08-16-2018 Why do they call them Dog Days?

Current Location: Sunset House in Grants Pass at 75 degrees F at 9pm

I read my last post, just to take a moment to catch up with myself.  I needed to remember what I had written and hopefully not repeat myself.  Ahh, yes, I was raving about how incredibly gorgeous the summer had been thus far, blue skies, no fires, no smoke to mar the air.  Tonight, as I write, I can count 30 consecutive days of smoke filled skies, with air quality ranging from a fabulous “Moderate” (once or twice) to a more normal Very Unhealthy or Hazardous.  This has been the case every single day except one, last Sunday, when a breeze blew in from the west and for one fresh air filled day we had a taste of what summer could be like in our beautiful Southern Oregon.

This is not our house, it is across the street toward the east, and this is the side where the new fence will be located, about as high as the neighbors current chain link fence.  Ours will be wood.

It is hard to maintain a sense of balance when it is like this.  Not only is the world dimmed to a dull grayish brown and the sun to an angry red-orange, there are the horror stories on the news about the progress of the literally dozens of fires that surround us.  Stories of evacuations and misery abound.  It wears on one’s soul, deeply. 

I went to the store this morning, and in the process noticed that I was very easily irritated, like my scratchy eyes, my spirit felt scratchy.  I saw myself reacting quickly to the smallest inconveniences, angry at stupid people, frustrated with lack of supplies on the shelves.  I realized that I was getting all gritchy on an average of every 30 seconds or so.  What a waste of energy!  Noticing did help a bit, I tried to slow down and pay attention to myself, to stop the constant nasty internal outbursts at slow old people, fast little people, stupid drivers, and the constant brown sky.

I am not always like this, in fact I am not really often like this.  Sometimes, even in the midst of the nasty smoke, hot temperatures and ugly air, I can find true happiness.  Toward the end of July, about 2 weeks into the fire smoke season, Mo and I drove through the verdant and lovely Applegate Valley on a Thursday afternoon.  The Red Lily winery is among our favorites, and there we shared food truck goodies and a bottle of truly epic wine in big red chairs beside the river as we listened to the great music and watched all the happy people.  The sun was orange-red on that day as well, and yet I somehow found joy.

If you read my facebook, you probably already saw this, or who knows, it might have scrolled right past you, but either way, I wanted to repeat it here because it made me happy, and I don’t want to lose that feeling that I had that evening sitting by the river.

“Joy. It comes at the strangest times. I can’t call it in, and have no clue what makes it come, but when it does, I am in awe. Tonight, watching the red sun through the smoke as we sat along the Applegate River at Red Lily Vineyards, I felt awash in Joy. Listening to great music, drinking truly great wine, watching families and friends having fun together, I felt it. Overwhelming joy. I forgot my camera, forgot my phone, just had to experience it in the moment. Wondering if the fact that I didn’t have any kind of way to record the moment made it even more precious. When I got home, I ran outside with the camera, capturing the red sun setting through the smoke of the Taylor Fire just west of Grants Pass. Still remembering those precious moments of inexplicable joy. Treasuring the clarity of fresh air beneath the smoke, the mountains in the distance opened up from some unknown wind.”

I have also learned in this last 30 days to look downward, to look up close at the world.  Skip the sweeping vistas, they are invisible anyway, and just look at what is right in front of me.  We haven’t done a lot in the last few weeks, other than hang around home, working in the yard in the mornings, avoiding the worst of the heat and smoke, walking the dog in the evenings after it settles down a bit.

All thoughts of local hikes and kayak trips evaporated with the fires that began with a wild thunderstorm that crossed most of Northern California and Southern Oregon on July 15.  That very day Mo and I had driven south along the Applegate River to visit a beautiful lavender farm that opened up to the public for the 2018 Lavender Festival.  We have the Applegate Wine Trail, and we also have the Applegate Lavender Trail, with 15 farms participating.

The small acreage was beautiful, abuzz with bees and lovely people walking around picking their lavender bundles.  We ate lavender ice cream and listened to live music on the patio, and hid from the lightning strikes that we knew would bring sadness in the coming days, but at the time, it all seemed just so lovely.

That night there were more than 1,100 lightning strikes over the Rogue Valley and the Siskiyou Mountains, and the fires that started then are still raging all around us.  The horrible Carr Fire in Redding started a bit later, with a flat tire causing sparks on the pavement that ignited an inferno that killed 7 people and destroyed over 1000 homes.  Fire season has only just begun, and there is no end in sight.  We have until October to wait for the rains to at last extinguish the fires, but until then, anything goes.  Fire/smoke season in Oregon, in the entire West, is now a reality, and something that must be planned for always.  If you travel here, don’t come during fire season.  It has happened every single year now since 2012, and most years prior to that since the Biscuit Fire in 2002.

I wanted to write a blog, wanted to fill the empty space that is July and August in my memory banks, but as I write I can see how very much the fires and the smoke affect everything that I do.  So with that out of the way, maybe now I can think and write about some of the sweetness.

Early in July, Merikay and Craig of Merikay’s Dream decided to visit while they were camped at Valley of the Rogue State Park just a few miles south.  I cooked up a good supper, Merikay brought yummy cheesecake, and we showed them around Sunset House before settling in for dinner and a rousing game of that silly card game we learned last spring from John and Carol of “Our Trip Around the Sun”.  We had such a good time neither of us remembered to take any photos! Merikay and Craig are cruising around the Pacific Northwest and John and Carol are living the lifetime dream of traveling through Alaska in their motorhome. 

Mid July I drove back over the Cascades to Rocky Point to help out the quilt group with the annual Rocky Point BBQ, the major fund raiser for the local volunteer fire department.  It was great seeing old friends, and I invited the entire group to Sunset House for a get together, maybe some quilting, and maybe some crafting. 

None of this particular group of friends had been over the mountain to visit Sunset House, so I had fun showing them around, and they enjoyed seeing the real thing after all the photos I have shared of our house and the process of building it.

I actually baked a couple of epic quiches, one vegetarian and one traditional with all the bacon I could fit.  We laughed and talked, and then managed to make a big mess of fun with shaving cream and water color paints making marbleized art pieces for handmade greeting cards. It was a silly thing, but we had fun doing it.  Mo isn’t part of the quilt group, but all the women have been friends of hers long before I showed up on the Rocky Point scene.  It was a good day.

I especially enjoyed showing off the fabulous quilting done by Janna from Restoration Cowboy Style on my One Block Wonder quilt. She did an amazing job and the quilt ladies were duly impressed, Janna! I have been doing a bit of quilting on hot days as well, working on a big blooming nine patch with brilliant fabrics.  I hope to have Janna quilt it, but will probably have to wait until spring because I am not going to get it done in time.  I never sewed so many little nine patches, ever!

For everyday entertainment, I have been working on small landscaping projects while Mo works on fixing up her workshop.  Mo decided that a bit of help would be nice, and invited her brother Dan and his wife Chere down for a visit and a consultation on just how to construct the new porch overhang for the small building.

This photo of the old shed is from 2013.  Fires then as well. Look closely at the skinny blue door on the right, that is the same door on the right of what is left of the building in the photo below. 

I thought it might be fun to throw in a shot of the old outbuilding from the days when we first owned the property.  Most of it is gone now except for the main part of the building

She has been working on it for some time now, caulking and trimming, getting all the old wood cleaned up and painted.  Before winter there will be a new roof and a new porch overhang, a place for her to use her saws with some protection from the weather, but not inside the building with all that sawdust getting into everything.

It is always fun spending time with Dan and Chere, and having them here for a couple of days was wonderful. We ate good food both at home and at a great restaurant in Grants Pass we hadn’t tried before, Blondie’s Bistro.  First thing I noticed was that the balsamic reduction on the salad was every bit as good as any I have had, including my own. Actually, sometimes I burn mine and it ends up like caramel, and once it even turned into a sticky candy mess.  So I do really appreciate a good balsamic reduction.

My gardening projects have been small, mostly getting more shrubs planted, and adding mulch to the borders around the house.  With our heat, mulch makes all the difference, keeping roots cool enough, and within days after putting down the mulch, the plants look happier.  We don’t yet have an automatic sprinkler system, so my mornings are spent watering, lots of hand watering.  It is a job I really love, contemplative and quiet, and it gives me a chance to visit with each plant and flower, and check in on them.

We took in bids for a new fence along street side of the house and with the company 8 weeks out, I may not see the fence before I leave for Italy in September.  We also contracted to get a sun shade for the porch.  We love the view, but the western sun at dinner time is a bit much to bear.  Whenever we have company, we pull down the brown sheet that has served for shelter until the shade arrives.  It’s the little things.

We took the MoHo to Guaranty of Junction City, Oregon  for an all around check up and going through, making sure everything is in good order before we head off on a trip of several thousand miles.  It is a 3 hour drive, but folks from all over the country know about the service for RV’s available in Junction City, so it is worth it.

The days just seem to be so full, and I can’t really figure out why.  We are taking care of dental things, some physical therapy for Mo’s ankle and for my knee, doctor appointments to get caught up with the new doctor, going to the meat market for the Thursday sales, to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings for all that lovely produce coming in from the Applegate.

I water the flowers, walk the dog, clean the house, cook, do some quilting, watch some news and check out the smoky sunsets. I made applesauce with Mo’s help peeling the apples from our Gravenstein apple tree, have spent many hours working on reservations and plans for our winter trip to Florida, spent more hours working on final plans for the three week trip to Italy. 

A couple of days ago my computer started acting weird, so I tried to be sure all was backed up, and sure enough, out she went.  Probably the hard drive, and she is going to the computer doctor back in Klamath Falls when we go there this weekend.  Oh yes, there is that as well.  A tenant moved out and we spent a couple of days at the apartments cleaning up, and will spend a couple more days there this coming weekend painting for the new tenant.  Always something, it seems. 

At least I have the old laptop to fill in while the big girl gets fixed.  And of course, I am soo soo tempted to buy a new laptop.  This one is really so very old, and the plugin doesn’t work properly and it is slow, and and and…..How do you keep from buying something new and nice when you know better?

How can such little stuff keep me so busy? How can I think that all this little stuff is even worth writing about? How very few people will read to the end of this story.  Ha!  Reminds me of all those facebook memes rolling around that are really long, and at the end they say something like “you probably won’t read all of this, but if you do, copy and paste to your wall etc etc etc.”  I never do even if I DO read it all.  So don’t copy and paste, but if you made it this far, maybe you could comment.  Ha!

Nickie  (Out and About with Jimmy and Nicky) called me today to commiserate about all the smoke and heat and frustration about being house bound in summer and I think we both felt better after the phone call.  She laughed about having nothing to blog about except the grandbaby and I don’t even have that.  Still, for me, as always, it is about memory.  I need to be sure than when I return to the blog there isn’t a giant hole where July and August reside.

Oregon Fires

Photo Credits to the Douglas Forest Protective Association from their (Facebook Page Link
Douglas Complex fire
Douglas Fire 2

Time for a little bit of update now that we are back home in Rocky Point.  We planned a few days in Grants Pass, and as luck would have it, we arrived the morning after more than 3,000 lightning strikes from a summer storm ignited at least 54 fires on private and BLM lands in Southern Oregon.  Living in the west as we do, keeping track of the fire situation is part of the routine, and we aren’t surprised to see smoke rising from one direction or another.  Some years are worse than others.  The year I moved to Klamath Falls in 2002, the Biscuit Fire burned more than 500,000 acres in the Siskiyou National Forest and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.  Much controversy continues to this day about whether or not to allow salvage logging in these wild areas.
southern oregon firesIMG_0790 Several times in the last few years we have cancelled an August camping trip to one place or another due to smoke, and some of you may remember our travels last summer in the upper West that were marred by smoke from huge fires in Idaho and Montana.  There are many good resources to help keep track of fires and smoke, the best of which is found at the Incident Information website, http://www.inciweb.org.  This year, however, it was several days before the webmasters of this amazing site were able to keep up to date with all the rapidly changing information for the Douglas Complex fires. Another very helpful website related to fire and smoke is on Weather Underground, where the WunderMap for an area has a layer for active fires that shows the current fire situation and the extent of smoke cover. 
Actually, by the time we reached the pass last Saturday morning we didn’t need a website to know that smoke was probably going to be an issue for the entire time we planned to work at the cottage.  Once these fires start, it takes some serious weather to calm them down, and our rains don’t usually show up until October.  In the mean time, we get thunderstorms, with or without dry lightning, and very little real moisture.  Sometimes a marine system will come in and cause a shift and the smoke clears a bit, but it is usually around one way or another after a fire like this gets under way.
IMG_0769 Our main goal for the trip was to make sure we got the wood split from the trees we took down last month before it got too dry.  Mo loaded up the splitter in the big trailer and hooked it up to the truck for the trip.  We took the MoHo since daughter Deb is now living in the little cottage (one bedroom only) and we didn’t want to completely invade her space. 
IMG_0770 It turned out to be an incredibly productive trip, in spite of the heavy smoke.  We got all the wood split, with close to a cord of oak and about 3/4 cord of madrone, probably the best firewood around in Oregon.  The big rounds were heavy, but with the three of us working, (Mo does the splitting part) we managed to get it all done on the first day we were there.  We have a good ten cords stored here at home already, so plan to let the hardwood dry at the cottage before bringing it back here in a year or so.  We heat with wood in Rocky Point, but the cottage has a gas heater that works just fine.  No fireplace.
We had a great time with Deb, and she had a chance to show her strength and skill at demolition, tearing out a lot of the old wood and shelves and yukky “stuff” that was in the old bunkhouse.  We will eventually tear down the bunkhouse add-ons, but the main part of the building will be saved for Mo’s workshop.  Mo worked a lot on the sink plumbing again, and on building the wall and new cupboard that separates the bath and kitchen.  Finally we don’t have to hang a quilt for bathroom privacy!  Of course, her projects are not made any easier by the fact that nothing is even close to plumb in the little cottage and the reclaimed wood she is using is rarely square.  Lots of measuring and sawing involved.
IMG_0781P1010042 Deb and I managed to get a full load of metal for the recyclers and made almost enough money to pay for the full load that we took to the dump the next morning.  I have no idea how many dump loads we have hauled out of that place, but sooner or later we will get it all cleaned up.   In the midst of all the work, we cooked some good meals and enjoyed sitting at the table in the old fashioned kitchen in front of the windows.  Deb and I took time to play some rousing games of Hand and Foot, my favorite!  I taught her how, but she is fast catching up to me.  Dang! 
We also took an evening to go see “The Lone Ranger”.  Mo didn’t want to go, so we had a mom and daughter night with popcorn and one of the most entertaining movie experiences I have had in a long time.  There were some great sight gags, gorgeous photography of very familiar places I have traveled, including the exact spot where I built a campfire in Valley of the Gods back in 2004.  We both love Johnny Depp and his performance was great.  I am really glad that I didn’t let some of the negative things I have heard about the movie keep me from at least giving it a try.
We came home to Rocky Point to discover smoky skies on this side of the Cascade crest as well, and our first night back included another big thunderstorm that ignited a few more fires on this side of the mountain.  One bolt hit right on top of us, and I had an especially good view of it through the skylights!  Do you suppose that lightning could come in through those roof windows??
We live in the forest.  Fire happens here.  It could happen to us.  This part of Rocky Point hasn’t burned in more than 100 years.  I hope I don’t ever have to live through what so many have endured in the last few years.  I read about Nan trying to help her daughter save her cabin near Idyllwild, and Gaelyn returning home to her lot in Arizona with sadness.  But for the grace of God, we could be there as well.  I am thankful every single day.

3200 miles and It’s a Wrap

smoke from the 250K acre fires burning south in Oregon and Nevada I am sitting in the office at home in Rocky Point watching the midges, mosquitoes, and moths slapping against the dark windows.  We have been home for several days now and I am still not all caught up.  It is hot here, in the mid 90’s today, and smoky.  The Barry Point Fire near Lakeview and the Holloway Fire farther east in Oregon and Nevada have been raging since the 6th of August.

The heat is incredibly hard on the firefighters, with exhaustion setting in for the crews.  I have been following along on Inciweb in addition to a nice blog and Facebook posts that someone from the Barry Fire is doing.

Barry and Holloway fires The heat is good for the tomatoes, though, and the vines are getting heavy with nice little green things that hopefully will turn red in the next two weeks or so, at least maybe before the Labor Day frost.  The heat also is bringing out the frogs and every time I lift the top of the hot tub a little frog or two jumps out.  So far no floaters at least.

Mo came into the office today smiling at me saying, “What’s the temperature at the beach right now?” Brother Dan and his wife Chere are over there and with temperatures here in the high 90’s and smoky skies ever since we got home, those cool, foggy days on the coast sound pretty nice.

Seems as though the beach is calling Mo and she brought the motorhome back up the driveway this evening.  I have been working this week in addition to catching up on gardening chores and got the MoHo all spic and span on the inside and Mo shined her up on the outside.  Finally finished that job yesterday…and now it’s time to load up again?  But wait…I still haven’t written about half of the last trip we were on!  Still, I have been missing the ocean too.  Guess we will be pulling out of the driveway tomorrow morning early, sans Tracker.  This time we are just going to hang at the beach, and Mo put the bikes directly on the back of the MoHo so we can enjoy those great bike trails around the South Beach State Park near Newport, Oregon.

route map Colorado 2012Our Colorado Reunion Trip was a total of 3,212 miles, through Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, SOUTH DAKOTA, back into Wyoming, Idaho, and back home to Oregon.  Yes, we finally got to put that dang South Dakota sticker on the decal on the back of the MoHo. I think people like to see the numbers, so here they are: 21 Days:  fuel including about 500 extra miles of Tracker travel $1747.32, camping $280.12. We spent over 300 in groceries and 145 eating out which is unusual for us.  Must have been all that family time and fun cookouts.

time to fill in the South Dakota sticker! I managed to process most of the photos while we were traveling, and spent a couple of days after work here at home cleaning them up and getting them uploaded to Picasa.  That Picasa/Google thing makes me just crazy.  I hate that when I share photos directly from Picasa now, even using the actual copy/paste of the URL, when folks go look at them, they still get the Google thing.  Yeah, sure, Google is nice enough, but the photos are so dang BIG and you can’t see nice little thumbnails the way I can on Picasa Web Albums directly.  Ah well, progress I guess.  Like that crazy looking Windows 8 thing that Rick keeps talking about.

our beautiful Wood River Valley with the Casade Crest to the west...all hidden by smokeI last wrote when we were all relaxed in the beautiful Shoshone National Forest at Falls Campground in Wyoming.  I haven’t been that relaxed since, and our trip home was a blur of smoky highways and interstates, punctuated by the magnificent Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho, and finished off with the long trek home through the deserts of Eastern Oregon.  Even with the bronzy skies and red setting sun it was great to be home.  The house was clean and cool and roomy, and my bed even more so. 

Jeremy in position as we head west over the Bighorns Jeremy wandered around meowing at all the space, wondering where we went if we left the room.  He loves the motorhome because we are close by and it takes him awhile to adjust to all the rooms in the house where he can’t keep track of his people. Aren’t cats supposed to be independent?  Not this one!  Ever since he was a bottle fed baby of three weeks old he has wanted to be as close to me as he can, most of the time. Now, of course, Mo’s lap is as good or better than mine.  He adores her, even though she has only been around the last ten years or so.  Ha!

Roger and Nancy behind usDriving Highway 95 northeast of the Steens Yes, yes, I will write about the rest of our journey, but it will be predated for the actual dates that we were doing whatever we were doing, and as a result probably won’t show up in the blog rolls.  You will have to be a truly dedicated reader to find the posts when they go up.  Ha! I have the list…Bear Lake Regional Park, Carhenge (you won’t believe this one!), Wounded Knee, The Battlefield at Little Bighorn, the magical, mythical Bighorn Mountains and the Hot Springs at Thermopolis, the Niagara of the West at Twin Falls, and the sweetest little desert hot spring around in the middle of nowhere in Oregon.  Stay tuned…and to the people who read this blog and follow along and make comments…thank you.  For being patient with me and for still reading.