Friday, November 30, 2007

Do these look like snow clouds?

Not a lot of snow falls in the lower elevations of Northwest Oregon. Oregonians are more familiar with the milder weather patterns known as mist, drizzle, showers, downpour, and torrent. So when the weather forecasters start predicting snow (and they have), it's a big thing, and Portlanders start to freak a bit. Everyone races to the store for supplies (yeah, I just got back), people put chains on their cars (seriously, a neighbor drove by last night with chains on - on bare pavement!) and kids start betting on potential snow days (sometimes just snow falling is enough to threaten school cancellations here, it doesn't even have to be sticking).

And so, today, the anticipation of potential snow is building...this afternoon's forecast reads:

"Friday November 30th,
First Alert Weather Forecast
A weather double whammy is about to hit the Pacific Northwest. Today is the calm before the Storms! Partly cloudy and cool temperatures are in the forecast today. Colder air will move from the eastside of the Cascades into Portland and the north part of the Willamette Valley tonight. A low will drop south along the coast tonight and start precipitation Saturday morning. Depending on the timing we could see an inch or two on the valley floor.... "

Now, one to two inches of snow may seem ridiculously un-newsworthy to other parts of the country, however in this area, this is the stuff excitement is made of. My picture is what the sky looks like currently. Supposedly the precipitation isn't supposed to start until tomorrow, but it's only about 35 degrees right now and those clouds are starting to look a bit ominous. I wonder if I have time to run to Home Depot for a generator...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

View from my kitchen window

No farm in sight, but I do have a ceramic rooster in a rabbit hutch. See him? That's Mike. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but both Mike and the hutch have been in my small, urban backyard for years now. Some days it feels like I have dreamed of chickens and farm life forever. It may seem silly, but seeing Mike every day when I look outside makes me happy. He's the physical representation of my dream waiting to be fulfilled. I still believe this dream will come true, it just may take a bit longer yet. Patience, I tell myself. And then I go to the sink and smile out at Mike.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Making Earth Bread

Today: Day 33 for our house being on the market. We had a couple of showings this weekend with good responses but still no offers. So doesn't it figure that today of all days, while the house is unusually clean and tidy, I find myself inclined to make....bread. It is a very delicious bread, courtesy of my Savor the Flavor of Oregon cookbook. It's called Earth Bread and it is a tasty (and healthy) combination of cracked wheat, unbleached bread flour, whole wheat flour, oatmeal and sesame seeds. Now, I am not a clean and tidy baker...I make a mess. Just now, simply opening up the Quaker oatmeal container had flakes literally flying through the air. Just opening the container...what's up with that? I guess I just cook with wild abandon. That's not a bad thing, though, right? I read somewhere once that it is the creative, artistic bakers who make huge messes, while the cooks who clean up as they go are much more restained and recipe-bound. I don't know if this is true, I just know I am now walking over oatmeal as I proceed with mixing my ingredients.

I took some baking pics to show my progress. I love that this dough is wonderful for either loaves or rolls, as you will see. I like to make square and round rolls and then one or two larger round loaves all from one batch of dough.

My staging area:

Watching the cracked wheat sit, the scalded milk cool, and the yeasty stuff bubble:

Just before the kneading:

Starting to rise:

Ready for the oven:

My kitchen smells so good right now:

Let me know if anyone is interested in the recipe, I will happily share it.

1/19/2008 update: You can find the recipe to this marvelous bread here!!.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I know it's kinda corny...

but I'm pretty excited right now. Last night I was given two tickets to the Billy Joel concert by my son's girlfriend. The concert is tonight at Portland's Rose Garden arena. It's important to state that I was a SERIOUS (you do see the capital letters there to express my seriousness, right?) Billy Joel fan when I was younger. I adored his earlier albums, like Cold Spring Harbor and Streetlife Serenade. I became such a huge admirer of his, in fact, that when I last saw him in concert in 1984 (I believe I paid $15 for that ticket), I had vivid fantasies of him seeing me in the crowd and asking me to leave with him. Seriously. I had myself convinced he would take me home with him. He was the man for me.

It was his birthday on that night in 1984 when he played in Portland. May 9th. I had painted this HUGE (note the capital letters again) banner that read HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILLIAM JOSEPH MARTIN JOEL on it, certain that this would assist in, and ensure, him picking me out of the crowd. Hey, how many people would know that this was his full name? (And how many would actually care?) I was his number one fan.

Sigh. Suffice it to say that the evening was one of a small number of significant disappointments in my life. He didn't pick me. Most likely, he didn't even *see* me and I went home in hiccuping, sobbing tears. My girlfriend, Melissa, who went to the concert, too, comforted me the best she could. The mania and hysteria of public figure worship is as powerful as it is bizarre and, clearly, I had experienced it first hand.

I actually found my old ticket stub from this concert a few months ago, along with a very poor quality, very far away, 110 film photograph of him on the stage. I hadn't thought about that night for years, so it's funny that all this - and tickets to his concert - is coming back now.

Don't tell my sons this story because they already think I'm an uncool goof for having every one of Billy Joel's albums up through 1993's River of Dreams. Someone told me he's considered America's Elton John. Is this true? I haven't heard anything new by him for years now. I'll let you know if his music still speaks to me and also, of course, if I get to go home with him tonight. :-)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Taj the Turkey, living happily at the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary, September 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The day was a walk in the park!

The rain stopped today! The clouds lifted, the sun tentatively appeared, and we headed for the park. Not having thought to bring my sunglasses (it's November in Oregon, people!), I squinted through the windshield as I drove us through the curvy, hilly roads. Our destination: Forest Park, the largest wooded city park in the United States. It covers over 5,000 acres of land within the city boundary of Portland, Oregon and its beauty never stops impressing me. Its 70+ miles of interconnecting trails are pretty dang cool, too.

Hearing stories of horrible drought affecting so many areas of the United States currently, I found myself appreciating this lush and verdant home of mine while also thanking the stars for the brief respite from the rain.

Then we slogged our way back to the car, our boots having become cement anchors from the sticky mud stuck to the bottom of them. And while Roxy Mud Dog loved the hike, she didn't much care for the mandatory bath afterwards...check out that water!:

Friday, November 16, 2007

My Dog Eats Dirt

So, what do your doggies eat? This is my girl, Roxy the Dirt Eater, a.k.a. Mud Dog. I left her alone with the potting soil tray for only a moment and came back to this... face. Innocent appearing, yes, but the truth was written all over her mouth. And to actually think I've worried about her adjusting to life on a farm. She looks the part of a princess lap dog (that's the Shih-Tzu in her) until you see her in action. Then it's clear she believes herself to be true Cairn Terrier right to her bones. She's smart, spirited, feisty, opinionated, enthusiastic, energetic, loyal, stubborn...and she loves to eat dirt. She also eats walls, furniture, umbrella handles, and rabbit poop but those are all stories for maybe a later time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Picture of the Day: A Bright Spot

It's gloomy outside - it has started to drizzle and the sky is getting darker by the moment. The rains are coming, the forecasters say, though they've been saying this now for two days. I want to crawl back into bed. My son is home sick from school, no realtors are calling wanting to show our house, and the farm-of-my-dreams feels very far away. Something catches my eye as I walk past the door leading out to the terrace. My Fall Camelia has started to bloom. A gaudy bright pink bloom is right dead-center in the middle of the bush. It makes me smile.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary - A place to behold

Friends I've made at the Lighthouse Farm:

Today I want to tell you about a person I met over the summer and the most amazing place he has created. His name is Wayne Geiger and he founded the non-profit Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary after finding that farm and larger animals (horses, cows, llamas, sheep, goats, pigs, etc.) taken from abusive or neglectful situations rarely had a place to go. This fact often prevented them from receiving the help they deserved. With the goal of providing a safe haven for these beautiful creatures, Wayne created the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary, located on 52 wonderful acres in Scio, Oregon. The farm is run under the principal that all domestic animals deserve five basic freedoms:

  1. Freedom from malnutrition - all animals have a right to a healthy diet.
  2. Freedom from disease - all animals deserve clean and well-ventilated housing.
  3. Freedom from discomfort - all animals deserve shelter from the elements, protectionfrom predators, and proper healthcare.
  4. Freedom from fear or distress - all animals have a right to feel safe and unthreatened.
  5. Freedom to express normal behavior

After a personally very trying and stress-ridden 2007, I found information online about the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary. I had been investigating opportunities (volunteer and paid) for working with animals...returning to my roots and passion, so to speak.

The first time I drove up the gravel driveway of the Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary, I felt an enormous weight being lifted from my shoulders. Literally, a feeling of peace flooded my body. It was such an odd and unexpected physical sensation. I hadn't felt like this in years and all I had done was drive up a gravel road with farm animals on all sides of me. Be sure to check out the official LFS site if you'd like more information:
My son and I go out every second Saturday to work on Volunteer Day. This is a good place.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Picture of the Day: Covered Bridge outside Scio, Oregon

One of the many covered bridges in Linn County, Oregon, the covered bridge capital of the West.

I think this pic is cool for a number of reasons:
  1. Aesthetically, I love the the shapes and shadowing of this covered bridge and how the perspective goes from a wide view to a narrower focus on the distance.

  2. It fits the title of my blog page, "On the road to Critter Farm" very well. When I took this picture, we were, indeed, on the road to a critter farm: the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary, .

  3. I like to find metaphors for life in my pictures. I view this image as a metaphor for my own life: I am currently someplace beautiful and the road ahead, although quite different from where I am now, will be equally beautiful. In other words, slow down, enjoy where I am presently, all things in moderation, cautiously dream of tomorrow. I have a good life now even though I feel the future holds bright things. (Don't you think a lot of us need occasional small reminders to enjoy each day and not be perpetually tunnel-vision-focused on the future?)

Monday, November 12, 2007

What will I do on my 7.62 acres? (Cont'd from 10/26/07)

I'm sitting here today getting my mind around why I am pushing so hard for this move. What is there for me on 7 1/2 acres that propels me physically and mentally away from a most comfortable city life? There are so many unknowns. What do I really know about our future on this land?

I know for sure that:

  1. We will have chickens. I like chickens.
  2. We will have goats. Goats are funny.
  3. We will grow sunflowers and other pretty blooming things. I'm good at this.
  4. We will have some fruit trees. I've never had those before.
  5. I will bake some amazing bread. Bread is an incredible comfort food.
  6. There are surprises ahead for us. These surprises will be both good and bad.

What I, personally, would like is:

  1. to take in abandoned, neglected or abused animals.
  2. to create a calm and safe home for them.
  3. to learn the difference between hay and straw. :-)
  4. to have one or two horses (Jim isn't convinced yet).

What I don't know yet is:

  1. how to help my animals most effectively.
  2. how I will afford all this.
  3. whether to create an official sanctuary or refuge.
  4. if I should establish a 501 (c) (3) non-profit as a means for support.
  5. if I should market the farm as a learning tool for children and their parents, allowing them access to and experience with animals they might not see every day.
  6. whether I will have enough free-range eggs from my incredibly happy hens to give to all my friends who are anxious for them. :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's all about the animals

In case I didn't make it completely clear in my very first post, it's all about the animals for me. This move my family is planning - the departure from city life to become country dwellers - is, for me, about living with the animals.

From the time I was small, I was always been a bit of a loner. I never had a clique, I didn't get into, or invited to, the bigger social gatherings, and I tended to maintain just a handful of close friends. I hated dolls and dresses and the all traditional "girl" stuff, choosing instead to obsess over animals - real and stuffed. My collection of fuzzy, stuffed, silent pals numbered over 200. (This was a frightening number, if you ask my mom. She will tell you about the time we realized all 200 had fleas due to a summer doggy flea infestation - ewwwww!! To me, of course, this was just proof that my so-called "stuffed" beasts were indeed quite real!)

My childhood was filled with living pets and critters of all kinds, too. They came to me both with and without parental permission. Dogs and cats and hamsters. A Shetland pony for a short time. A huge white rabbit named Marmaduke. An Alpine goat named Rodney and a black-faced lamb named Savannah. Even though it didn't dawn on me at the time - my world always felt so random - there was a very consistent, distinct pattern (and calling?) in my life.

And so...

Peace for me is when I am in the presence of animals. Their unconditional nature is a powerful thing. They just are - and they are fine with this. When I am near them, I feel healed and healthy. I feel productive and filled to the brim with thoughts and ideas and energy. When I am away, I plot and plan how to get close again.

This is what I'm doing from the kitchen table in my city home today, Sunday, November 11th, 12:42pm: plotting and planning.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Paper Towels

Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money. Being the child I was, though, I was never aware that we didn't have much money. In my world, we always had "enough" and there was never anything I suffered over for not having (other than a horse). The thought never once occurred to me that my parents were skimping and saving and occasionally challenged to make the money stretch to meet our needs. Hearing stories now from my mom about how she was given a $7.50/week grocery budget always makes me chuckle and shake my head. Imagine: $7.50!!

One memory I do have, though, haunts me oddly in my daily adult life. This memory is about paper towels.

Paper towels were considered a luxury in the home that I grew up in. I never knew any different, I just knew that some weeks we had paper towels (apparently the grocery budget was $7.80 that week) and other weeks we didn't. When we did have them, they were guarded and metered out, only for use in "important" situations. I can remember my mom telling me "Not so many - paper towels are expensive!" and hearing an occasional panicked "Don't waste those!".

Now that I'm an adult and have my own weekly grocery budget, I always purchase paper towels. There is rarely a time when my house doesn't have paper towels, and, if it does, it is never for more than a day. It's an odd requirement of mine to always have paper towels handy.

And yet, old lessons die hard...I always buy the very cheapest paper towels. I always, always spend time walking up and down the paper goods aisle to make sure I have, indeed, purchased the cheapest rolls. And, in my daily home use, I always, *always* feel a flash of guilt every time I tear off a sheet for use.