Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wednesday not-wordage

Just about every major intersection in Eugene is graced by a scruffy gentleman with a couple of backpacks or a shopping cart, standing and holding a cardboard sign saying something along the lines of "DISABLED UNEMPLOYED VET HOMELESS EVERY BIT HELPS JESUS LOVES."  Well, I drove through Eugene yesterday--only got lost once, personal best--and there at the intersection of Destitution and Performance Art was a scruffy gentleman with a couple of backpacks, holding his empty hands in front of him, miming holding a cardboard sign. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wednesday Wordage

What's the common thread?
a) Cryptobranchus alleganiensis
b) Eptatretus stoutii
c) Fuligo spp.
d) Okra

Highlight for answer:  C. alleganiensis is the hellbender salamander, aka "snot otter," E. stoutii is the Pacific slime hag, Fuligo is a slime mold, and Okra is, well, okra.  There was an article on the radio today that used the term snot otter, and I just love it. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ugh. (updated)

What better way to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Kursk than with an epic tank battle?

So, among the relics left on our property by the previous owners, there is this big tank.  In this old picture, it's there beneath the oak tree, eight or nine feet tall. 

Moving it, or dealing with it in any way, has not been a priority.  True, it hasn't been in the way, and it's big and heavy and awkward.  The real reason I haven't bothered with it, though, is that when you get near it, you start smelling something that is unidentifiable and unpleasant--not quite corpse, not quite spoilage, not quite bog, but definitely not good.  Tapping on the side seemed to indicate at least a few inches there.  The top was open, so rain and leaves, and perhaps the occasional curious animal could easily get in, but not get out.  And so it had been, for at least two cycles of sodden winter and baking summer.

Unfortunately, this week, it became necessary to shift the monster.  It took a tractor to tip the darn thing over, and the tractor was working hard.  The sludge inside didn't pour out, but needed considerable help with a hoe to come out.

It is left to the reader's imagination to supply the sound effect that the substance made as it exited the tank and hit the growing pile.  What exactly was in there? As expected, a goodly amount of tree matter, and what may have been a rodent, but the bulk of it was...


The previous owners of the property, before they quit, ran cattle on the main field, and they liked to use molasses as a feed supplement.  So, what I was scooping out of the tank was a savage, feral sort of spiced rum--fermented molasses, barrel-aged, with vegetable additives.  As with the sound effect, describing the odor is likewise left to the reader's imagination. 

At the bottom of the tank, giving further evidence of the monster's contents, were many chunks of rock sugar.

I suppose I could take them to the farmers' market and hawk them as healing crystals, or maybe naturally flavored candy.  Anyway, the tank has left the field of battle, and now the goats can move in. 

Update--after spending most of an afternoon trying to clean molasses spluge out of a grassy field, I think it would have been more appropriate (if anniversaries were important) to have done this on January 15th.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Flora Littoral/litter edition

Some sand verbena (Abronia latifolia), Oregon Dunes. 

A lovely day at the dunes a week or so ago.  The dunes are a most interesting ecosystem--it seems you always find fascinating ecosystems in crappy environments, and a sand dune is a pretty crappy environment for a plant.  The beach is also of interest, at low tide it's flat and well over a hundred meters from dunes to water. 

This being a Pacific coast beach in 2013, there was plenty of garbage to be picked up.  I hiked out with thirty pounds of fishing float and styrofoam and nylon rope on a stick, carried like a yoke.  Brother M. & sweetie carried crammed-full knapsacks and bags of plastic bottles from Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.  The beach is lovely, but it is so hard to see all the debris we have put there and not think of this.  Warning--link will make you feel very, very bad. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tuesday Tool... in, "tooling around on my bike."  Both the Real Doctor and I have had a hard time getting into really good riding shape over the last few years--work getting crazy, or moving, or starting a farm, or health, or my parents' health, it seems like we'll start riding regularly and then something will blow up just as we start getting into shape.  Then, after two months of dealing with the crisis du jour, we're back to wheezing through a flat, twenty mile ride and feeling awful.

Well, we're riding more regularly now and have been for the last couple of months.  We certainly can't use the excuse that there's no place to ride.  Here's some pictures from a ride out our door.  At twenty five miles with a bit of climbing, it's a bit long to be quotidian, but short enough to do a couple of times a week.

A couple of miles of riding on Hwy 138 takes us over a ridge, and puts us in the valley of the North Umpqua river.  There's a bit of flat land in the river valley at this point, with some nice farms; the hills in the background are on the other bank, rising to Mt. Scott and four thousand something feet.
 Our ride goes along the North Umpqua for a few miles; we don't need to cross, but the view from the bridge is nice.  This is looking east, up the river towards Crater Lake.
 And, looking west.  The river's kind of low, now, with the dry year.  In winter, it's a couple of meters higher.  The river flows across sedimentary mudstones, giving a very corrugated bed.
 We follow the river to the town of Glide, and the landmark "Colliding Rivers."  The mudstone is cut here by a sill of basalt.  The North Umpqua flows in from the background of this picture, running along the sill; the Little River, having run into the same sill, flows in from the lower right of this picture.  The two rivers collide head-on, and flow out through a narrow chasm at the center left of this picture.  In flood, it's a remarkable sight.  Our ride leaves the Umpqua, and goes up the Little River for a mile or two.  Not shown:  a couple of ospreys. 
 We've left the Little River, and are riding up a tributary creek.  The road climbs easily but steadily, through some beautiful farmland.  This is looking back towards the Little River...
 ...and this is looking ahead, to what we'll be climbing over. 
 The climb steepens considerably, requiring the next-to-lowest gear for a half mile or so; this is looking back, but you can't really see how steep it is. 
 Here's right near the summit.  There's a false summit, a short, fast descent, and then another climb to the real summit.  It's right about here, on the descent between peaks, that a yellow jacket flew up my shorts (I was riding a recumbent, wearing baggy shorts) and stung me on the butt.  Hazards of riding.
 Once over the top, there's a couple of miles of lovely downhill and views.  Not shown: the border collie rounding up a herd of sheep, its owner whistling commands. 
 An inescapable part of the view in Oregon is that the economy is still largely based on extractive industries.  A lot of the greenery one sees on the hills is stuff that has been clear-cut and then replanted with monoculture.  If you're just tooling along, it's hard to tell the difference--treetops look like treetops, no matter the age--unless you have some way of telling that they're only a couple of meters tall.  Or, you can see a clear cut. 
 The end of the descent drops into another beautiful valley with nice farms; here's looking back to where we rode from, the left background of the photo.  Not shown: drivers waving at you.  Just about every driver waves, which is disconcerting if you come from California where you typically get other hand gestures. 
 This is looking ahead.  If we kept going straight, this road would join a larger creek and go straight into downtown Roseburg in six or seven miles.  However, we're going to go right--to the north--at the base of that brown hill on the right. 
 Here's a view of where we'll be going--we're going to ride up and over that brown, grassy ridge. 
 This is the view from the base of that ridge, looking back.  The blackberries are starting to come into season!
 Riding up the ridge, one is treated to another nice view of another nice valley.  This is a gated road; it used to service a timber mill, which is now closed down--another drawback to extractive economies is that they collapse.  However, it's a nice (though not maintained) road and has no traffic.  Not shown are the lazuli buntings and goldfinches. 
 We've crested the ridge, and we're looking back at it in the center left of the picture.  Riding the gated road has spared us riding up Hwy 138, the large (and relatively busy) road in the center of the picture. 
 Here we're looking forward from the same spot.  We'll continue on Hwy 138.  Two miles of downhill will take us into that valley, right to our driveway.  A nice ride. 
  As the Real Doctor has pointed out, it's nice to live in a place you wouldn't mind vacationing.  I hope we can keep riding more.  We don't have a lot of riding options from our door, but they are all nice--I'll try to put up more pictures of other rides later.  Maybe in the spring, when things green up a bit more.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wednesday Wordage context is everything edition

I often find myself marveling at where I am and how different it is from my previous life.  Two years ago, had you told me "You will spend an afternoon assembling a creep panel, and then you'll spend a chunk of the next day rueing," I would be a bit confused.  I'd probably come to the conclusion that, for some reason, I'd decided to form a committee of the weirdest people I knew for some reason, and that I'd later experience some regret.

Now, I know better.  A creep panel does not invite perverts; rather, it's a panel in a fence that excludes adult animals, but allows lambs or kids to creep through to some high-calorie food.  My former self would refer to it as a 0.2 m filter, cellulose.  And "rueing" or "rooing" (spellings vary) is not at all unpleasant; rather, it's kind of relaxing and leaves both parties involved feeling better.  Under certain conditions--a hot spell combined with the nutritional demands of nursing, or simply the change of season, can cause a sheep's hair follicles to just let go of the hair, with the result that great chunks of wool can simply be pulled off, or rued.  Rooing is as therapeutic as peeling sunburn, and it leaves the sheep feeling much less itchy.