Sunday, November 20, 2011


I know that people contend that western Oregon only has two seasons and I don't entirely disagree with them, though I do choose to recognize the tiny glimmers of the other two when they decide to show up. The differences between those two-ish seasons have seemed much more noticeable during my years of living in Deadwood than they ever did while I was living in Seattle. Part of it is the amount of time I spend involved with the outdoors here in Deadwood. Even though I spend plenty of time indoors here, you can't get away from the outside in the same way you can in the city when you need to get the firewood in, put the garden to bed, tarp and un-tarp various piles depending on how dry you want them, etc. The other part, though, is that both of my Deadwood stints, separated by 11 years, have been heavily influenced by the school year. Lou and the kids and I all have lives tied up in the school schedule, and summer break looms large and significant in that schedule. In Seattle, I worked a job that maintained its schedule year-round. Looking back from this nearly-December vantage, those times seem to belong to a different story than the pick-up, drop-off, pack, and unpack routines of the school year. Here are a couple of pictures I'd like to share just because they seem so sunny and golden now:

The first is Lucie crossing the logs on the way home from an afternoon visit to the Sunny Beach on the West Fork Creek side of the property. That beach probably won't exist next year, after the water has moved all the sediment around the log structures in that part of the creek. It was fun while is lasted! Next is just a summery pic of Helen and Opal when we were out on a blackberry-picking walk. Finally, Lucie is showing off her green bean haul--she really did pick all of those and we ate them for dinner.

Since I have already admitted to believing in the existence of a bit of fall here, I thought I'd back it up with some pictures. Here are the girls playing in the maple leaves we went out an collected to cover the garden beds with--the garden's winter blankets. (Our camera is strangely fuzzy in the center of the pictures. Probably dropped it one too many times.)

We also had the biggest burn pile that we've ever had, fueled by lots
of the brush we created over the course of this summer's fire break clearing project.

I took the girls trick-or-treating in Deadwood. We tried this last year and enjoyed it so much that we engineered it again. There aren't many tricksters out here--in fact our kids were joined by one other this year and I think that may be the highest tally since 1988. People out here don't usually keep treats handy, since they are much more likely to end up eating them all themselves than to hand them off to little visitors. Because of this, Deadwood trick-or-treating requires a bit more organization. We called several neighbors to see if they would mind stocking treats and playing host to a stop by four little visitors. Everyone we asked said yes. The treats the girls (and the adults, truthfully) got were generously prepared and generously given. Thank you, friends and neighbors!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

End of the Run

This deep in November, the salmon are almost done for the year. They are still around in great numbers, but so ragged. Their sides, backs and tails are tattered from making redds and infected with fungus. No longer sea-silver or the deep, rutting red of the largest and most impressive fish, the salmon have faded into monochromatic black and white. This Saturday past I went for a long walk, first along West Fork, then down Deadwood Creek from the ford to the Summer Bridge watching and taking photographs. Here (left) you see the log emplacement set in by the Forest Service to create structure and habitat. The other photo is the view looking up West Fork from atop the logs.

There a single riffle between the driving bridge to our house and the two photos above. On my way home every day, I stop on the bridge to look at the creek. These past two weeks, I've been watching the salmon fight and squabble over the prime territory atop that riffle. Yesterday, I was able to sneak right up on the fish guarding the spot.

There is another really great spawning site at the ford. Between the ford and the confluence with West Fork, Deadwood Creek drops over a small log emplacement. This is an older structure than the one photographed above and uses a different architecture. The one photographed uses massive trees placed with a Chinook helicopter. The structure by the ford uses much smaller logs placed with heavy equipment (like a back-hoe.) The logs are held in place by steel cables attached to rocks or even the bedrock where possible. The problem is, steel rusts and logs rot. Two winters ago, one of the two logs forming the structure washed out, but in a surprising development, formed a really nice spawning site after the creek had washed away some of the silt to expose the gravel underneath. The dog and I spooked the fish, but I did get a picture of a completely spawned out salmon. Nice teeth!

The last spot I looked was down by the Summer Bridge. Here, the creek takes a long, looping bend and drops through a series of riffles and pools. There is a large (for Deadwood Creek) island with spawning sites on both sides. In a low-water fall such as we've had this year, the fish congregate in large numbers in the pools. Mostly, they laze in the current, but occasionally they squabble and tear around the pool with a great deal of fussing and darting. This year I saw over 20 and heard many more below where I was watching.



A giant redd, easily 15 feet in diameter. You can see the great sweep dug out by the fish and the ridge of throw-up gravel (one of three) running down the middle.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer has been great. Great. We've had loosey-goosey routines (or no routines at all sometimes) and haven't kept up on all the goals we set ourselves back in early June, when summer seemed like a great expanse of time ahead of us. We didn't have the kids read every day and we didn't get all our storage space organized, and now, in the end, I can't think when I would have done those things anyway. Would I have cut out visiting with lots of friends, both here in Deadwood and during our various trips? No. Would I have cut out our afternoons at the creek? No. Would I have cut out some of the time the kids spent running wild in the garden? No.

We got back from a beautiful wedding on Sunday night and Ray picked up five boxes of peaches from a local grower on Monday. It is also time to pick the blackberries....and zucchinis....and cucumbers.....and figs....etc. Now it is Wednesday night and our counter is filled with 30 quarts of canned peaches, two gallons of pickles, fourteen jars of blackberry jam, and ten jars of peach preserves. Not bad, especially considering that we still managed to feed the kids and make sure that they weren't disappearing into the wilds. Thank goodness that Margie has delayed her departure to Alaska for a couple of weeks (sorry Krissy and Red :)), but all this would never have gotten done without her.

Here are a few pictures from summer. I didn't take that many this summer and now I'm regretting it, but I guess that was one of the things that got subsumed by some fun or other. As usual, I apologize for the quality of picture. Something's better than nothing, though.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Big Bear

Halfway through my run, where I usually see the beavers working or floating in the creek, I saw the biggest black bear I've ever seen. Now, those of you who know me well know my memory isn't good enough to be certain about the validity of that claim. It was a huge black bear, though, and it just stood there as Panther caught sight of it. Panther charged toward it and it just stood there. Panther got within 20 yards and it just stood there. Panther stood there and the bear just stood there. Finally Panther twitched, probably preparing to run away (she is not the world's bravest dog), and the bear turned and lumbered off into the forest. Panther gave token chase, but she returned quickly. I decided that this morning I didn't need to run the last few hundred yards to my turn-around point.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


One of the conundrums of living in the coast range is what to do with the open space and pasture land. The two choice are to mow or to pasture animals on it. If you opt to mow, you are looking at a lot of time on a tractor or riding mower. The minimum at our house is three full days at the end of spring and three more at the beginning of fall. If you opt for animals, you don't have to mow but you have all the headaches that go with having animals. To add insult to injury, the climate and landscape isn't really conducive to pasturing and it's almost impossible to avoid buying hay for the winter. We choose to pasture. Animals may come, but not until we've got the house and little children situation in a lower maintenance stage.

When you mow, you are destroying habitat and shelter. Snakes, rodents and insects flee the tractor in droves and attract several different predators. The classic are the ravens. There is a breeding pair that make our little section of the valley home and as soon as they hear the mower fire up, they'll swing by to check it out. Hopping along through the just cut sections, they seek out animals killed by the tractor or fleeing through the piles of cut grass. Ray was followed by a coyote once, doing the same work as the ravens. It showed no concern for Ray or the tractor, instead prowling along behind eating mice and gophers. The most surprising predator is the white crowned sparrow. They like to lurk the margin between cut and uncut. I assume they are picking up the myriad little insects thrown up by the tractor, but I don't know for sure because they flee the tractor and work in its wake.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fire in June

Just so it's on the record that it isn't all peaches and cream down here, I had to build a fire yesterday morning. Admittedly, it was half to burn up all the paper trash that was stuffing the firebox, but it was cold. A front had moved in the afternoon before (Monday) and it was cool and rainy. We had inside day and did a lot of painting, but after a cold Helen emerged from three hours of playing in the bathtub I gave in and lit a two-sticker.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


We are always looking for nests this time of year. The last couple of years, we have found robin nests and the girls have had the chance to watch the whole sequence of eggs, incubation, hatching, fledgling and flight. We were pretty disappointed this year when we didn't find one and then! I stumbled across a yellow throat nest while clearing brush down by the creek. Here's a stock photo.

The yellow throat is a little swamp warbler that builds its nest out of grasses and in grasses and thickets. It is a sneaky little bird and you rarely if ever see them. They are all around in the grasses, willows and nine bark that cover the low areas around the creek. I went out for a walk by the creek late last evening and their scritchy little warning 'crik' was all around me. I was certainly near some nests, but they are impossible to see without clearing a bunch of brush.

The one that I found is down by the head of the oxbow where the path down to the old beach goes. It is a deep-bowled, fist-sized nest of old grasses and the mother disappears down inside it when she is on the eggs or hatchlings. The eggs were a lovely white speckled with red (me) or black (everyone else.) Mizu and I are both able to sneak up and see the mother on the nest. The girls aren't quite quiet enough. Unlike a robin, who will explode out of her nest, the mother yellow throat disappears back into the grasses soundlessly. The last couple of times I've been by to look at the nest, she has remained on it for a moment, opening her mouth as if to be fed. I wondered if the male fed the sitting female. (Subsequent reading frowns on that theory; the males seem to be a fairly dissipated, philandering bunch of pretty boys.) Here's the eggs:

Day before yesterday, the girls and I went down to look at the eggs at the outset of a hike with Pop. Hatchlings! They must have just come out that morning, for they were pathetic little wrinkles of pink with huge gray bulging blind lid-covered eyes and mad scientist tufts of gray feathers emerging randomly across their bodies. When they heard me whispering to Lucie, two of the four craned their awkward necks skyward and silently opened yellow beaks for a tidbit. Here they are (a bit blurry):

If you go to look at them, watch out! There's a giant dog poop in the path.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

These days I run whenever I can grab an hour of time from something. Now that it is getting light early, that hour most often comes in the morning, before the kids, and all their attendant requirements, are awake. The joy and satisfaction I get out of the run is worth dragging myself out of bed for on most mornings.
Our dog, Panther, recognizes my running clothes, and is always waiting eagerly to be let out and explore while I plod along. The first thing I noticed as we headed out the door this morning was the CROK of a raven. The ravens have control of this valley (and our compost pile) and it
is only by dint of their constant attention and diligence that they keep it clear of invading crows, hawks, osprey, and eagles. We are often treated to mid-air battles out over the pasture. So it is no surprise that they were broadcasting our presence almost before we are out the door.
I blearily began running down the driveway and the loud CROK of one raven sounded out of the mist right above me. I wondered at why it was keeping such close tabs on us this morning, but then moved on to comparing the cold mist I was inhaling with each breath to the hot steam I had been breathing in a sauna a few days earlier. Though probably equally wet, the weight of the humidity in the sauna slowed my day almost to a stop while I was enlivened by this morning's mist.
Contemplating this and other equally inane things I ran the first half mile. Again I heard the CROK loud and low above my head, and this time another answered from across the valley. The raven flew ahead of me, perched in a tree and waited until I had run past. Then it swooped over me again, so low I could hear the rustle of air in its wings. We live pretty closely with these ravens, so this wasn't all that unusual. This morning, though, instead of turning back as it usually does, it continued this behavior for all of the almost five miles of my run. It must have passed over me about 20 times, CROKing every time.
Despite spending most of my run-time thinking of lots of mundane and outlandish reasons for this behavior, I am at a loss as to why the raven kept our company this morning. Panther and I, with our decidedly pedestrian and terrestrial habits, certainly don't seem of much consequence to the ravens. I enjoyed the company, though, whatever the motivation.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

After Dinner

Summer is here and I am going to try to post once a week. Yesterday eve was lovely and so rather than back shortbread for the strawberries, we rallied outside for a walk.

We headed down to the summer bridge site (not in yet; still waiting on the water drop) and decided to go canoeing. The canoes were still there from the teammates visit last weekend, so we flipped one over headed upstream toward the ford. Just past the willows and under a medium-sized ash, there is a deep excavation were the beavers have dug a den. It is hard to see up inside with the brightness out and the darkness in, but the claw marks of the beavers are scoured all across the margin with the water. Interestingly, there weren't any beaver sticks lying around. Maybe its otters instead. I'm still trying to sort out raccoon, otter and beaver tracks and these weren't full prints, so there was no way to tell.

Done with canoes, we headed over to Evening Sun Beach. Evening Sun just formed this past winter. The creek is always shifting and moving like a hose writhing across a lawn. This year it threw up a big, west-facing sand bar just above the giant logs the Forest Service put in to provide structure and salmon habitat. I hacked through the blackberries and we traipsed across the big logs to the beach. Lucie immediately undressed and started playing in the water. Helen and Opal began to explore underneath the logs. Mizu and I weeded canary grass. Opal got brave enough clamber on the logs by herself and realized she could jump the six feet down onto the sand without getting hurt. Helen sloughed off a chunk of bark to reveal a swarming ant colony. After they'd run off, she found a crawdad carcass/slough to poke with a stick. The stink determined it was a carcass.

Time for bed. On the way back across the pasture we stopped to swing on the rope swings hanging from the wedding tree. It was my turn to exercise, so Mizu put the girls to bed and I went for a bike ride. It was still a lovely evening, but the high point was watching a family of beavers for about ten minutes. There is a flat stretch in the road above our house where the creek and the road run parallel for a couple hundred yards. I love looking in the water at that stretch, particularly during salmon season because it is so easy to see into. Last night I was rewarded by three beavers just chilling. They spent about 80% of their time grooming, scratching, licking, rubbing. They had an incredibly human way of sitting on their haunches and scratching their chest with both front paws and an incredibly doggy way of scratching the side of their belly with their hind feet. (A fat, fat, fat dog.) They did a little snuggling and grooming of each other. They'd kind of circle hug in the water and gnaw gently on each other. They ate a little, mostly gnawing on sticks that I assumed were willow, but that Mizu who has also watched these beaver, thought were blackberries. I also saw them eating canary grass!

Then home. I made a Manhattan and read while Mizu worked.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pure gold on a cloudy day

All morning the kids had been playing pretty much on their own. I knew that it couldn't last forever, so the first time they came to me to play referee I fed them. The second time I sent them to get warm clothes on and hustled us outside.

I had a mission in mind. Having a mission in mind is a dangerous thing around here. Usually all my well-laid plans are twisted beyond recognition by the ruthless needs of the kids. I find I am better able to roll with the punches if I avoid all but the most amorphous plans. On this particular day, I am working hard to let go of my agenda when all of a sudden the kids begin running up the hill, yelling to me that they want to beat me to the skunk cabbage. I can't believe it! They have co-opted my plan and are running away with it. From that point on I am just along for the ride as they propel us from one spring wonder to the next. We hit all the special places I wanted to go to and it took no cajoling or bribery from me.

Here's a themed sampling of what we saw:

Skunk cabbage on the left

Johnny jump-up on the right

Daffodils at an old house site Crocuses on Japhy's memorial

Forsythia in the garden

I got my dose of golden color today, even without a glimpse of the sun. I was cheered by it and so were the kids. Here they are about halfway through our walk:

What I wasn't able to capture with a camera was just as cheery. Like the the way that Opal and Helen independently decided who got to carry the bouquet of grass that they were picking: They turned to each other with their hand behind their back, counted one-two-three and both brought out scissors. Again, paper this time. Finally, Opal threw paper and Helen scissors. Opal handed Helen the grass and they ran to catch up to Lucie and me.
Or Lucie sticking her head into a tiny culvert because Opal and Helen tell her she can crawl through because she is the littlest.
Or Opal and Helen carefully settling the snail that they unearthed into Opal's grass-lined pocket so that "no bird can see it to eat it". (I doubt the snail was very concerned with the dangers a hypothetical bird may pose as it was tossed about in a five-year-old's pocket.)

I'd like to remember this day.

Mizu's standard disclaimer, or "The pasta is probably a bit overdone and I think I undersalted the soup."

I've been recurrently thinking I'd like to post more often, but up to this point a mild frown and an "I'll work on that tomorrow evening" are as far as I've gotten. This kind of writing is always difficult for me--I get paralyzed by who may read it and will I offend anyone and should I say this or get the picture.

At the same time, there are many things each day that I would like to record and my shoddy memory does not seem to be up to the task. Somehow this format, with the ability to include picture, videos, and links, is more appealing than the rarely opened diary sitting beside my bed. Now I plan to throw caution to the winds (and if you believe that...) and will focus on writing about everyday things I want to remember--even if they will be yawn-inducing and even though I may cringe a bit as I hit the "Publish Post" button. Nobody has to read them, right?

If you do read them, I'm sorry for my lack of expertise with the formatting.....

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Monday Night Pizza

Yesterday we had a final, bonus edition of Monday Night Pizza. This would have been especially sweet if we had done it for this game, but instead it was this game and sour. Since our Dink Days back in Seattle, Mizu and I have made pizza Monday nights during football season. We started small making a mere two pizzas a night. We've gradually worked up to the point where a low-key, nuclear-family-only night is four pizzas and a big night might be eight. We've never gone as high as ten, but I imagine we'll get there some day.

Mizu makes the dough and I make the sauce. My years at Zeek's endowed me with a vision of how it should be done, so I usually do all the rolling, throwing, saucing, cheesing, topping and baking. This year, Opal and Helen have really taken an interest in it, so they usually make their own pizzas as well.

Traditionally, we start off with a plain cheese. It's the classic and it's the classic way to show off your sauce and dough. Also, it's the one pizza all three girls will eat and by the time it comes out they're usually grumpily hungry.

Then we get creative. Mizu and I love pepperoni and pineapple, but Pop and Kaki don't eat the pig and the girls think it's spicy, so we make that one only occasionally. Goat cheese, caramelized onions and roasted peppers is another favorite (made it last night) but most nights we just throw together whatever. The two best pizzas we made this season were Margie's Birthday Leftovers and German Christmas Leftovers from the last two weeks. Here are the recipes.

In General
Use Mizu's Dough. Roll and throw a pizza's worth. Put it on parchment paper and that on the paddle. That'll get it in and out of the oven easily. Use a pastry brush to spread a glistening of olive oil around the edge.

Margie's Leftovers
Take the leftover enchiladas out of the fridge. Eviscerate them and discard the tortillas and cheese. Spread the enchilada filling on the pizza like it was sauce. It'll be quite thick. Sprinkle on a thin layer of grated mozzarella. (Following the Zeek's mantra, I don't use very much cheese. It's just preference, though.) Top with red peppers and jalapenos. Bake. (See below.) Top with fresh chopped cilantro when done.

German Christmas Leftovers
Cook bacon. Drain, dice and set aside. Take leftover Swedish Meatball Gravy from the fridge. Spread on the pizza like sauce. Sprinkle on the mozzarella. Take the German Potato Salad from the fridge. Glop on pizza. Sprinkle bacon on pizza. Bake. (See below.) Top with fresh chopped parsley when done.

Bake the pizza on a pizza stone in an oven set as hot as possible. At 550, which is the max temp for most ovens, the entire cooking time will be 7-10 minutes depending on how many pizzas you've made, rest time between pizzas and how crispy you like the crust. At 3 or 4 minutes, when the crust has set up a bit, pull out the parch paper so the bottom will brown up. (Don't throw away the paper, you can reuse it 2-3 times.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Big Deadwood Ditto News!

A front page story in and about the Deadwood Ditto is one of the coolest things I've heard in a while. Our neighbor, Bill, donated his complete collection of Deadwood Dittos dating all the way back to 1976 to the Knight Library's Special Collection at the U of O.

It's amazing that Bill had the foresight and capacity to save thirty-five years of Dittos. I can't believe he willingly gave them up. People in the valley have been lusting after that collection for years and at least one person has offered to watch them "to keep them safe." It's really generous of Bill to give them up. Thanks, Bill! And the Knight Library wanted them. That's might be the coolest part of all.

Below is the first ever electronic edition of the Deadwood Ditto. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


…and two minutes later we were asleep.

It’s a Deadwood New Year’s tradition for the Kinney house (and now the Kinney-Burruss house) to host the Donut Party. There’ve been about 25 of them; the first one was sometime around 1984, but there hasn’t been a donut party every year. We make up some sweet dough, fire up the grease and make a huge cloud of black smoke accompanied by huge platters of donuts. In the past, the donuts have been mainly confined to powered sugar and cinnamon-sugar, but I really love a good glazed donut and there isn’t an American alive who doesn’t have a weakness for some kind of filling, whether it’s lemon curd, custard, chocolate or jam. We did all those this year.

Our process for making donuts is strange combination of baking bread, working at McDonald’s and tending bar. Mizu made the dough in the afternoon and set it in covered bowls by the stove to rise. At 630, she started cutting them out and laying them on boards for a second rising. Each batch (and we made eight) turns out about twenty donuts. There is a slight difference depending on the ratio of holes, rings and filled you make. While the first donuts were rising, I put four gallons of oil on the stove and sent it off toward 375 degrees. Once the oil was hot, we started dropping the plumped donuts in. They sank for the barest second and then rose again quickly to the surface where they floated palely, surrounded by a corona of bubbles and waited to be flipped. Flipped and then quickly out onto towels to dry. Once they’d cooled enough to handle, it was time to get them dressed up to serve. Easiest and fastest was to drop them into sacks of sugar (powered or cinnamon) and shake them up. Filling was easy, but slower and messier. I started by filling a cake-decorator-icing-piper-bag-thing with the lemon curd (or vanilla custard or raspberry jam or chocolate sauce) and then Van Helsing it into the donut. A quick squeeze on the bag and the donuts was ready to eat. Messiest and funnest are glazed donuts. To make those, I dumped the donuts into a tub of glaze and then set them aside to drip for a bare minute. Then I shook rainbow nibs or coconut or sesame seeds over the whole run of donuts. Last step for all of these was to dump them all onto a tray and send Opal trundling around giving them away.

At 1030, the donuts and most of the guests were gone. Helen, thenLucie and finally Opal had collapsed into bed leaving Mizu and myself with one small thing left to do…wash the dog.

One of the coolest things about living out here is seeing the salmon in the creek each fall. They’re huge and powerful and fill up our tiny creek with their thrashing and fighting and spawning. If you know anything about the salmon life cycle, you know that after they spawn, they die. After they die, they rot. Yesterday morning Panther’s friend Shadow appeared from way up creek. Like usual, they ran around, fought, played and explored. There was a special treat today, though. The creeks have been running crazy high for two weeks and a couple cold rainless days shrank them a good two feet. When the creek falls, it leaves things behind…things like dead salmon. Maybe someone, somewhere knows why dogs like to roll in dead things, but I don’t.

So Mizu and I took turns holding Panther down and pouring stuff on her while she writhed and fought. First water, then V8, then some scrubbing, then more water, then dish soap, then scrubbing, then more water, then more water. Did I mention it was raining and 34 degrees? Good times.

Finally showered and in bed, I looked at the clock. 11:51. “Mizu. Look at the clock.” “Yeah.” Pause. “I love ya, good night.” “Love you, too. Good night.”

Here’s the recipe:
2 packages yeast (2 Tsp)
¾ C milk
⅓ C sugar
¼ C shortening - room temp (Mizu used butter)
1 tsp salt
2 eggs – room temp
3 to 3½ C flour

Dissolve the yeast in warm milk and a bit of the sugar. After the blossoming, add the remaining sugar, the eggs and the butter. Mix mostly and then add 2 cups of the flour and the salt. As you beat, gradually add flour until you get to moderately soft dough. Turn out and knead until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball, grease and return to bowl for rising. After it has risen, punch it down and roll it out to ½ inch thickness. Cut with donut cutter and set on a floured board to rise again. (A real donut cutter is really nice. You can fake it, but it’s a pain in the ass.) Heat oil (the more the better so it doesn’t lose heat as you drop in the much colder dough) to 375 degrees. Drop the donuts in a few at a time and fry on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper and dress them up.