep it down, we have neighbors ...

The corn is Golden Bantam, a sign of short seasons (getting shorter in this weird locality).

Runner beans having a banner year. We will dry all of these, some for seed, some to bake.

Squash and pumpkins doing their thing. Bees are ignoring them though, preferring the runner beans. Risa may have to start "heading" blossoms to encourage the fruit that has already set. She's already doing this with the tomatoes.

A couple of gallons of green beans have been picked small; these will be allowed to make seed.

Peas are still happy, but we are running out of edible lettuce.

Delicatas are turning color and look like they will have time to mature. Let's hope.

This is the fall garden in the former duck pen. Photo-clicking readers may spot some ducks upper right, and the neighbor's boarded horses at top. Here we have mostly kale, chard, cabbage, squash, tomatoes, onions. The tomatoes and squash were set out very late and are mostly an experiment. Plastic is planned to go over this greenhouse in October and stay up through next summer, with eggplants, peppers and  tomatoes mostly, come late spring (and squash in place of the present tomatoes).

Friday, August 05, 2011

Always lots of duck eggs

A cool-summer garden in August. The beans and runner beans have decided to participate, and the sunflowers at right, are adding height. Don't ask Risa about tomatoes, though, or you'll have a serious whiner on your hands. Next year the green house stays up all summer!

In this view you can see that the corn (we punted and went for the old standby, Bantam) might just make, and there's fruit on all the winter squash vines, though it's running way behind.

We've harvested and cured about fifteen pounds of assorted garlic.

What is this stuff, you ask. Well, we've an incurable infestation of Japanese knotweed. Yes, you can eat the shoots, but there's always something on hand we like lots better, and the poultry agree with us. Sheep and goats like it, but we're between those. We demand that most things on the premises make themselves useful in some way; so we harvest the knotweed for compost, beanpoles (believe it or not) and -- kindling. These foot long pieces will dry nicely before winter, and furnish a kindling that will light directly from the match and burn long enough to get the smaller firelogs interested.

Here are a couple of pics from 2009 to help whet your appetite for scrounging this kind of poor people's bamboo:

Today, the first blackberry harvest! And of course there's always lots of duck eggs.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Everyone slept soundly

Risa was abducted by her two youngest as a guide, having been, in younger days, to the top of South Sister (elev. 10,358 feet) three times. She fell for as it had not yet occurred to her the effect that a twelve mile hike with five thousand feet of elevation gain can have on a merely moderately healthy sixty-two-year-old.

Well, now she knows.

But she's glad she went. Here we are above, still fresh after climbing up the steep trail from Devils Lake (departure 7 a.m.) to Wickiup Plain. Our destination is glimpsed right between Son's and Daughter's shoulders.

On previous hikes, heat had been the main issue; this time it was snow. It being August, we failed to google the conditions, and apparently everyone but us knew that things this year were just shy of rope and ice axe. About a third of the journey involved kick-stepping, so we found it quite tiring and even a little dangerous.

Fortunately from the bottom of Collier to the summit, the snow was all gone along the traditional summit trail. If you click on (enlarge) the photo above, and know where to look, you can see people on the trail silhouetted against snow near the summit, upper left. I know some who dismiss South as a cakewalk, but to us this was a serious endeavor. We ate at Collier, noted that the weather was coming in and it was getting late, and did we want to go for it? Adventure is, y'know, what happens when you risk things not really knowing the outcome, so we decided on adventure.

Here's that weather coming in. It was clear everywhere but the summit; South is big enough that it's its own weather breeder. That green splotch is the little tarn at the base of Collier Glacier. Photo taken from about 9500 feet. The wind, by this time was doing thirty-five miles an hour, gusting to near fifty.

Risa, braced against the wind, does her high-fashion thing near the top. She's happy she made it but a little sad because she knows she's likely never coming here again. Her body's not truly up to it anymore. But, oh! so much beauty to be seen from here ...

On the way home at last. Daughter looks back over the long snow field we spent much of the afternoon descending. Risa's left knee gave out pretty much, soon after this, and the remainder of the descent took a lot out of her. We got to the car at 8:30 p.m., and reached our "base camp" (a friend's cabin) at 10 p.m.

Everyone slept soundly...

... and a fabulous breakfast was served by Daughter.