Category Archives: Nature

Homesteading, October Edition

It was hard to find time amidst the juggling and scrolling to drive out to Three Rivers and winterize our trailer. And yet we did—out of fear. Remember last winter when we all got snowed in in Portland for 2 months?

The trip was last minute, a little panicked, but the drive was so beautiful we forgot all about that. The colors as we passed over the volcano—crimson scrub oak between the dark, mysterious pines, and when descended onto the plains everything got softer, warmer. Pale gold-spun grass, burnt orange brush, gauzy evening light. When the day fell, we were warm in the trailer. The puppy slept literally on top of me. Cramped quarters are the coziest (and happiest). And getting punched in the face with a paw first thing in the morning is one of the rare joys of being a dog owner.

So, we applied to have water routed to the property, and we built a small roof to keep the snowdrifts at bay. That is all. Just these small things are what we can do right now. Though I love the little trailer, I’m still haunted by dreams of a wildly cozy A-frame. I hope my cabin aspirations will birth reality in the coming years, the kind of reality that involves a couple dirt movers and a concrete truck to pour a foundation.

Desertification

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This isn’t a curated reporting from the impossibly perfect vacation. It’s just pictures from a road trip to the desert last week. It was fun. It was raw. We hung with family and talked politics. We bopped around gathering sagebrush bows and piled them on the dashboard, so when the sun beat down on the car, it bloomed with the scent of desert wind.

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Speaking of, is there anything more relaxing than the desert landscape? Placing yourself under the influence of the open sky and red-rock cliffs, you’re immediately at ease. You fall in line with the natural world and its beauties. You wander past sandstone monoliths thinking about the long history of the earth and how life came to be. Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, yeah—Portland, Oregon to Moab, Utah, via a maze of roads riddled with wildfires and repaving projects. Every time I venture there, I leave wanting to plan my next visit. Next time we’ll bring bikes and ride out to Klondike Bluff. Next time we’ll winter camp. Next time we’ll drive backroads through Capitol Reef … Then, 15-17 hrs later I get home so burnt from driving I vow never to go back.

But, you know, it’s hard to stay away.

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Mark and his dad. Multiple generations of awesome dudes.

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On Saturday, we meandered red-rock labyrinths with my mom and sis.

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The Colorado River ran through all of it.

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I really wanted to swim in this dreamy desert locale, however I was warm but not hot and the water was very cold. But I waded! 

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In the canyon with the cottonwoods and cool waterfalls.

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Let the world make you feel small as often as possible.

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A very cute coffee situation in Moab. Piney and Rocket.

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Deep thoughts at sunrise. 

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The road home. Sagebrush on the wind.

3 Things

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Life and death in the forest. On the lot in Three Rivers, in darkest night, I let Piney out of the camper to pee. His ears perked up and he bolted off into the black. I yelled after him—but puppies don’t come back when called, especially puppies on the hunt. A car was coming and as it passed, I heard it, the awful noise—the deadly thud. Confusion. Running. A black shape in the neighbor’s yard. A set of eyes reflecting back at me in the flashlight beam. And a soft pale shape slumped on the ground. The car had hit—not Piney, but a baby deer. Piney had been chasing the baby deer, was maybe even upon the baby deer as it met its violent end. Like you’d imagine, the dog was terrified. The space of a single breath between his little body and death. There but for the grace of gods go I. The next morning, I peeked out the camper window and saw the mother doe standing over the carcass of her babe. When the crows got too close, she chased them away. Minutes unfolded. Cars drove by. Finally, she wandered off into the forest.

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The last river days. Despite the Indian summer, the wildfires burning, the red dawn and ash dropping everywhere—despite that, the passage is happening. Summer receding, fall emerging. Usually you can’t remember the last time you went to the river, because you didn’t know it was gonna be the last time—but this year’s different. Sunday, we went to the Lewis for a swim, and it was hot but not too hot and the water was cool. The sun disappeared behind some trees too early, so we sat in the mellow shade. It was impossibly relaxing, improbably quiet. You could feel it—the end, and how the seasons go right on without us.

The Gorge on fire. Red sun, red moon, ridges on ridges incinerating. It’s our turn for a natural disaster—in everyone’s favorite place to go for cosmic nature-spiration. Stay safe, everyone. Keep your people and animals close. Send drinking water and vibrations to all the firefighters. The world as we know it is forever changed.

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(Pic from Oregonlive.com)

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99.2% Eclipse Of The Heart

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The eclipse. THE ECLIPSE! Did you see it? How could you not. I did’t transport myself to the line of totality, although many friends did. The world, for now, is divided between dids and didn’ts. I don’t have totality FOMO, though, because I’m one of those people who takes crazy pleasure in the simple and everyday. The velvet down of our pup’s big ol’ bug-catcher ears. Sandwiches on sourdough. Golden hour in the backlit woods.

All the good things, all the time.

Anyway, Monday morning was just your average 99.2% eclipse of the sun, viewed from the park by our house, with friends, with neighbors, with coffee. A community gathering, of sorts, to worship the cosmos. In another lifetime, we woulda been Druids ’neath the Henge.

My favorite part, besides the deepest, softest quiet that descended on the city, was the ice-cold breeze that kicked up when the eclipse peaked. In the movies, a wind like this would portend strange doings afoot—a wicked change of fate, otherworldly powers. In real life, it was just a brief blackout of life-giving Ultraviolet rays. Simple science. Unless … ?

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Best Day Ever

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I believe in everyday fun, but hard work and purpose are at the heart of who I am. So when I tried to think about which, of all the great days from this summer, was the very greatest, one day kept coming back to me.

Three Rivers, Oregon. I woke up in the woods in a ’56 canned ham trailer. The dog was wedged in between our sleeping bags and the sunlight was everywhere. We ate thick bread with tomatoes, avocado and olive spread and drank our coffee black from the percolator, as we do. A dog walk to the Deschutes River revealed ghostly flyfisherman standing in quiet pools. The smell was dry dirt and pine sap. It was a very summer-in-the-mountains smell that I know from my wildchildhood in the Colorado high country.

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After the walk, we went to work on the property digging fence posts until the early afternoon. This involved the hauling of lumber, the gathering of water, the measuring, the digging of holes and the mixing of Quikcrete. One by one, we set the posts, and as the fence got longer, the pile of lumber got shorter. It was such a satisfying task out there in the hard, dry heat and made me feel so positively tired and good, the way sitting at my desk type type typing never does—although I love that too in a different way.

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After working, we went back to the river and swam for hours. The cold water and warm sun felt so great, even now I can feel that exhilaration of opposites. The local country folk floated by on large constellations of innertubes and cheers-ed their beers at us. It was the very definition of a summer day, and I’m gonna stick it in my cap of fine pure moments from summer and beyond. It’ll be there whenever I need it, forever, I reckon.

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On another note, because—hey, this world is crazy (and how lucky am I to have had even one lovely summer day?)—I thought it was worth saying explicitly, like, out loud:

I do stand for love. I do stand against hate. I do stand against anyone who espouses supremacy over another human being. My grandparents fought the Nazis. My great grands emigrated from Poland to get away from the Nazis. In my work, in my family, and in my life, I’m intolerant of intolerance, and moving away from fear and paranoia is my default state. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being a member of the human race!

3 Things

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106 Degrees: Last Thursday, the afternoon cranked up to 106 degrees. Due to that—and the wildfire smoke, the day took on a dreamy quality. Ungodly heat, plus red smokey skies and a white-hot sun hanging in the hazy air. After work, we all cruised the Columbia in Josh’s boat. It was cooler out on the water and felt very far away from Portland. The Portland Riviera, maybe? We swam and sunned as the sun dipped, turning the sky all sorts of florescents as it went.

Green sauce at ChickPeaDX: For your falafel—a verdant cilantro elixir with the zing of life. You see, on the sticky eve of day like one million of the disgusting heat, you need zing.

Pup days of summer: Watched over Bhalu the puppy for a day. He brought happiness (and pee!) into the house. It was great. I forced him into my lap where he squirmed and licked everything. He was a little monster. The wild fuzz on his ears looked like metal-band hair, which reminded me of Lefty (RIP) and my eyes got all misty.

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Canada Mega Post

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I’m a healthier, happier person after spending 5 days in interior B.C.—everyday another exploration in the forest, and everyday another constitutional swim in cold, clear water. Those lakes were so clear that my shadow spooked me more than once, way down where it was on the bottom of the lake. Overhead, the sky was very blue, except where it wasn’t because of billowing plumes of smoke. Wildfires are real, and they’re a way of life in Canada.

Up in Canada, where we basked and wandered, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at will. The only hurry was which recreational activity to do next. I’d pester Mark to rush so we could go outside. Because that’s just what you do up there.

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Piney did dog things like play with the Canadian dogs and splash-and-bite the Canadian lakes. In Nelson, he met Pillow, Bree and Kale—a husky, Great Pyrenees and Australian shepherd respectively. In Trout Lake, he ran off into town with Al’s Siberian Husky, Rider, and got a taste of that wild freedom afforded to the country pup. He liked what he tasted … too much. In Revelstoke, he ripped around a beatific farm with Qimmiq, a low-riding Aussie with a whistle-pig squeal. Although Piney will have many more adventures and live happily every after, he still just wishes we left him in Canada.

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Meanwhile, at Kootaney Lake. 

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All the hips in Nelson, B.C. 

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Had lovely hangs with my ol friend Mark Fawcett and his new pup Kale Chip on their private beach. Life is good in Nelson.

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My pal Al Clarke built this baby cabin with his 2 hands. I know him from 20 years ago, back when we were both traveling the world as itinerant snowboarders. He’s a legend and quintessential mountain man. How lucky that we get to hang together again all these years later!

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Typical Trout Lake views.

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Backyard secrets of the North country. 

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Stu’s fabulous farm, where I foraged a handful of black raspberries and plucked 3 delicious pea pods off their vine.

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Revelstoke National Park was stupid beautiful. There was a grizz wandering the area, but we didn’t see him. Only us up there with the wind and wildflowers. 

Summer Assessment

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Hi from the dog days of summer, which spin around with “drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.” According to ancient tomes, they do anyway.

Sure, the Dog Star has risen and the solar eclipse approaches, but this was a regular old weekend, cosmically speaking. I didn’t do anything special, and that was special. Because you should be allowed to relax in the summer.

Garden wise, the very first tomatoes are ripe on the vine, but I had to throw out the brussel sprouts. They were full of aphids—I’ve been warring with bugs for weeks now. They are very small, but they won.

Puppy, wise, Piney swam for the first time. A momentous milestone in the development of a tiny canine brain. Importantly, he did not swim to fetch a ball or stick or save a drowning human. There was no goal to the wild paddling—just fun. He splashed around in circles and bit the water and I laughed with delight because … because what’s better than fun?

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Homesteading By The Numbers

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.5 acres of forest.

2 trips to home depot.

2 95-degree days.

21 fence posts.

18 bags of Quikrete.

4 5-gallon buckets of river water.

1 BLT and a beer with Annie.

4 mosquito bites.

1 full moon.

2 daybreak slumbers destroyed by the neighbor’s defiant rooster.

3 dunks in the Deschutes River.

1 chocolate coconut-icecream milkshake at a wooden table in the shade.

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Vacay Vibes

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This is what we’ve been waiting for. We were here all winter. The darkness and ice kept coming back. It was hard work. And now the sun and the heat and the motherfucking vacation days are here.

The trick to summer is finding the perfect balance of lazy days and crazy days. For 4th of July weekend, we split it half and half, which is a very nice and very exact interpretation of “balance.” Two days were spent sleeping in, skating, and watering the vegetable garden, with an emphasis on BBQs and cold beer. Two days were spent with our belongings on our back, walking up the side of an active volcano (google it—she’s supposed to blow sometime this century!).

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Here, you’ll find a lot of pictures of the hiking and tent camping we did. We put sunscreen on whatever we could and just walked and walked. The trail took us through a landscape that was equal parts Legend and The Sound Of Music. Wildflowers and secret babbling brooks shadowed by angular snowcapped peaks. A legendary landscape fit for fräuleins, fairies and unicorns.

With tired legs and campfire smoke in our clothes, we drove back into town on the afternoon of the Fourth. Just in time to do nothing. Just in time feel good. Just in time to relax in the backyard while the wind chime chimed. Just in time to ride lazy bikes to Jesse’s house and watch people skate a mini ramp and then ride lazily home to bed.

Fireworks? I care not.

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