Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Change In The Weather

It happens every year. Cool fall temperatures and rain sneak up on us, while we're imagining that the warm balmy weather will never end. An exaggerated "ton" of tomatoes still hang on the vines, and our small "on a whim" second corn crop rustles in the pre-storm winds.
Sunday morning began with a sunrise that we know will be gray skies later. I ran out for a photo just so I will remember these subtle brush strokes of color. The weather forecast calls for rain from now until forever. Not really, just until Friday, but that sounds so faraway from here and now.
We've been wondering what to do with all the tomatoes. We've made lots of sauce that we've frozen in half-pint jars. We've frozen quartered Cherokees and Brandywines, and have bags and bags of Sungold cherries. Interestingly it hasn't been the best year for tomatoes. Started out too cold, then got hot very fast. And yet, prolific they have been, beyond our expectations. We just couldn't bring ourselves to let all the rest just rot on the vine in the coming rains. So we picked them and are letting them "ripen" indoors. We figure this is about the state they are picked in for most supermarkets, so we're experimenting. I'm sure most of this will be tossed at some point, but we always love a good proof of concept moment.
Our first batch of corn was delicious. Sweet as could be, fully formed and beautiful. This second batch was planted late, just to see what we might get. We haven't eaten any yet, but we did shuck a few to take a look. Not spectacular or full of perfect kernels, but we're still hopeful they'll be tasty. We tossed a few of those in the freezer too, still in their husks. We'll let you know how that goes.

In other news, I am taking antibiotics for the first time in more than 20 years. I was experiencing serious pain, the kind that gives the word paroxysms meaning. Finally figured out that some of that pain wasn't related to the pinched nerve in my neck after all. My dentist agreed to see me on Saturday morning at 7:30, and after a few x-rays told me I had an abscessed tooth and will need a root canal after the infection clears up. I have to say this, antibiotics kick some serious bacteria butt! Almost pain free and I am happy happy happy.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

You Can't Make This Shit Up

I wish I had photographed the apple tree when it was full of ripening golden delicious apples. It was going to be quite a harvest. I culled the bruised and rotting apples everyday and left them on the ground for the deer to eat. We were just days away from apple pies. But Thursday morning, Roger came in and said that maybe a deer had broken two big branches off the tree trying to get to the apples. So, I went out to see the damage. Whoa, two branches down, and ALL OF THE APPLES WERE GONE! That's when I knew it wasn't a deer at all. It had to be a bear. There were a lot of apples, and many were high in the tree. No way a deer could get up there, but a bear could. And that was that. No more apples. It was disappointing, especially since Roger had pruned that tree so beautifully in the early spring, and it was more productive than in the previous years. Oh well.

On Saturday, we took one of our usual walks. We call it the low-ditch trail. We head out past our neighbor's house and then down a dirt road, climb a little irrigation ditch fence, and walk along the ditch. The trail takes us up to "three horse meadow" and then up to the reservoir (that feeds the local ditches). On the dirt road we came upon a huge pile of scat. We thought it might be bear scat, so I photographed it as a kind of "confirmation" that bear have been out and about in our neighborhood. It had a bit of fur, and we assumed since bears are omnivores, that kind of made sense.

We moved on up the trail and came upon another huge pile of scat. This one was so different than the first pile, it made me question my first assumption that the first pile was bear scat. This second pile was so OBVIOUSLY bear scat. The size alone was enough to confirm it. It was interesting to note how much large scat was on the trail. We'd noticed some huge tracks on the dusty dirt road as well.
We hiked further up the trail and came upon another huge pile of bear scat. This one literally made us laugh out loud. It was full of our apples. We had been hoping to find a real sign that a bear or two had made off with our apples, and here it was. Such a fantastic confirmation. We loved it.
Of course we would have loved an apple pie even more! (Going out to photograph the forlorn tree bereft of apples, we found this one beauty remaining!)

And one final note, we're wondering if that first large pile of scat could be from a cougar. It is much bigger than any coyote scat we've ever seen. What do you think? The quarter in the photos is for perspective.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

River Day

The temperatures finally cooled down. Last week it was still in the sweltering 90s, and this week we're barely breaking 70. The low Tuesday morning was 43. We can't go from air conditioning to heat in one week, we just won't do it. So we piled another blanket on the bed and laughed about how there is no climate change. We know that transition from season to season isn't always incrementally easy, and we try to explain that rationally to our tomatoes and peppers. They don't listen. Neither does the corn. Blah blah blah, humans are so full of words.

We took advantage of the cooler temps to finally get out to the river. We hadn't been there since we took my mom the day before she flew back home last February. What happened after she left was a late WINTER, that was followed by a relentlessly hot SUMMER. We seem to hardly have spring and fall anymore.
So we came to the river. It was flowing so low at the end of a wicked hot, dry summer. And yet it is still so beautiful and so calming. We hiked in on the dusty trail and arrived at the "clothing optional" Hoyt's Crossing. Three people were already there. A naked woman was reading a book, perched on a beautiful slab of granite next to the green waters. A man was across the river, sitting contemplatively on a big rock. Another man was walking across the river, from the far side to ours. We met him as he came ashore. His pants were rolled up, and yet all askew, one pant leg much higher than the other. He was smaller than we expected as he approached us. I was actually taller than he was. He started exuberantly describing the tunnel on the other side of the river. He had hiked it once before, 28 years ago. He found it again, but didn't go all the way through this time. He was beautiful and small. He had a pronounced hunchback and a stunningly magnificent face. We listened and were enthralled by his excitement. Then, we walked down river a bit, and he went to sit with the naked woman reading.

I took pictures, but find photographing the river a very challenging thing.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Taking The Crazy Path

We're going down a path we probably shouldn't go down, but we can't stop ourselves. It's just the way the problem presented itself and our crazy desire to do something about it. 

We had neighbors. They sold their house earlier this year. We didn't really know them except that we had talked a few times because our yards shared a boundary. They had dogs. They also had a few feral cats that they let eat, sleep, and breed in their barn. They moved and left the cats. Nice, right? For the past several months we've noticed this black cat prowling around under the bird feeder and hiding in different places outside our fenced yard. It runs whenever it sees us. It's cute, it has a bit of a bobbed tail. We don't want it hunting our yard, especially since we spend a lot of time trying to attract and feed the birds. Mmmm… what to do? 

We already have a cat. Bonsai doesn't go outside the fenced yard, and he's not a hunter. He's old and really doesn't have much energy to do anything. He gets special kibble for his chronic constipation. Everyday, for a treat, I give him a half of a small can of Fancy Feast Sliced Beef in gravy. Oh, he just loves the gravy. I add warm water to it so there's even more gravy, and it's more delicious. He laps it all up and leaves the beef, which I throw away everyday. But just the other day Roger said to me, "Why don't you give the feral cat that food?" And so, the idea was hatched to feed the feral cat in the hopes that he'll get enough to eat so he won't have to hunt the birds and lizards. Lions don't chase the zebras when they're full. Makes sense. Right?

So, for the past few mornings, I've been taking the leftovers out and putting them in a plastic dish on the compost pile. The black cat must keep an eye out for that, because s/he shows up right away to eat it. Roger set up a motion sensor camera in the compost bin, so we see exactly who's eating the catfood and when. It's always all gone before nightfall.

Our goal is to domesticate this feral creature and find it a home. We have also considered getting a large "have a heart" trap, trapping it and finding someone who wants to rehabilitate and socialize it as a pet. Are we totally crazy?  

OTOH, we did see this fox walking right in front of the house on Tuesday. It could take care of the feral kitty cat problem in one delicious meal. Life in the country is pretty wild.

What would you do?