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I promised my dear friend, Mary (Beyond Mirays), that I would help her at the Canterbury Renaissance Faire near Silverton, Oregon, this summer. It seemed simple enough: a Saturday and a Sunday helping sell the fine artwork my friend creates.

This was not a strict SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) event, so there was a lot of leeway on the costumes. I’m not certain how I feel about that. yet: certainly people took advantage of the lack of guidelines, and the fact that this event is sandwiched between The Oregon Country Fair and Faerieworlds meant that it attracted a lot of, um, er – creative costumes. Faeries abounded.

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The Queen made her rounds. She rode her horse through the camp on Saturday morning, visited each vendor during the afternoon, and ended the Faire with a final walk-through. I liked the fact that we had royalty on the grounds for the re-enactment as it made up for the lack of true participation among some of the vendors and many of the visitors.

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It was all so – royal. I’m still not used to the shouts of “God Save the Queen”, but I know that if I put my heart into the character played, it would seem quite natural.

This first weekend was my Dress Rehearsal for future events. I do not plan on going to another Ren Faire event this year, but I could hone my dress and acting skills for next year.

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Mistress Mary was adept at drawing in prospective buyers and it seemed we always had at least a pair of fair maidens perusing the adornments.

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The biggest draw at her booth was the Turret. For a dollar, a child could stick his or her hand into the darkness of the castle and feel around for “treasure” – or rats! The rats were gummy rats or cinnamon-flavored rats on a stick; the treasure was hand-made jewelry for boys or girls. Mary’s ten year old grandson made all the jewelry. It was so much fun to draw the kids in, entice them with visions of treasure, and congratulate them on their prizes (and most were just as pleased with rats as they were with the chap trinkets).

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Right in front of Mary’s booth was this diseased alder tree.

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It didn’t take me long to develop a story about the fairies who lived there and grabbed at passerby. The tree attracted a lot of male attention – and a few chuckles when I espoused my fairy tree theory. For me, the photos are inspiration for future projects.

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This pony was a patient sort and was very much needed on Saturday when the temps rose higher than predicted! It reached the low 90′s on Saturday.

There was jousting, but I did not attend the events. Music, jesters, plays – I felt a responsibility at the booth (when you tell someone you’re going to help out, that’s what you do). We were not far from the main stage and music drifted over us all the time, so I do not feel as if I missed a single thing. The jousting was really for the pleasure of the Time Travelers who came to visit – and it provided a much needed break in the activity of hawking and selling for the vendors. Our feet really needed those breaks!

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The fellow with the pet rooster (a Silver Phoenix from Japan) was discussing feathers with a former client of his (whose hat sports the breast and tail feathers of a Silver Phoenix rooster). I liked the irony of the living, breathing pet and the plumage of a former rooster on the hat.

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The rooster was a hit among Faire-goers, whether they were of the time period of from the future.

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The Queen’s handmaidens were always wandering about, as were the Knights.

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The wizard-like character was selling Goblin Ear purses. He was a hoot. He never left character. I talked him out of a business card, so I guess I should purchase a goblin ear from him in the near future. I can use it for other costumes.

Oh, I had so much fun. I can hardly write about that – there’s simply no way to put into words how much enjoyment I derived from the characters, the smells, the vendors, the sounds – and a few of the smiles on children’s faces. There were visitors to the faire that did not understand that they were walking into a play, but they viewed it as a market of sorts (“a flea market” my friend said). They would not engage with the actors (vendors), but walked through as if their sole purpose was to pass from one end to the other as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

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They have forgotten how to view the world from the eyes of a child – if ever they knew. You can’t walk into a venue like this and leave your imagination and wonder back inside the television at home. You have to come in, wide-eyed and expectant. The world is all new at a faire: you are in the middle of a play and you are one of the actors!

I did peruse some of the other vendors when Mary and I allowed ourselves breaks from the action. There were some great artists showcasing their merchandise – and there were also a few reselling something mass-produced from somewhere else (yawn). Most everyone was having fun with the play.

Sunday was much cooler. Throughout the day, we could hear hawks overhead but it was not until the later afternoon that I spied them. I walked over to where a small group of knights were staring up into the trees, counting the birds. There were six. I peered up and suggested we were looking at sharp-shinned hawks (or, rather, queried if that was the case). No, those are peregrine falcons.

Of course, I snapped as many rough photos as I could (I was without my 300mm lens on Sunday). I hoped to get at least one identifiable photo out of the bunch to see if I could identify the birds.

This is a link to the Peregrine Falcon. Note the tail – this is important. Also – listen to the bird.

This is the Sharp-Shinned Hawk. See above: note the tail and listen.

The latter bird is the one I heard all day.

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This was my best photo. You can see from the links above that it is *not* a Pergrine Falcon. I did look at the Cooper’s Hawk as well, but the song is all wrong. We were looking at Sharp-Shinned Hawks.

Identifying the hawks was a private moment of glory – I really was more interested in the transcendent moment of watching them and feeling the beauty of God’s glory in their awful creation. They were dining on small creatures and I overheard someone say they found a dead Heron chick under the hawks’ nest. Nature is nothing short of brutal in its beauty – and honest.

I love playing “dress-up” and have one more fair slated for this summer – the last Faerieworlds at the current venue (Mt. Pisgah by Eugene, Oregon).

 

I need to write, but there is so much I cannot write about at the moment. Life is quite complex. I can blog about Harvey, the Wonder Setter.

Harvey has been a really wonderful dog of late. A surprising dog.

He is not our Alpha dog – that title belongs to Murphy, but every once in awhile, Harvey does something that trumps the pecking order and surprises the humans. Once, he nailed Murphy in a spat over some left-over gravy. I guess you don’t get between Harvey and gravy. He has the waist-line to prove it. (Do dogs have waist-lines?)

We have recently been spotting rats in and around the crawl space of our home. These are the common brown rats, not the big Norway rats that freak me out. We’ve lived in homes where the big Norway rats have come in. Rats are a common problem in the Portland metro area, so close to major shipping lines and major rivers. I even quit feeding the birds so as to not be also feeding the rats.

July 4th, both dogs were on high alert and it was not due to the fireworks. Murphy charged the fence line a couple of times, but there was never anything there. Harvey was always close on Murphy’s heels. We suspected they were bird-watching (there’s always a number of fledglings around and about). They calmed down and took up positions on the edge of the lawn, with a view of the greater portion of the yard, heads up, ears perked forward. Then -they both leapt up and ran toward the shed.

Murphy caught it – a rat. Harvey bulled right in and snatched the rat from Murphy’s teeth. He gave it several fatal neck-breaking tosses before dropping it onto the lawn. He stood guard over it, not permitting Murphy close. Harvey pulled the Alpha Dog card on the rat-catching debut.

Hopefully, that was the one and only rat we have to deal with.

Two nights ago, Harvey took a sudden dive through the little wire decorative fence I have around the island garden (specifically to keep dogs out). I mean: he dove. His whole fat body snaked through the widest opening in the wire (and nearly pulled it down in the process). He snaked – literally – into my big aster, under the wire cage that holds up the faded peonies, under the cage for the aster, and under the low limbs of the tree peony. I was flabbergasted. WHAT THE HECK!

Only moment earlier, a Spotted Towhee had hopped through there and a Song Sparrow had eyed the bird bath. Now, my ninety-pound English Setter was making like a Dachshund without directions. He carved a cave of dying peony branches and aster branches before coming out on the other side.

I yelled at him. My FLOWERS! Granted, they’re not blooming right now, but those asters are my entire September’s worth of bloom!

He heeled and lay down by my feet, but he remained on high alert.

I saw it then: a flash of mouse-brown fur. Rat? or Mouse? Harvey tensed, but he knew he was In Trouble. Hanta Virus tip-toed carefully out into full view, big brown eyes and soft mouse ears on the Big White Dog. Harvey trembled, but he was In Trouble. And Hanta Virus sensed it. She boldly pranced toward our deck stairs.

Harvey couldn’t stand it anymore and broke his hold, dashing in for the – miss! Hanta Virus made it to the safety of the underside of the decking.

Darn! I shouldn’t have yelled at the dog.

Good dog.

Another thing I can blog on: the weather, We’ve been having what I call “Real Summer”. That means, temps above 84 degrees Farenheit. All of Portland is sweltering and complaining (including my Dear Husband). I took my sweater off after lunch today.

It’s too hot to sit upstairs at my computer when we have lovely summer conditions in the metro area. I’d rather be sitting outside in the shade, swatting mosquitoes, than to be sitting up here. If you’re going to have summer, have it OUTSIDE. Therefore, while the rest of the city hides in air-conditioned places (or, in my husband’s case, up in the cool woods) – I am sitting outside in the sun, wishing I was ten, again, and that the Winnemucca Municipal Swim Pool was open. (We’d buy maple bars at Hooft’s Bakery after swimming, and then walk home on the 110-degree pavement. Barefoot, of course. If it got too hot, you walked in the gutters because the concrete was cooler there. You ran across the railroad tracks because the creosote heated up hotter than asphalt.)

Yet another thing I can blog about: my next few weekends are busy, busy, busy. I am going to go help my friend sell her wares at the Canterbury Renaissance Faire in Silverton this weekend (I’ll post links later, when I blog about the faire). I’ve been working on costumes for both days. I should buy a good sewing machine but that would mean I am turning into my mother and I actually like sewing).

The weekend following, is Faerieworlds. My costume this year is very simple. I just want to enjoy the venue and watch my son-in-love with my youngest (they aren’t married, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love this man who loves my girl). It is his first time to Faerieworlds and Chrystal is planning their costumes. Can’t wait!

AND – in August – we are having a yard sale. That should be an epic event.  More on that later.

In the meantime – I miss blogging. Summertime is not a good time to try to write in a stuffy bungalow loft (which is really nothing more than a glorified attic). Can you say “sweaty”?

 

Northern Flicker

I leaned back in the deck chair, tapping my pen on my notepad. Ninety-degrees, slightly humid – the sort of day that make me feel torpid and I have so much to do. List making: things to do in the early morning when it is still cool (how to fit a whole Sunday into the relative cool of the morning?).
We don’t get many days or weeks like this here. I savor it.
I have the water running on the island. I am using one of the old yellow whirly-gig sprinklers I collected from my father’s back yard in 2011. It’s a good sprinkler and covers a good distance, even when I am also running the sprinkler hose on the border flower bed, as I am doing at this moment.
Harvey is somewhere in the back, as far away from the flying water as he can get. He has an adverse reaction to getting wet, even when he is sweltering. He’s hoping to find another rat in the yard (I am hoping he killed the only rat in the yard, back on the 4th of July).
A flutter and a flash of feathers crosses my vision, right to left. The bird swerves toward me, corrects, and gently lights on the island at the edge of the artificial rainfall.
It is a young Northern Flicker. Red-shafted Flicker in my original bird guide, but now lumped with the eastern Yellow-shafted Flicker into one species: Northern Flicker. The western version has red wing shafts.
His feathers are light brown, spotted. There’s a neat red “Vee” at the back of his head, perfectly shaped. His eyes are dark, round, attentive. A “moustache” of red feathers graces his head, back from his long, curved beak: only the males have a “moustache”. He keeps one eye on me and uses the other eye to hunt in the low bushes and flowers for tiny insects. Ants. He is, pardon the pun, making a killing.
He stays away from the rain, working the hazelnut mulch along the edge, not five feet from where I am sitting. I can see him breathing.
The song sparrow alights on the other side of the Hawthorne, in the rain, his tail flipped up like a wren’s tail. He hops boldly forward, notices the larger bird, and flutters up into the safety of the Hawthorne..
The Flicker stays for long minutes,. hunting ants and gnats, drinking water from up-turned hazelnut shells. I slowly move my hand to my drink and he hops into the rain. He holds for a short second and then flies off to the fence, alarmed that I had moved.
He preens and shakes off the water while he sits atop the fence. Then he spies a spider and tops off his dinner.
He is gone before I can think about retrieving my camera for photos.

Close Your Eyes

The sun rises with a vengeance on the Earth, and no clouds intervene. Sun’s rays warm the pavement and the pavement radiates the heat back up into the air. The city swelters. Today was one of those days in the Portland metro area. I am not certain what the “high” of the day was, bit I do know this: the mean temperature is taken at PDX International which rarely represents the rest of the metropolitan area, except on these days when the summer, sun, and Portland collide. The mercury climbed toward the three-digit mark.

It was lovely.

I take my lunch in my car. This can be a freezing situation in the winter, with blankets piled on top of me as I work the Daily Crossword, read a few chapters in whatever book I have on hand, of simply close my eyes and try to nap. Summertime, when the mercury rises, the car heats up. I back it in to the parking spot so the prevailing sun will be on the passenger window, and I install the reflective window shield – not so much to protect the vinyl of my dashboard as to create a shady lunchtime haven. My car is my refuge from work.

We were at 86 degrees (Farenheit) at noon today. A breeze toyed with the radiant heat from the black asphalt. I rolled all the windows down while I ate and worked on the crossword. It was almost too blustery: hot, dry, wind from the east. Still, the car cooled to a liveable 78 degrees (or so – I gauge temperature with my skin, not a thermometer). I finished eating, turned my cell phone alarm on, and then leaned back in the seat with my eyes closed.

Later, someone asked me if I had taken my lunch outside. She was shocked, curious, and concerned. I assured her that I was perfectly fine eating lunch in a hot car. Better than fine, but I didn’t tell her that.

I closed my eyes and imagined myself sitting on a lounge chair under the shade of the cottonwood trees behind the big boulder on Pike Creek, above the Alvord Desert. White dirt, not this red-clay-dark loam soil of the Willamette Valley. White dirt, mixed with alkali dust, reflecting the sun with a brightness that forces the eyes to squint.

Cottonwoods, their dry leaves rattling in the hot breeze. Green towhees meowing. California quail. Chukkar up the canyon calling: chuk-chuk-chuk-chuk-chuk! The hot smell of sagebrush. The trickle of Pike Creek coming down from Steens Mountain: the creek full in the morning and slowly reducing to a trickle by eventide. Mud-daubers and dragonflies. Yellow jackets floating on the tense creek surface: did you know wasps know how to float? Ash-dark lizards peeking over the edge of the rock. Pink rocks. green rocks, Striped rocks. Boulders the size of houses, washed down from the canyon above in some ancient glacial period.

Dust-devils dancing on the playa below.

The soft lowing of cattle down on the fields of the Alvord ranch. Echo of coyotes somewhere. The hoot of pygmy owls peering into the dusky camp. Heat, radiating down, radiating up: Alvord Desert.

Milk shakes at the cafe in Fields, Oregon.

Climbing on top of the house-sized boulders at sunset to watch Fourth of July fireworks down on the playa.

The smell of burnt sagebrush, extending northward to Mann Lake, exposing the boulders: pink, green, striped. The rocks that poured out of Pike Creek are strange and colorful, metamorphic. There are thundereggs up in the narrow mouth of the canyon. Slate and shale make the pathway to the Wilderness entrance. The mine entrance hidden by willows, cottonwoods, rattlesnakes.

Bobcats. Startle Bighorn sheep. Cottontail. Black-eared Jack rabbits playing Kamikaze Jack as the evening sun dips low.

Hot.

Long-horned beetles.

The colors of hot springs: red-yellow-green. Ivory-billed ibis. Flocks of blackbirds. Song of the Western Meadowlark. Basalt rocks spilling out onto the road.

My alarm goes off. I am in Portland. Highway 26 is yards away. MAX runs every fifteen minutes between my car and Highway 26. I have to return to overrated air conditioning and work.

But for thirty minutes or so – I was in Heaven.

I wonder why other people cannot close their eyes and take themselves somewhere beautiful. I wonder why other people hate hot so much. My oldest niece once wrote that she wanted to be a lizard, basking in the sun.

I am a lizard and the sun warms me. The meditation calms me and I return to work, ready for another half day.

On a side note: the Air Conditioning unit broke down for the entire east wing of our building. The building was as warm as 74 degrees and I did not need to wear a sweater to work. It was Heaven.

It probably will be fixed tomorrow when the temps only reach into the 80′s and I will have to wear a sweater. Maybe I will imagine snow falling to make myself feel better. ;-)

 

Today in the Garden

That sounds like the first line to a poem:

Today in the garden

red hummingbird flew -

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The reality is more like this: Today, in the garden, I decided to tackle the overgrown Oregon Grape.

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I also wanted to clear the weeds away from the fence.

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It is hard to see just how unruly the Oregon Grape is. I planted this variety in error: I thought I was getting the native Oregon Grape, which grows close to the ground and scares werewolves away (my father told me that when I was ten, and so it must be true). What I got was this commercial variety that grows over six feet in height, falls over, and is generally unruly.

We’ve never had any werewolf problems, so it probably does repel were wolves as well.

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The weeds and blackberries, on the other hand, serve no purpose except to irritate me and thwart the lawn mower.

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We did have a Spotted Towhee attempt to start a family in the thickest and most upright Oregon Grape, but the sharp, spiny leaves were not enough to hinder the nosy bird dogs, and the Towhees left the nest shortly after laying four pretty spotted eggs in it.

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No matter how I twist and turn with the camera, I can’t get the lens to focus on the eggs. It wants to focus on the nearest detritus: the rim of the nest and old leaves. One egg has exploded, or was broken into by a predator. The others sit there, the same as when we found them a nearly two months ago.

The towhees must have found a safe place to hatch eggs, as we watched them bring their brood of fledglings around the front yard.

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I did not take a before photo because I didn’t set out to eliminate this last Oregon Grape. It will probably regrow. It was very spindly and the branches fell every direction, creating an unsightly mess. The remaining three have stronger bases and tend to grow up, not out.

Then I worked my way down the fence. All was good. I yanked on a good bunch of weeds and they came out, followed by a torrent of yellow jackets.

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My instinct was to get up and run, but I lay back very slowly and allowed the angry wasps to fly over me. Then I slowly rolled over and stood up calmly before walking deliberately back to the house.

Unfortunately, the head of the host had made it to the corner of the house and Murphy got stung because he flips out around wasps. I ushered the dogs into the house and closed the door. Still, I managed to get two of the wasps in the house: one that got lost in the bathroom, and one that must have fixed on my garden gloves when I pulled the weeds out. I didn’t know it was there until I pulled my gloves off and it bit me (yes, bit, not stung).

Poor Murphy! He was so freaked. He wanted to eat it but he had also been stung, so his tail was tucked and he wouldn’t venture any closer to my garden gloves on the kitchen floor. The wasp didn’t associate me with the gloves and was circling them and stinging them, repeatedly.

Between my husband and myself, we managed to get both wasps trapped between the window and the screen, where we left them to die. I waited until the wasps had calmed down before I went back out to pick up my garden tools and I marked the site of their underground lair so I can spray them at dusk (on a windless night: tonight, the wind has come up).

Yes, I will spray them. I dislike chemicals and insect sprays, but yellow jackets nesting in the ground in the yard get sprayed. Murphy is allergic to them. I need to weed and tend to my flowers. They get aggressive and mean in August and September, and they argue with picnickers for bites of protein or sweets. I can live with them most of the time, but not when there is an entire nest of them.

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That photo was an accident. I was trying to force my digital camera to focus on the hive hole, which is at the base of the fence post. I did not know I caught this drone hovering on his way in for a landing.

 

Tales from Today

It was a lovely weekend. I had things I should have done, but I will get myself busy this week and do those things (call friends and call on friends. The weekend was a quiet, introspective, restful weekend. I needed it.

The yard needs attention. I am rather disappointed in the blooms this year, partly because we never got to any of the local nurseries during the Spring and partly because I lost a number of bushes and plants to the winter. My yard seems dull without those plants, and the lack of new additions is a tad depressing. I am ahead of the weeds in the important places, but behind in too many other places.

Last winter brought an uninvited guest to our home. We suspected we had a visitor when we discovered the birdseed bag had been ripped open in the garage. The bag was moved into the house and one bird feeder (close to the ground) was left empty through the winter. My husband told me that feeding the squirrels was probably encouraging the unwanted house guest, but I persisted – until sometime last week when I looked out the front window and saw our house guest. The gall! Broad daylight, in our front yard, where anyone driving by could see it! AUGH!

The squirrel feeder has been put up and when the hanging bird feeder is empty, it will not be refilled.

We talked about poison and traps, but… we live in town now and the dogs are far too curious. Our fear is that a poisoned rat would wander out into the back yard to die and the dogs would find it. Traps don’t really work very well (trust me, this is not the first rat I’ve had to deal with in the metro area). Eliminating the food source, however – that is a huge step. We will probably end up trapping the buggers, but first the food source is going to dry up in hopes that they move out on their own.

They won’t. Rats are tenacious. I hate rats.

My husband worked in the veggie garden area today – it has long been neglected and overgrown. I think it has been three years since he has had the time to really work on it, and the grass is thick and deep. We won’t have a garden there this year, but if he can get ahead of the neglect, we will have a garden there next year. I mention this only because of the drama that unfolded later.

I was relaxing with a good book (And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, one of my favorite authors). Harvey was at my feet. Suddenly, he jumped up and trotted over to his outdoor kennel, and whined to get in. What the heck?? Why would he want in?

I walked over and peered into his doghouse. Nothing. Peered at the spaces around the dog house. Nothing. Harvey went into a frenzy of barking which brought Murphy out. Now Murphy wanted in to the kennel. I only wanted to know what was in the kennel that was feeding the frenzy – and I couldn’t find anything.

I opened the kennel door. Harvey had given up on me by this point and was back by the chair, sulking. Murphy, however, was intrigued. He began to pull out the bedding (gingerly).

A flash of grey by the handicap ramp and Harvey was on it. Murphy was still pulling bedding out, unaware that he had shaken a frightened field mouse out. The mouse was safe (Harvey was too slow).

But – really? Rats and mice? I console myself with this: it was a field mouse, not a house mouse. It can’t get into the house. It probably carries hanta virus. Okay, that last thought isn’t very comforting.

The rats are not inside the house, either. They seem to live under the house. That isn’t fine, but it is better than having them in the house, because I have had rats in the house. Don’t ask. I hate rats.

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I do like dragonflies. I really like dragonflies.

This is what I did when I wasn’t worrying about mice and rats:

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I recreated an entire rhododendron out of the limbs I cut down from the living rhododendrons in front of my house.

It may take weeks to get rid of the brush pile.

I hope we can be rid of the rats before we are rid of the brush.

And the mice.

The End.

ALASKA!

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Four wonderful days spent with my son-in-law, my oldest daughter, and their four children = one tired grandmother.

A stroke of the keyboard and I missed the six-day adventure I had planned, but I got the four days at a “discounted” price. Yeah. Whatever. It was still a lot of fun, even with the missing carry-on (“Grandma, why did you lose your suitcase?”)

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We drove out onto the Homer Spit the first day, but it was too cold and wet to spend any time there. This is the leeward side of the spit. My daughter pointed out the camps along the spit: motorhomes on the leeward side and tents on the windy side. “That’s where people with no money camp,” she said.

“That’s where the Presleys would camp,” I replied.

We laughed: we both spent many an hour holding up the sides of a wind-blown tent on a cold, blustery, “Summer” day somewhere in the Oregon, Idaho, or Nevada wilds. We’ll take a motorhome now.

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Saturday was punctuated with sun breaks and a 5th Birthday Party for the second born.

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He wanted Mr. Incredible’s face for a cake.

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There were lots of presents, but this one was the favorite. Grandma’s note to self: which Legos™ kits to purchase the boys for the next birthday and Christmas. (Also: Rescue Bots™)

Javan is into insects as well, but the insect-related gifts were not the big hit. He *likes* bugs, but he doesn’t really want to touch them or hold them. He only wants to look at them.

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Four little children. The youngest doesn’t talk, but babbles along in her own mystery language, content to be adorable and cute.

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<melt>

My daughter seems calm, but the truth is: she’s simply too exhausted to be anything else after playing referee, mentor, cook, house-cleaner, and laundress all day.

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The boys unload the dishwasher for her. They think this is great fun, not a chore. I’d like to know how she brain-washed them.

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Of course, they can only unload “their” dishes, but that’s most of the work!

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She also employs them as short-order kitchen help. Javan made sandwiches for his siblings. It’s a job with perks: he gets to lick the spoon in between dips into the jelly jar.

I did not eat a jelly sandwich the entire time I was there.

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Zephaniah is learning how to mow the lawn. That’s a pretty cool job to learn how to do!

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Zephan is also in charge of this little monster. Summer is just two months old, part Corgi and Golden Retriever and something else. She’s all sharp puppy teeth and a Holy Terror to toes.

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It takes a lot to wear her down. Zephaniah feeds and waters her, and takes her in/out when she needs to go. She’s almost house-trained. She’s one smart little imp.

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So is this guy. Those dimples slay me. He’s nearly four years old and has a vocabulary of a six-year old. I guess he makes up for the fact that his little sister refuses to learn to talk. She doesn’t have to. He’s too curious not to.

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We went to a church picnic and baptism on Sunday. Alaskans would be surprised to know that it wasn’t much different from a million other church picnics and baptisms that I have been to in Oregon: cold, rainy, no warmer than 55-degrees, and the water in the river a mere step above snow-melt stage. One young woman wore a wet suit to get baptized in. Smart girl.

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Eli just cracks me up. He wouldn’t hold my hand when we went places and refused to hug me “good-bye”, but he doesn’t remember me from his toddler days. I was a curious adult to him, one that (gasp) wouldn’t let him pull the puppy’s leg any more than his mom would.

He sat on the arm of the chair. I told him he was not supposed to do that.

“No, I can’t sit on the arm of the couch.”

“No, I’m pretty sure your mom said the chair, too.”

Grin. Darn: Grandma is figuring out the rules!

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Homer is a beautiful spot near the tip of the Kenai Peninsula, situated on Kachemak Bay. There is a community across the bay, but it is not accessible by road. 224 miles from Anchorage, it is a five+ hour drive. This is because you have to drive around Turnagain Bay on the north end of Cook Inlet. Kachemak Bay opens into the southern end of Cook Inlet and the Pacific Ocean.

The Homer Spit is a narrow strip of land possibly formed by glacial moraine. It is home to crab boats, charter fishing boats, commercial fishing boats, and the “Deadliest Catch’s” own Time Bandit. The Time Bandit was not in dock either time we were out on the spit. There are camp sites and a long strip of tourist shops, small cafes, and charter boat headquarters. Our second trip out onto the spit involved walking along the board walks and playing ‘tourist’.

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Someone’s charter had just docked and the the little boys were thrilled to watch this man clean the halibut and salmon catch.

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“Are the fishes still alive?” (No one tell these homeschooled kids that they can’t ask a million questions. They learned more about fishing than the quieter kids who also happened upon the scene. The dock worker didn’t mind answering questions.)

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“Want to touch my bloody hand?” he teased.

Um. No.

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But we will pick up the middle part of a dead crab’s body and put it in our pocket with the small barnacle mom found in the seaweed for us.

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And we will pick up a branch that washed ashore, tangled in rotting seaweed, and wave it around at everyone.

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The practical child just lobs rocks into the sea.

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I thought this was funny.

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We also did a little walking near Beluga Lake, a small man-made lake at the end of Homer Airport. Beluga Lake serves as an extension of the airport and the floating docks are for float planes, not boats. A person can charter a float plane for a “bear sight-seeing trip.” One can hope to see a “brown” bear or a “black” bear. No one calls brown bears by the name we use in the Lower 48: Grizzly.

Noone had to explain the difference to me, either. I figured out that tid-bit all by myself. I have no desire to see an Alaskan Brown Bear. I had my own Grizzly Bear experience when I was ten years old and we were visiting Yellowstone National Park. It was enough for a life time.

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This is “the jungle” near Beluga Lake. No, I don’t get it, either. Everywhere, the land is covered with horsetail, cow parsley, sedges, wild lupins – and this bare spot of forest on a rock has been dubbed “the jungle” by my grandsons.

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“Come on, Grandma! There’s mushrooms up here! And stairs!” (tree roots that create the illusion of a stairway)

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Our last tourist stop was the Islands and Oceans Visitor Center and the Beluga Slough Trail.

There’s an interpretive center inside that takes you through a brief history of the peninsula and the occupation of the Japanese during WW2. The Japanese held the island of Kiska in the Aleutians during the Great War. The damage to the ecosystem and subsequent conservation work is chronicled throughout the center.

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Javan loved the interactive nest displays, particularly this one of the Puffins. “There’s eggs in there.”

We walked a little bit, but my daughter wasn’t very eager to wander off onto the little side trails. A cow moose with twin calves had been sighted on the refuge and near the Center. I wasn’t very keen on the idea of meeting a mama moose with twin babies, either. Also, we had been watching a moose out on the delta and it had moved in the general direction of the refuge. A moose from a distance is great.

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We settled for Sandhill cranes. If you click on the photo, you will notice what we did not see with our bare eyes: Sandhill Crane chicks.

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Back to the center (Why can’t we walk to the beach, Mommy?” and “How do you know there’s a mommy moose with twins out here?”).

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Mountain climbers.

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The lupins were everywhere, but this was the first place I noted the dark blue wild irises.

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Poisonous cow parsnip was everywhere as well. Pungent, tall, and wicked-looking.

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The locals (and my daughter) call it “pootschki” (push-key), but I have always known it as cow parsnip. There’s an abundance of nettles as well, and Devil’s Club.

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I found this large checkered lily as well. The blossoms were about an inch long and the stem was around two feet tall.

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Bike racks make for climb-able art.

My flights in and out of Homer ended in Kenai. It is simply too expensive to fly into Homer, even though it is a mere 90 miles south of Kenai.  The family combined it into a trip to Wal-Mart, the nearest of which is in Kenai.

Something I liked about the trip was the public restrooms. You have to know where they are as many of them are inside local businesses, but they are out there. There are no rest stops with public restrooms, only these odd sites in places like Ninilchik. Arwen took Eli in to a restaurant to use one while we stopped at a little grocery to purchase a drink for Sam. The power was out on the peninsula, but the grocery had a generator (or the next-door liquor store did).

I think Eli ended up peeing in some bushes, but he did get to touch the stuffed brown bear inside the restaurant.

The day before, he told us how he saw dead tigers. “Tigers don’t live in Alaska,” retorted older brother, Zephan.

“Which is why they were dead tigers,” Grandma said.

Z. smiled. He’s starting to catch on to the family humor.

Last stop was the Kenai airport. I had less than half an hour to spare, but it wasn’t like I would have to go through security or fight for a seat. I checked my luggage so I could pick it up on the regular carousel when I arrived in Anchorage. This flight was on a larger plane (it even had a stewardess).

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I had no problem securing a window seat and no one offered to sit next to me, which was fine. I stared out the window and wondered at the amount of water in Alaska. The parts that I flew over were pocked with old rivers snaking in and out of horseshoe loops, ponds, lakes, and mud puddles. I’ve flown over Minnesota (Land of a Thousand Lakes) but Alaska has more small waterways than Minnesota.

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Sunset was just beginning when we landed at 10:00PM.

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Anchorage was socked in by clouds, but not so socked in that you couldn’t see the mountains. I miss snow-capped mountains.

The flight from Anchorage to Fairbanks (much further north) was uneventful and still racing ahead of the sunset.

My only other complaint lay in Fairbanks: my boarding pass said Gate 1. It was obvious to me that Gate 1 was not awaiting an immediate departure and I asked the Ticket Agent. “Oh, no. That would be Gate 4.” As if missing my flight due to bad information was the least of her concerns.

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Sunset caught up to us as we awaited take-off from Fairbanks. It was after midnight.

Side note: my hostess in Homer provided me with an eye mask for sleeping in the day light. I didn’t need it. I have no problem sleeping in the day. I just cannot sleep on an airplane or in a car.

I will plan my next trip to Homer better. July sounds good. A supply of OFF! sounds really good. Hiking boots and checked luggage also sounds good. A bigger and better camera lens also sounds good. And a parka. (Just kidding on the last!)

In the end: a lot of moose. 4-5 caribou. A lot of bald eagles (Alaska’s equivalent of Oregon’s Turkey Vultures. I love vultures). Half a dozen Sandhill cranes and at least two babies. Sea Otters. Six or seven air-plane sized mosquitoes, most of which were inside the restroom at Wal-Mart in Kenai. Forty-million cousins, aunts, uncles, and a life time of family history in Homer for my son-in-law and his children (and, by proxy, my daughter).

They are so happy there. I am so happy for them. Homer suits them well.

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