May 21, 2011


I'm very sorry, fellow Bendites. It's probably all my fault. Yesterday, in the giddy hours of our second warm, sunny day in a row since November, I had the temerity to
put both snow shovels away for the season

hang laundry on the clothesline (it was all my wooly garments too -- I was hoping for the last time until fall -- double my bad).

It's been a long, cold, wet spring. And still is. The plants don't really seem to mind, and the fact that everything is leafing out and blooming 2-3 weeks later than normal bodes well for our nascent fruit crop to survive unscathed by late spring frosts. Here are my beautiful pear trees in their full glory

But even those of us who normally laugh at the weather whiners are dragging a bit this year. I had thought that, since the sweetheart and I spent part of yesterday putting together a new drip irrigation system for my new raised beds, the weather gods would be mollified. Rain often follows a good thorough soaking with ye olde sprinklers and hose. Probably it failed this time because today is PPP day.

What is PPP? It's the 36th annual Pole, Pedal, Paddle race, of course. This annual madness occurs each year around the third week in May, and in the week leading up to the race, the signs are everywhere around town: cars with canoes on top, cars with bikes on top, cars with kayaks, bikes and pods on top. People learning how to kayak on Mirror Pond, 3 days before the race. People renting skis and learning how to ski, 3 days before the race. This 'training' style is practiced by a good percentage of the 3000+ participants, many of whom, just once a year, arise from their couches and form teams with other couch potatoes, who jointly assemble rental skis, someone's rusty bike from the garage, a canoe and a grill (for the after party) and go mano a mano against other teams with names like 'Old Men in Skirts' .. 'Just Keeping Up With the Girls' (husbands) ... 'Shakey Buckets' ... 'The Geriatric and the Junior' .... 'Psycho Mega Hose Beast' .... and my favorite: 'Capitol Punishment' (a team of Republican and Democratic senators from the Oregon capitol, working in the best bipartisan tradition).

The interesting thing is that there is a whole other race, with competitors at the highest levels of athletic prowess. Through the years, Olympians past, present and future have come and raced, surprisingly often beaten by the locals -- among whom there are, admittedly, many former and past Olympians in various disciplines. The couch potatoes and the major dudes are all out there on the same course, though, thankfully, sorted into waves to avoid serious clashes of culture.

The race consists of 6 segments, and the top finishers complete it in well under 2 hours. The race begins on the groomed slopes of Mt. Bachelor ski area, 22 miles west of Bend, and finishes by the river, downtown.

1 Alpine skiing -- competitors must first sprint uphill, wearing helmets, boots and goggles, to grab and don their skis. After a mere 1.15 mile downhill run, the competitors switch to
2 Nordic skiing -- an 8 km course on groomed trails. Then there is a change of shoes and a hop onto the bikes for the
3 Cycling -- 21.7 mile, mostly downhill ride to downtown Bend. Off the bikes, another change of shoes and the
4 Run -- 5 miles, on roads, trails and gravel paths, finishing at the Deschutes River, where everyone hops off the bike and into their boat of choice for the
5 Paddle -- .8 km upstream, 1.2 downstream, then .4 back upstream to disembark and leap out for the final .5 km
6 Sprint.

Sounds like fun? You bet. And you have your choice of ways to have that fun. You can assemble a team of any kind and number -- business ..... family ....... beer-drinking buddies ........ hottie athletes ........ 3rd graders ..... favorite spouse or best friend ...... or you can do all of it solo!

After the race is over, the best part comes. Besides the sore muscles, I mean. And that is the After Parties. Traditionally, the less fit the team members, the bigger, louder and more beer-infused the after party and the grander the war stories. Believe me, they go on into the night. The serious athletes may party too, though I suspect many of them are already making plans for next year.

Judging by the thwock thwock sounds of helicopters over downtown outside my window right now, the first finishers -- the elite athletes and serious, serious soloists and pairs -- are close to the finish line. As for me, I have a heavy day planned of installing drip irrigation, taking down my laundry to dry inside, and transplanting things into the garden. And preparing to hear the sounds of partying until the wee hours tonight, spiced, undoubtedly, of tales of snow at the start line. It's always something.

May 6, 2011

Oh the excitement!

During last year's tour I was out there, viewing other peoples' coops, looking for ideas for my own. This year I am one. Yikes. 24 hours out, I am frantically trying to get the place shipshape. The coldest April in decades has put a definite crimp in my spring gardening plans, from cleanup to seed-starting to planting out. I am weeks behind in everything.

My coop enhancement efforts have also been stymied. I had such plans, oh such glorious plans. New paths! Flower baskets at the window! Decorative art on the henhouse! But no. It's going to be just the usual chicken coop, warts and all. Hopefully people won't notice that Babe has bare sections from bad-ass dominant hen peckage. Or that Olive has lost her fluffy booty feathers from (I think) mites.

There have been photos of some really fancy Bend coops in the newspaper, on Sunset magazine's blog, and on tv. Some of these coops are nice enough for human housing. And here I've been thinking my coop is overly fancy for your average backyard chicken.

Still, it's fun to look back and see the beginnings. It started with research. Lots and lots of research.

Then came the peeps!

Now to find the perfect spot for a chicken coop....

Meanwhile, the girls were growing. Temporary day spa required. We settled on the poor white trash look.

Delivery day!

Painted and with girls installed.

Impromptu day spa added on the south side of the coop (look closely to see bird netting on top)

First egg -- on my birthday

Betty -- that's my girl!

Then came snow. Oops, that's it for the day spa.

Winter substitute. Back to the poor white trash look.

After allowing the girls to rampage in the garden during the winter, I finally had to call in the professionals. Well, one professional: my next-door neighbor, Tim, self-employed fine woodworker, artist, craftsman and all-around nice guy. Well, it was overkill, but he built me the day spa of my dreams last month.

Here's the late winter look of the empty corner.

Let the installation begin:

Love the clear roofing!

Ta da!

Thanks Tim. Now the girls must do their part: buff, primp and practice looking gorgeous.

Meanwhile, the new peeps are outside, though with a heat lamp for nighttime. It's still freezing most nights. In an effort to allow Babe to regrow her winter-pecked plumage, and allow the peeps to grow up within sight and sound of the Big Girls, I have divided the old run into 2 sections. So far, so good. I am pretty sure I have two roosters and only one wee hen .... but I'm hoping she will be enough to keep Babe company in smallness, once the three groups are finally merged.

That's it from here. 24 hours 'til CT-day.

May 1, 2011

May 1, 1971

It all started in March 1969. Boot 'n' Blister Club. Love at first sight. Really.
Here we are, caught smooching on one of our first BnB hikes together.

Here we are on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, at the Earth Fair in Eureka, California. Another stealth photo by a friend.

A year later, we married, rather reluctantly, to avert parental wrath at our 'sinful' living arrangements. We didn't particularly believe in marriage, but at the time felt it was worth it to make our lives less stressful. We knew we were going to be together forever, and didn't think it was necessary to have anyone else's permission or approval.
40 years later, we have both come around to a feeling of respect for marriage as an institution worthy of preserving and working hard at. I say that, while admitting that, if I were to get married today, I would have even fewer people present than we did in 1971. And that's saying something.

In retrospect, it seems like a nice hippie-type wedding. We had picked out a grassy meadow, complete with grazing sheep and huge oak trees, near the mouth of the Mattole River, on Cape Mendocino in northern California.

We asked a minister friend to do the job, and he showed up, unshaven and in casual clothes, in proper 'hippie minister' style. My parents and sister drove up from the San Francisco Bay Area. Don's family didn't come (I seem to remember his mum thought we were too young to be getting married) and the wedding guests numbered only 12, including the photographer and 3 small children.

Our friend Mike helped lay out the wedding feast on the tailgate of his 1961 Ford Falcon station wagon: a sheet cake from my parents' bakery, sandwiches, Creamline Dairy milk in the gallon glass jugs, and a case of champagne, of which I think less than 1 bottle was consumed. We weren't much for alcohol, and most people drank the milk.
Neither one of us knew much about 'proper' weddings, but we knew there was something about feeding each other cake.

Wedding guests were few but special.
Russ and his fiancee, Nadeine

Laurel and Lynn

Katie and Mara

I imagine the whole affair cost less than $100, including the minister's fee, the food, my dress, which my mother sewed and I embroidered with flowers on hem and sleeves, and the gasoline for all of us to drive out there. Even with inflation, I doubt many people get married so inexpensively, or so simply. I'm not saying getting married in a sheep pasture, under an old oak tree, is for everybody, but it suited us both perfectly.

40 years later, we're still together, still sweethearts, wondering how the time could have passed so quickly and still hanging out under trees and holding hands. It has been hard work at times. I always cry at weddings now, knowing the heartbreak and troubles ahead for everyone -- it's the human condition. Maybe if any of us knew what was ahead in life, we wouldn't be so willing to gamble on such things as Love! Marriage! But then, we didn't know, and so we did. So far it's still working out.

Thanks, sweetheart. I love you.