Category Archives: outdoor stuff

Winter Preparations

With the onset of the fall rains and the maturing of the garden, we’ve launched full into winter preparation mode. The friend we garden with down on the Columbia came up to Enterprise this week with a full load of garden bounty, a bunch of it too much for us to eat before it passes its prime. So in the next couple of days freezing stuff is going to be happening. My canning tools are in Portland and they will probably need to go to our friend’s house for maximum usage. Guess I need to devise a preservation traveling kit.

But with the coming of the fall rains also means that we can be back in the woods to cut firewood for the winter. Between going out with our friend and going out ourselves, we cut 2 cords of wood in four days–basically a half-ton pickup load of wood each day. That filled our first firewood permit of 4 cords. We’ll probably cut more during hunting season but it won’t be as rushed now–this last stuff was lodgepole pine instead of fir, and lodgepole burns a lot nicer than white fir. We’d like to have about 6 cords to get through the winter.

While the guys cut wood I blocked out a short story about gnomes–or maybe brownies, I’m not certain which yet. I want it to be about gnomes but maybe a brownie would be more appropriate. I just don’t particularly want to use the term “brownie.”

Grouse season is open but we’ve yet to bag one. Not for lack of seeing grouse, but the ones we’ve seen have been skittish and quick, and we’re just getting up to speed on the hunting thing for the year. One of the factors of cutting wood with our friend is that we were also scouting locations for deer hunting season coming up in October. We decided where we’re going to hunt and where we’ll set up hunting camp. It’s been years since we’ve been out in hunting camp and this one is going to be luxurious–a wall tent with woodstove inside. Of course since we’re scouting for deer season that meant we spent two whole days out in the woods. Oh shucky darn. Being out in the woods after the first fall rains is SOOO hard to do–not! The huckleberry brush burns flame red right now and the aspens have been changing on a daily basis.

Since the boys wanted to go out all day, I had to rush to the barn first thing to work with Miss Mocha. The first rains were cool enough to leave a dusting of snow on the high Wallowa peaks, at least until the sun melted it, which meant I had really nice views when working on Mocha’s hooves or working with her. One morning we had a very nice and sedate ride in the arena and in the hay field.

The Girl is hairing up quickly. When I pat her back and rump, she feels like a fuzzy velvet teddy bear. Her ongoing aches and pains appear to be heavily arthritis and soft-tissue with hints of anticipation of pain shaping her behavior–nearly a week ago we hauled her to the vet for lameness testing. Results of hoof testers and flexion testing showed her as very mildly lame, nowhere near as bad as her behavior made me think she was. So we’re starting her on Adequan injections next week to see if that helps.

We’re going into one of the nicest times of the year to be in the woods, and I’m loving it. Crisp cool days with a hint of dampness, colors changing daily in the aspen, huckleberry brush, and tamarack. Moody blue-gray clouds over deep canyons, and the deep bellow of elk bulls in the distance or a coyote howl. Haven’t heard the wolves yet.

Winter is coming. But this season of preparation is one of the sweet times, and I’m enjoying every bit of it.


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At last, a sweet ski day with a horse bonus

Good ski days–heck, any ski days–have been in short supply around here. Either I’ve been hurting, or the snow’s been crap, or it’s been raining….but yesterday everything finally coalesced to make a nice day.

The boots seem to finally be broken in. They’re a stiff and responsive boot; essentially an advanced level but one of the lower advanced levels. What that means is that I’ve had to learn that any move of my foot and ankle translates into ski movement much more sensitively than it has before. Dealing with this requires the development of quiet legs, upright body, staying balanced and on top of the skis without falling into the back seat or leaning downhill. IOW, I’ve got to be on top of my game, and yesterday, I finally got myself dialled into the boots. When we stopped, only my right big toe was numb. That’s progress–seriously.

Snow conditions were nice, too. With the warmer winter, we’ve not wanted to venture down to the lower runs. Grabby snow hasn’t helped with my boot issues or my sore spots. Yesterday, though, the snow was firm, packed, and crunchy. We did one run down Kruser and then turned around to head up to the Mile–which was in perfect shape. I did some body placement/turn drills down Kruser; primarily my go-to drill, which is the poles across the palms in front of the body, facing downhill, working my turns while facing the fall line. It clicked. As a result, I started smoking my way down the Mile, only going back to being hesitant when the snow got more chopped up. Still need to develop confidence in these boots in crappy snow. But that will come.

We did seven turns in all: seven miles plus connecting tracks. 6 turns on the Mile, 1 turn on Kruser, connecting run to Kruser, a quick shot down Glade to Norman, another quick shot from the top of Norman to the Mile. A good ski day.

The high overcast and lenticular formations over the top of Hood warned of incoming weather. We’d hoped to beat it and we managed to do so, leaving Timberline just as the precip moved in. For once I was able to spot the Willamette from the Mile chairlift. We also watched the clouds move in across the north Willamette Valley during our last ride up. One moment you could see the shadowy forms of buttes and the dark brown, swollen river. The next, they were wrapped in gray shadows and no longer visible.

By the time we reached the barn, it was raining steadily. Mocha was happy to see us; husband was surprised at how quickly she can turn from the manger to the stall door to be ready to go. I found that it was easier to work my hips and sit upright after a good ski session and my upper body seemed to be much more stable. Mind you, this is all walk work. Mocha’s got at least another six weeks of restricted work and it’s probably more like twelve more weeks, until that hoof wall grows out. At least she’s making good progress.

We did go for a short outside hack after our work, even though it was misting. She didn’t mind, and stepped right out.

Afterwards, we went home, did chores, and a lot of other stuff. I had to chuckle at the memories of the times when we skied, then came home and collapsed. Guess the old farts are getting into better shape.

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Clamdigging at dusk


One of the things that our friend S has been talking about doing is checking out digging razor clams on a late afternoon/evening winter low tide. The combination of weather, lower tides, and timing seemed to be just about right yesterday, so we joined him on an expedition to the beach near the wreck of the Peter Iredale to dig clams.

If clams could be found, that is. It was a blustery, stormy day with a couple of rain squalls blowing through and a constant wind that made it hard to identify clam holes. We poked around on the beach for about three hours from 3 pm on, following the tide down while we could see, then going back up closer to the pickup to look for clams using lights.

One clam. It wasn’t the usual firm summer sand underfoot, either, but a softer, more saturated sand that slid away from under heels if you stayed in one place for more than a few seconds. I got vertigo staring at the water-saturated sand after dark and had to spend more time studying the surf–despite the dark and the clouds, the moon above the clouds kept things well lit.

The wind was also stiff enough to push me a little bit, and a couple of times when the surf came up, even though it was calf-high it was still pretty strong. I kept a sharp eye out for sneaker waves just because of the mood of the ocean this time of year. Didn’t get too cold, but I was wearing my ski base layers underneath heavy jeans and a sweatshirt, plus a vest and a rain suit added to my tall boots.

At one point I did get a lovely shot from a sunbreak, early on:


Afterward, we stopped at the Pig n’ Pancake and I had lovely gluten-free blueberry pancakes with blueberry compote and bacon. Yum.

We’ll try this again, but maybe not on such a windy day!

(on the Oregon coast, in winter, yeah. Riiiight.)

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Hunting 2013


For the first time in a couple of years, we had a hunting trip where we could see the mountains the whole time. Not just the Wallowas, but the Seven Devils.


We also stayed in a nice little cabin at Wallowa Lake–for three adults, that ended up being the cheapest and most pleasant alternative. Once again, we kind of went through the homesick phase while we were visiting the County. Even though we only lived there for six months over thirty years ago, that six months was when we lost our hearts to the place. It made us heartsick to leave, but it was the best thing to do at the time, as a young couple without the means or experience to make it in the ranching world. I was nowhere near being able to make it as a writer, and we just didn’t have the supports to try to make it in other viable areas.

But we’ve always dreamed of going back, of living the kind of outdoor life we’ve always loved to do. Despite all our dreams of other places, the Wallowas have had our hearts for years, and the Wallowa country doesn’t let go easily. It also provides fodder for gorgeous pictures.


The required Grouse Creek picture–setting of “Cold Dish,” recently reprinted in Netwalk: Expanded Edition.

Another hunter girl pinup pic.


No buck deer spotted where we could see them this year. No grouse spotted, either. That was okay. We had a good two days back in the woods and at the lake. I got two nice hikes in, one on Saturday afternoon where I spotted kokanee and did some writing.


On Sunday morning, the family wandered down to the lake and we spotted a pair of eagles.


And a lot of daydreaming about other types of lifestyle happened, too.

Nonetheless, it was a lovely visit and an all-too-short relaxing time. At some point I hope we can spend more time in this heart place. But the reality of that is still very far away, especially for people like us with responsibilities, duties, and–well–obligations.

Dreaming is still pretty darn nice, though.

And now it’s time to get back to work.

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Clams again!

This morning we drug ourselves out of bed very early, sped around the house, then got on the road quickly to meet our friend at his coastal place. Once we switched everything over to his truck, then we headed for the beach and yet more adventures in razor clam digging near the mouth of the Columbia River. DH commented that this is the most often he’s gone by the wreck of the Peter Iredale ever…same for me as well.

After navigating a rather rutted out soft sand passage to the firm pack sand, we drove several miles north on the beach, past the Peter Iredale, almost all the way to the jetty. This was an excellent but not necessarily great low tide, but still rather nice to try to hit around 7:30 am:






At first the digging was slow. After initially getting a smaller clam, I hit quite a few dry holes. Then I followed our friend over to a spot on the beach which was just packed with big clams. DH joined us and we managed to get a limit for all three of us–45 clams–in less than an hour. It was nothing-nothing-nothing–then hey, look at that! and we were digging hard and fast, twisting the clam guns into the sand quickly yet delicately.

Oh, and I found two whole sand dollars. I’ve never found whole sand dollars on the beach before, so that was really cool–and they’re nicely marked.


There were a lot of tiny little crabs on the beach this time. I saw a couple of things that might have been tsunami debris, but they might not have been, either. Spotted a big freighter working its way across the Columbia River Bar and another one headed out. There did seem to be a bit of traffic on the river for certain.

A fascinating thing happened when I was rinsing my clams for the last time. As I pulled them out of my bag, one of the clams extended heshe’s foot. While a clam’s foot is webbed, the edges are a bit stiffer and can dig. Well, this clam waved its foot aggressively, grabbing at the sand for three attempts to dig in, then pulled it back in.

We stopped at the Pig-n-Pancake in Astoria for breakfast. They have heavenly gluten-free pancakes, so I pigged out on blueberry pancakes, bacon, and a half-slice of ham. Hey, after doing all that clam digging, girl’s gotta carbo load, y’know. Wet sand is pretty dang heavy.

Then we headed for our friend’s house to finish off letting the clams clean themselves, rinse them, then clean them. Three limits is 45 clams, so here’s what 45 good-sized razor clams looks like:

IMG_0259There were a lot of big clams this time around, many more than from the past two times we’ve gone out this clam season. And we’re starting to get the hang of how to dig razors without breaking the shell. That said, it’s easy enough to break the shell even if you back off with the clam gun and go in by hand–the process of pulling the clam out can take a bit of work to get them without breaking the shell.

Nonetheless, we got a lot of nice clams today. It’s our last expedition of the season, because it closes in mid-July and there aren’t any good tides that match our schedule between now and then.

It’s been a good first year digging these razor clams. I think I like it better than digging for the big blue or quahog clams. It’s easier digging clams in sand than in bay mud.

We put our share of the clams away in the freezer, for a taste of early summer sometime this fall and winter. That batch will be enough for clam fritters and clam chowder. November or December…mmm. A chance to remember a perfect clam day.

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Clammies…and oh yeah, some writing’s going on..a full Lake! (I think…)

It’s one of those busy weekends where you end up going back to work to get some rest!

First, of course, is the job search. Neverending at the moment. Nothing major to report.

Secondly, at the Portland SFWA Reading, I got asked to hurry up and write a story for an anthology that closes like, um, within a week. By yesterday I’d managed to get around 1500 words on a story that needed to be at least 5000, with a story line that wasn’t quite sure of itself.

Thirdly, we had ballet tickets for Friday night.

Fourthly, Saturday was a good clam tide.

Fifthly, we plan to go skiing on Sunday. And oh yeah, I need to finish a frackin’ short story this weekend.

So. So far this weekend, I have:

1.) Not applied for any jobs but will work on that tomorrow between writing periods.

2.) I put in 2500 words today. I am a Writing Studette. Since we were going clam digging this morning, I transferred files onto the laptop last night and charged it. On the way to our friend’s house in Clatskanie, I wrote–something like 1300-some words, Portland to Clatskanie. Got to friend’s house, put laptop on charger, went clam digging. Came back, between writing and deleting, wrote about 1700 words. End count today: 4059 words. A bunch of those words are utter dreck, but the problem is that my story arc can resolve in one of two ways, and I need to write about 3000 more words to figure out which arc is the strongest, then cut/recraft to fit. Just gotta get it done by Wednesday. And, oh yeah, go skiing, work at the Day Jobbe…and maybe ride horse. Horse could get dropped on Monday, since it’s the day before farrier that wouldn’t be bad. I might just get her the fiveway vaccination and do that on Monday.

Then there’s the AC repair…and a lot of other stuff. Nonetheless, the story will get done. I’m dredging up old 4-H Fair memories, mixing them with my memories of Fair as a leader, and then tossing in a healthy dose of hippie music festivals and Country Fair. Loving it so far…even the pieces that are dreck. It’s a story that needs to be overwritten, then pruned into shape.

Friday night’s ballet was okay. I find contemporary work either to be very good, evocative, and inspirational…or totally meh. I liked two of the works, the third was meh.

Clams–well, have a picture.





We went razor clamming near the South Jetty of the Columbia River near Hammond. I’ve never dug razor clams before, so it was a bit of a learning curve–but between the three of us, we dug 2 1/3 limits. I was impressed with the size of the clams and the relative ease in getting them–my last clams got dug up on the way back to our friend’s truck.

Plus we ended up driving on the beach to get to the good clamming space–would have been quite a hike with buckets and all for us. Lots of clams, lots of big clams–we could have probably limited out, but we got tired.The clams weren’t showing signs very clearly, so I dug a lot of false holes. Even though a clam gun ( cylinder about 2 1/2-4 inches in diameter, capped at one end with several different possible handle types) is easier than a shovel, at least for this razor clam novice, it gets tiring after a while. But I still managed to dig a respectable number of clams!

So anyway, I’ve uploaded today’s writing. Depending on the weather, I’ll go skiing tomorrow–and then shoot for another 2500-3000 words. Maybe start editing tomorrow night, maybe leave it for Monday. Looking good right now, though.

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I’ll have eagles with that, please

Today we joined our widower friend in a first exploration of potential fishing sites on the Nehalem River.  And see wildlife like, well, eagles.





We were almost to Jewell when the first of this pair flushed from the right hand side of the road and flew across, quickly followed by another that flew down the road for a few feet before joining this one.

They were still there when we got back from visiting the Jewell Meadows elk meadows.





Final wildlife count for the day: Seven eagles, starting with the two we spotted on our way to Clatskanie, plus the five after.  Nearly 100 elk between the bull herd of around 34 and the cow herd of around 60.

Lots of cool river views.IMG_7423





And the fishing?  DH hooked into a small steelhead that flipped off his hook.  I got a distinct strike, fish grabbed the lure and started to run with it, then slipped off.  One pole died (a cheapo from 30 years ago), two or three lures eaten by snags or river bottoms, and lots of pictures.  Raccoon tracks everywhere and I think I found an otter slide.

Much fun was had by all.  It’s been a few years since we’ve been fishing, and I actually spent more time fishing and less time wrestling with the line this time.  Sweet.

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