Friday, October 26, 2007

Enough with the vampyres, already

I went to Borders to buy a book to read on the plane tomorrow. I was thinking a nice mass market paperback science fiction/fantasy. I discovered a sci fi section filled with vampire books. OK, I loved Buffy as much as the next woman (maybe not quite as much as the next woman- I've never attended a Buffy Studies academic conference, but a lot). And I had an open mind, sort of. I'd have taken a nice little dragon book, or a woman warrior, maybe some sentient animals, fairies can be good, or an untried mage coming into his or her power, maybe a little time travel or just an ordinary alternate medieval world with a little magic here and there. But no -- vampires, vampyres, nightwalkers everywhere.

I tried the mystery section, but it, too, was full of the undead.

Yes, we all know I'm picky. With few exceptions, I only read books written by women. I look first for books written by authors who love Dorothy Dunnett. My tastes are specific and I've read a lot so it narrows my choices.


Bought literary fiction. Something my book group is reading. Water for Elephants. Everyone says it's wonderful. I'm sure I'll enjoy it. yadda yadda Not really what I wanted.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Log Driver's Waltz

I heard this song - saw this short film in the early 1980's and have remembered it ever since. I've looked for it repeatedly on YouTube, but didn't find it because I was looking for the Lumberjack's Waltz. Apart from that, I remembered all the words and the tune after hearing it that one time. It's just such a catchy tune. Tonight, I saw an allusion to it on a strange video blog called Rocketboom and was able to find it on YouTube.

The link, though it's there, doesn't seem to show up in my blog, so here it is: You'll have to cut and paste until I figure it out.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


These weird vegetables were part of this week's share. They were labelled 'storage radishes' and they taste like radishes. I put a teaspoon next to them to show their size. I'm not quite sure what to do with them. When I showed them to the Son of COG and he said they looked like something from Blackadder.

Wild Harvest - Hickory Nuts and Apples

I've been out foraging on Heartbreak Road. I found hickory nuts just down the road among the leaves.

The little white egg-like things in the picture are hickory nuts, which are a native species and they grow wild all over here. Right now, when I take Sheba for a walk we trample nuts in every direction on the roads around our house. From the internet I've learned that pecans are a form of hickory nut, but some people think they are inferior in flavor to the kind I found. Therefore, I'm going to try to make a hickory nut pie, similar to pecan pie. The only problem so far is that their shells are fairly thin, so it's hard to get the nutmeats out without crushing them.

Here's a picture of my harvest. The apples are also from Heartbreak Road, from an old tree hidden in the hedgerow - it doesn't seem to be in a place where it would have been planted. I've already made apple butter with them. They looked pretty ugly, but they made a mighty fine apple butter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

COG Photo for Andrew

Andrew, this is an abstract the COG did at the island, in the reeds by the beach. I love it. I thought you might like it, too, since you said you like abstracts.

Owl Update

Son of COG spent some time observing the owls last night and he told me that the owl blob I saw wsas actually one of the parents. The baby owl was a different owl-shaped blob slightly lower in the same tree.

He had a bit of excitement when one of the parents flew right over him - close above and went to feed the Owlet. He said that he knew owls make no noise flying, but it startled him all the same that the one flying over him was completely silent. No soft whoosh of wings or anything.

I found a link online where you can hear the sound we've been hearing, just click on the option for 'Owlet calling for food.'

I love living here in the wild kingdom.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Great Horned Owl

For a couple of months we've had a strange bird sound outside at night. It's a kind of little shriek that repeats every 30 seconds or so, for long periods during the night. James has identified it as a Great Horned Owl - a young one, who is asking its parents for food. Tonight James actually found it. It's at the top of a tree in the marsh across the street from the house, not far from the road. I've just been out to look at it. It's just an owl shaped thickening at the top of the tree -- but the shriek is definitely coming from there. Even though you really can't see anything, it's exciting to see the blob, when all we've had is the sound for months. I downloaded this picture, but I haven't found a loop of the sound that I can copy. I'll work on that. We have a program that has the sounds of all the native birds, maybe I can copy it off of that.

No Joy in Mudville

At least among some of the inhabitants. The ones who are asportal and who are now facing the World Series. Yes, the Red Sox won last night. Damn!

And the Patriots are doing well, too. Double Damn!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friday Pet Blogs

Gomez as couch potato. Could he stretch out any more? Note the bird feeder in the yard by the window. Better than tv, for The Gome.

Sheba on her walk, Friday, at Appleton Farm. Horrible picture, but a nice moment.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Forty-Four (Quarante-Quatre)

Time now to make Forty-Four for the holidays. Forty-four is a wonderful liqueur with a strong orange flavor, but with some complexity from the coffee beans. We usually serve it on its own at room temperature, but it can be served ice cold in the summer and might be a nice addition to Sangria (but you might want to cut down on the sugar if that's your main goal).

All you need is 1 large organic orange, 44 coffee beans, 44 sugar cubes, and one litre of vodka (cheap is fine).

For equipment, you need a knife and a jar with a big enough opening for the orange to fit through.

Make 44 slices into the orange with the point of the knife and put a coffee bean in each one -- making sure you get through the skin, into the flesh of the orange.

Place the orange and the sugar cubes in the jar and pour the vodka over it. Shake it gently each day for 44 days, then filter using coffee filter paper and bottle it.

Should be ready to drink on Dec 2.

A couple of notes: a lot depends on the orange, so try to get one with lots of flavor, preferably on the tart side. Organic, because you are going to be drinking something it has sat in for 6 weeks, so you don't want scarey chemicals leaching out. Blood Oranges give it a lovely color, but it turns a pretty pale gold even with a regular orange.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


My mother asked me recently about a poem by William Stafford. I just found another poem by him. I didn't find it exactly, I have it posted on my dashboard, so I see it all the time. I had just forgotten it was by Stafford, but I love it.


It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could you know. That's why we wake
and look out--no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

William Stafford

Appleton Farm, again

Appleton Farm, where we have our CSA share, is owned by the Trustees of Reservation, a land and property preservation organization. The Farm is 700+ acres of lovely rolling meadows and woods, only a fraction of the land is farmed, so there's lots of land for recreation.

Some trails are reserved for walking and running only, but other areas are also open to biking, to horses, hayrides, skiing in winter, and, our favorite, dogs off-lead.

Most summer days I take Sheba for a walk there, though in winter we also go to Crane's Beach, another Trustees of Reservation property.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bounty of the Season

Here is this week's 'share' from The Appleton Farm CSA:basil, coriander, mint, leeks, savoy cabbage, potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squash, celeriac, peppers, turnips, rutebegas, pumpkins and eggplant. We pay about $500 per year and this entitles us to a full grocery bag of our choice from whatever is available, plus various extra things (2 pumpkins this week, sometimes corn, or melons), plus pick-your-own, which we pick up each week from June through the first week in November.

I pick it up from the wonderful old barn shown below, outside and inside. The Appleton Farm had been continuously owned by the same family since the original land grant in 1630-something, until the owner died a couple of years ago. It's 700 acres of farm, field, woodland. In addition to the CSA, we are able to walk dogs off leash there in a large wooded area, and we do that most days, if we aren't at the beach. There's cross-country skiing in the winter, horse trails etc. A really wonderful place.

As for the CSA, it's great. Pick-your-own might be the best of all. Strawberries in season, green beans, tomatoes, herbs, many varieties of hot peppers and flowers - an amazing assortment of different flowers, including sunflowers. We also get lots of strange things like edamame, tomatillos, 15 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, purple and gold beans, as well as green ones.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Pet Blogging

A cold, grey, rainy afternoon. Gomez found a cozy place to sleep on the guest room bed.

Sheba was freaked out by a big thunderstorm last night, so I ended up sleeping with her on the sofa until it was done (blush). Today she is, as usual, just following me around and sleeping nearby.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Toulouse, Sunset

The COG took this picture last Spring in Toulouse. I just re-discovered it and put it up here because it's so evocative.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Dyslexia Can Be Fun

Surfing the web looking for a shower curtain, I discovered one called the Kids Herpes fabric shower curtain.

Odd choice for a shower curtain print, I thought. On a second glance it was Kids Heroes fabric shower curtain.

Almost disappointing in its ordinariness.

The COG on his bike

The COG was never allowed a bike as a kid, for safety reasons. But he bought himself one last Spring and is really enjoying it, as you can see from the picture.

Today he talked me into biking the length of the Plum Island with him. Plum Island,which is more of a peninsula, really, is mostly a national wildlife refuge. It's an important stopover on the Eastern migration and it's where James does his bird banding. The road is about 6 miles each way, and half of it is unpaved. It's pretty flat, but it was bumpy. My bike isn't really made to use on unpaved roads and the bumping was.... let's just say I'm a little saddle sore.

But it was a great ride.

Life's a Beach

This little film was taken at the tip of Plum Island looking across the salt marsh and Plum Island Sound to Cranes Beach. That's where, in a kind of symmetry, the COG and I took a wonderful walk with Sheba yesterday. Today was cooler and greyer than yesterday, which was pretty much perfect, but it was still wonderful. The film doesn't really capture the wonderfulness of the place. It's hard to explain how beautiful the salt marsh is. In pictures it just looks flat, but it has wonderful textures, and very subtle color differences.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Gomez: The Cat of The Bride of The COG (for Amy)

Dogs are new to me, but I have loved cats as long as I remember. We only have Gomez these days, so it was fun to be around all the cats in Oregon.

Gomez has started sleeping with us every night since we got back from Oregon. Ninja always slept at our feet and it has taken me months to not feel her still sleeping there. So it has been a little odd to get used to it again. Odd but nice.

He has also become very affectionate to me of late. I think he is missing Son of COG, who is working full time, plus taking a math class at Salem State, plus bird banding etc. This morning he stretched across the keyboard of my computer while I was trying to type. Shoved along, he stretched out right next to me, purring loudly and sweetly touched the side of my hand with his paw.

There are a couple of times of day when he has scheduled affection in his cat day timer. Dinner time, of course, but even when his dinner is put out, he still wants to cuddle for a while before he eats. Then, mid-way through the day he usually tracks me down for a brief cuddle. When he has had enough, he disappears.

Since it's warm here today, he is outside in the shade having a mid-afternoon nap. However, he allowed me to take his picture.

He's a mellow cat. Sociable, but not very demonstrative. He's also a one-person cat, or one and a half. James is his primary person, but I am his emergency back-up person. It's little difficult for him to get to me, with Sheba guarding me all the time. Like an overly interfering secretary, Sheba feels it's her mission to keep my time uninterrupted by others. Or perhaps it's Sheba's deeply buried herding instincts, trying to herd her away from me. Or her not deeply buried enough 'kill all cats' gene.

Sea Lions and Harbor Seals and Whales, Oh My.

Among the many pleasures I didn't mention about our trip down the Oregon coast was the Grey Whales we watched near Coos Bay. The picture was taken by the COG and is of some combination of California Sea Lions, grey Harbor Seals, and Steller's Sea Lions on the rocks. They were pretty remarkable in themselves - barking loudly, draped on every available rock, and making the water the water churn with their swimming and diving.

However, it was the whales that were most amazing, and there are, alas, no pictures of them. There was one young one quite close in, who kept spouting and breaching the surface every few minutes. I got great views of his back, his tail etc. Slightly farther out there were many more whales and, with binoculars, you got a good view of the same sorts of behaviour. The grey whale is a baleen whale, so poses no threat to seals, although someone there told us there had been a killer whale within the week in Coos Bay. The grey whale migrates, but the young ones - probably what we were watching - often stay in this area all year.

Sheba: The Dog of The Bride of the COG

Andrew asked what Sheba looked like, so I'm posting this for him.

Sheba is a Border-Collie mix about 9 or 10 years old.

It's hard to get a good picture of her because she gets anxious when I start snapping photos and it shows on her wonderful face. Her expression in this photo is one I often see when she looks at me.

I've always considered myself to be a cat person and I can't explain why I love her so much. She doesn't do much. She just follows me around from room to room and sleeps near my feet. She stinks, she scratches herself, she chases the cat and she leaves a trail of hair behind her wherever she goes.

But when I look at her, I feel my heart opening up with the complete love and pleasure I feel only when I see the COG, my children and the people I love best. Isn't it strange? How did that happen?

The Heartbreak of F.A.D.D.

The Bride and Sister of the Bride discovered when in Oregon that we have F.A.D.D. -- Feline Attention Deficit Disorder. No matter what we were doing, when we spotted a cat, or something to do with cats, our attention was immediately refocussed on the cat/cat-related thing.

The COG mentioned that it was remarkably like the C.A.D.D. (Canine ADD) the Bride and the Other Sister of the Bride suffered from .... no, wait.... the Husbands were the ones who suffered, the Bride and her sister enjoyed it very much.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


A Chorkie's Day -Dog Gone Great!
Chorkies: Chihuahua-Yorkshire Terrier mix. Saw two little sisters on the beach in Yachats. Absolutely adorable, and I don't usually like either Chihuahuas or Yorkies.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Dogs and DNA

I saw two fascinating programs about dogs on Nature this week. If you have a chance to see them, I highly recommend them.

Dogs were domesticated in a very short time. The transition from wolf to dog happened possibly within one human lifetime about 15,000 years ago. And when I say 'from wolf to dog', I'm actually talking about physical changes to the animals' skeleton and teeth, as well as behavioral changes. This seems impossible according to classic Darwinian theory, although there is a lot of recent evidence that species can evolve very fast to adapt to changing enviornments.

For example, in the 1950's some Russians were trying to breed foxes for their fur. The problem was they were too wild to breed in captivity and had to be kept in separate cages. So a geneticist was brought in to try to create foxes that would breed in captivity. He decided to breed just the least aggressive foxes. He chose the foxes by putting a heavily gloved hand into the cage. The ones that just sniffed at it curiously were chosen to breed, the ones that responded aggressively were not.

In just 10 years, there was a completely different breed of animal. Their facial structure changed so they didn't have huge crushing jaws, their teeth shortened, even the coloration of their coats changed and they began to act like affectionate dogs. In fact, their skeletal changes were the same as those found in what's called the 'proto-dog', and kind of post-wolf, pre-dog breed as we know them, found in archaeological sites. The program showed films of the changed foxes, and of them wild and aggressive, then different looking and playing happily with children a few years later -- just a few dog generations later.

So now, there is a theory that what happened to domesticate dogs is this: About 15,000 years ago people began to live in permanent settlemens, the problem of garbage was created. When they moved around in a nomadic lifestyle, they just left the garbage behind and it disappeared before they returned, but once they were settled in one place, they had to have some kind of rubbish dump where they took bits of waste, the skeletons of animals they were done with etc.

These dumps would have attracted animals, including wolves. The wolves that stayed closest to the dumps had a better chance of survival, because they were simply closest to the food. It's called 'flight distance' - how far a creature flees when he feels endangered. Short flight distance = increased survival (in this case). Imagine the humans bringing out the remaining bits of carcasses and dumping them, and the wolves that stayed very near by were the most likely to get the food.

They didn't say this in the program, but I'm speculating that this would have been the marginal wolves, the young males who were without a pack, the lowest on the totem pole. The most desperate ones. The hungriest ones. Maybe even the loneliest ones, as they definitely like company. The strongest, the alphas, would have had other, better, resources for food and could afford to retreat farther.

Anyway, as demonstrated in the Russian experiments, when you select for curiosity and lack of aggression (which is pretty much the same thing as flight distance), you also select other genes inadvertently and thus, you can change very quickly the actual species itself.

Isn't that amazing?

The DNA part is that a Swedish geneticist is looking at the matrilineal DNA of dogs. He started out doing forensic work with dog hairs and that led to a huge international experiment of over 3000 dogs from all over the world. Basically, it looks like they all came from East Asia somewhere, maybe China. But that's still in progress.

And based on Bryan Sykes studies of patrilineal DNA in people, the story is incomplete without looking at that, too. So there will be more to come on that.

One more note is that dogs may actually have had a great impact on human civilization. There was some speculation about whether it would have been possible to domesticate other animals without dogs (dogs were the first domesticated animal). It showed border collies in a very hilly part of Cumbria herding sheep (2,000 sheep in 2,000 mostly vertical acres) in ways and in places that humans simply couldn't do. One of the scientists interviewed pointed out that herding is exactly like hunting, except that the dogs stop before killing. Since this is the kind of terrain that is the natural terrain of sheep and goats, man couldn't have herded them without dogs ever. He actually said that without dogs, it's possible we'd still be hunter gatherers. Though I think that overstated the case.

Whatever the case is, it's pretty remarkable to see working herding dogs at work -- the kinds of signals that they have to understand are very complex. things like -- hey you left one behind, and no, get that other group over there.

Also, the served an important protective function just as watch and guard dogs in early times, making villages more secure and secluded farms more secure. Changing the kinds of settlements people were safe in.

Finally they interviewes an interesting Inuit man, who said that without the dog his people would not have survived in the Arctic circle. They depend on them to find seal holes, protect them from Polar Bears (yes, they can get rid of bears), get them home in whiteout conditions when humans can't tell where they are. And to keep humans from falling through the ice. Dogs will stop short because they can sense in their feet the changes below the snow.

I watched the second show after I wrote this, and it was also fascinating. I'll just note one thing. Dogs are the most varied species in the world -- 500 different breeds recognized. And in the mid-19th century, there were only 40. The proliferation since then of pet dogs -- lap dogs -- has caused the variety.

So much I'm not saying from these fascinating programs, but this is already too long.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Moonset Redux

It looks like the COG isn't going to post his pictures of the moonset in Bandon, so I'm posting one of his here. The colors are truer to what we saw. Amazingly beautiful, one of those moments that goes into your lifetime album of perfect moments.

Completely quiet, except for the waves.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pictures I wish I'd taken in Oregon.

There's a whole list of photos I wish I had taken to put up here. I'm still learning the blog thing.

1) The COG by the Mini. He loved it.

2) A picture of the moon viewing, while it was still light, just to set the scene. However, the COG took one and sent it out to family members, so that's OK.

3) Just for the sounds, a little film of the Japanese garden in the dark, with flute music and the sound of the waterfall in the background.

4) COG and Sister of The Bride and I tasting various things at the Clear Creek distillery. We ended up buying pear brandy, Marc, eau de vie de blue plum, and an eau de vie de douglas fir. Apparently this last is called eau de vie de bourgeons de sapins in Alsace. The woman who we met with for the tasting (just the three of us) told us that the whole company of 8 people went out and picked the little fir shoots early in the spring from the farm of the owner.

5) The dinner at Sympatico - I wish I'd taken a picture of each course. I loved the first course -- a corn souffle with a wonderful herb salad made from dill weed, flat leaf parsley and tiny mint leaves with a light vinagrette. Possibly made with walnut oil. Then we had a pasta dish -- a rough, irregularly shaped hand-made pasta with a light sauce of confit of pheasant in a ragout. This was most people's favorite. Then beef shortribs and hot slaw and blue cheese mashed potatoes. The potatoes were especially wonderful, just exactly the right amount of blue cheesiness. For dessert, honey ice cream and a peach half bruleed with some sugar. I loved this last course, but others felt their peach was too hard and should have either been riper or cooked longer.

6) The takeoff from Portland, as we flew above the heavy cloud cover, there was Mt Hood and farther away Mt. Jefferson (I think) in the sunshine, sticking up over the clouds. Breath-taking and memorable.

7) a couple more pictures of my lovely niece and nephew.

We're home now, getting back to normal. Had a great time.