28 March 2015

bird confusion

similar yet decidedly different!
Oh my goodness - I had never heard of a Varied Thrush until today.  So the birds that I've often considered to be a darker variant on Oregon's state bird, the Western Meadowlark, is not a dark lark at all!  Live and learn..  The patterns are similar but beaks and backs are distinctly different.  And one wears a V-neck, the other a crew :^)

It could take a while to edit my many mis-birded posts, but the VT is the bird tossing leaves in our yard in search of lunch - Not the meadowlark.  Good thing I left Oregon before learning this.. and neither will be confused with our new state bird, the Goldfinch!

* nope, it sounds nothing like the Swainson's spiraling call, just a single note.  And since I've been hearing that call a lot in the past few weeks, I now know who makes it!  I should have heard it long before now.  Better late than never, I suppose.

18 March 2015

mid-March yard updates

In keeping with our vaguely Middle-Earth patterns, I planted a small holly shoot on each side of the driveway near its end; if you've been to the East-gates of Eregion you understand.. yes of course.  Two more grape vines are in as well, the Himrod and Gew├╝rtztraminer - so two each red and white are now in the ground for our future enjoyment.  Large posts can wait a few months before going up, at which point we shall see just how good or bad my estimated rhombus has turned out!  The plantings required that another rhododendron shift off the slope; this one came up to the crest and joins another at the foot of our most prominent maple-tree.

Another railroad tie from the too-tall wall has gone west to join the first one, so we have two fine low walls where once stood just one.  Cheap thrills from recycling!

We also picked up a 12-foot extendable pruning saw, with which I took out the remaining couple of low-hanging branches on the Super Cedar.  Whatever comes of our volcanic views, that tree will no longer be the reason for it.

It's nearly time to mow, but thankfully another storm is coming soon.  No point in cutting such a wet yard, so it can wait a bit longer.  Whew!

09 March 2015

that natural A/C again

I see Portland had two days of sunshine and 69°, quite impressive for early March.  Yesterday was wonderful up here in the hills, and Kelso airport had 72° - but today the marine clouds dropped in, burned off slowly and the west wind never quite failed.  The unlucky number was 63° - a fine day at the beach, but no ocean or salty smell - and no gulls in sight.

Which reminds me: Sunday afternoon during the Super Cedar's pruning we were treated to a Bald Eagle overflight for which I wasn't quite prepared.  Even without sharp focus it's pretty clear what's up there though!  The sun shining through the tail-feathers is a mighty good giveaway..

08 March 2015

a Hard Day's over-Work

This weekend I attacked the Super Cedar with vigor.. and a band-saw and a ladder.  I succeeded in severing several low-hanging branches that obscured our view, including four or five of the 5-inch-diameter sort.  That was hard work, especially ten feet or more off the ground!  My arms ache but the job was fairly well done.  Several of the larger branches broke off before the saw could finish which was definitely not ideal.  I pruned off the greenery and now have a decent pile of extra cedar for the next firewood season.

Our modified view with Rainier behind me & the bench, with
 St.Helens at right, behind other trees 

Later on Sunday, when the hardest work was done, I made the mistake of checking online for chainsaws.  I didn't want to do that since I have a small 2-stroke model already - but it refused to start after several sessions, and it was clearly designed for right-hand starting.  Sure enough, Harbor Freight Tools was having a tent sale - and an electric model with 14" bar was up for a mere $48 and a smidge of tax.  I dropped by and found they had just two left, so I took one home.  I did know better than to attack the 7-inch limb with a band saw, so there's still a little work to be done.  Sadly a few thin and annoying limbs are on the steep downslope behind the Super Cedar, where a ladder can find little to stand on and nothing to lean on - so a few branches will await a different technology.  Maybe a lasso and limb pruner?

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
An interesting side note: when counting peaks from right to left I've always seen St.Helens, Mt.Margaret, the Goat Rocks and Rainier.  Today however a new snowy peak appeared between the latter two, a long ridge covered with snow.  Considering the poor snowpack this year, that peak had to be pretty high up!  My best triangulation efforts suggest it's Mt.Aix, just over 94 miles away as Google flies; it's 7760' or so and shows a long ridgeline on the topo maps that would look as the mystery peak does from our vantage.  Other less-likely candidates appear nearby such as Bismarck Peak but that should present steeper sides than what we are seeing.  Interesting find!
Mt. Aix just beyond & east of Rainier

06 March 2015

yardwork and rework

A low wall of railroad ties struck me as a bit odd ever since our first visit, seeing as it was one tie taller than necessary.  This week I removed the top row and repurposed them: the shorter one is now a step below the wall while the longer one is a new retaining-wall elsewhere in the yard!

The larger task is the high deck.  I realigned the support posts so that the west side is fully enclosed, and now one post stops at a fine place for the deck to drop 18-30 inches (more? Less?) so it can be accessed from the yard.  While it will be easy enough to cut the floorboards, I expect the support structure will be a bit more resistant to my efforts.. :√)

And then it's on to something I have not done in ages..more precisely 1970 or earlier.  That was the year Portland redrew its borders and we became city folk, and suddenly our fire barrel was illegal.  Plenty of debris fires out here in the sticks!  I already have a decent collection of boughs and branches, but one more contribution awaits, courtesy of our SuperCedar.  I need to trim up its branches six feet or more to allow more light for grapes and to improve our view to the east.  I have yet to bring the chainsaw to life but these branches will fall to the bow saw if need be.  The result will be a larger burn pile, a more spacious feel to the yard.. and plenty of upper-body aches!