Days of the Falling Trees

Our recent experiences have reminded us that the law of gravity is in full effect here in Oregon.  Earlier this month, we drove out to a Christmas tree farm to cut down a lovely tree for our holiday festivities.  We found one (for only $10!) and brought it home.

By the time we reached our house we decided that those trees look a lot smaller on the tree farm.  Maybe it’s because the air is clearer out there, or something.  In Jenelle’s words, "This is a big tree!  Do you think it will fit in our house?"  Well, it did.  We are grateful that we have vaulted ceilings.  Jenelle named it Fluffy.

A few days later, a huge windstorm swept across Oregon.  At the coast winds reached almost 100 mph, and winds of about 60 mph lashed the Portland area.  That night, Jonathan was standing outside their house (Why was he outside?  We’ll leave that to your imagination.) when he witnessed a tree across the street bend over farther, and farther, and farther, until it collapsed on a neighbor’s house.  The house was damaged, but fortunately no one was hurt.

The next day the wind stopped, but other trees in the area had heard about what went on during the storm.  Our poor Fluffy showed himself susceptible to these influences when on a Saturday evening he decided to fall over onto Jenelle!!!  Fortunately, Jenelle was all right and only a few ornaments were broken.  Next year we plan to suspend our Christmas tree from the ceiling.

The Last Days of Summer

With the days here growing rainier and colder, thoughts turn to the end of summer, when Jenelle and Jonathan ventured south to California to visit the Redwood National and State Parks. (The original plan was to visit Yellowstone, but that is another story. Maybe one that will happen next year.)

They drove down to the parks on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and set up camp. Within minutes, one of the early highlights of the trip occurred when Jenelle invented the Double Stuff Chocolate Oreo S’more. But the culinary wonders did not stop there as they experimented with their new Dutch oven. By the end of the trip, they were producing things that Jonathan thought he would never eat on a camping trip, including pizza and apple/cherry pie.

During their stay of four days and four nights, they saw wildlife, wildflowers and (of course) really, really big wild trees. They also visited Fern Canyon, a canyon with vertical walls that are covered with ferns. During the hikes they went on, they noticed that many of the groves were named after people (presumably ones who had money to donate to the park). Jenelle and Jonathan started thinking that it would be great to have a Vance Grove in the park. As they were driving home on Wednesday, they happened upon just such a place, named after an early pioneer in the area.

Update: Here’s a link to a panorama shot that I couldn’t upload into the photo site (for unknown reasons).

Need some good reading?

Jonathan is pleased to announce that his first patent application has been published.  It was filed in March 2005, a few months after Jonathan started his job, and was published this month after the usual 18-month delay.  It describes a system for calibrating moisture detection equipment used in lumber kilns.
This is only the published application — the Patent Office hasn’t looked at it yet to decide if it should be issued as a patent.  Jonathan is currently applying his extensive golf expertise to a patent application for a putter. . . .

The Other Film Suggestion #1

“What?” you say.  “A film suggestion from someone who doesn’t own a TV?”  Why yes, thanks to the modern miracle of DVDs, we occasionally watch a movie on our computer.

I would like to recommend Winged Migration, a film about the great journeys that birds make every year.  It covers birds from all over the world, showing some very funny birds in Oregon and a healthy dose of penguin footage.  Much of the film was shot while literally flying with the birds themselves.  It will make you do a double-take the next time you see a flock flying south for the winter.

Birthday on the Trail

Jenelle and Jonathan spent three days last week hiking the Eagle Creek Trail in the Columbia River Gorge. They had been on the first 6 miles of this trail several times before, but a yearning to carry heavy things on their backs caused them to plan a trip all the way to Wahtum Lake at the end of the trail (and then back, of course — you can’t stay at Wahtum Lake forever).

They resolved to set off on this 26.6-mile journey early Thursday afternoon, but one thing let to another, and they didn’t get to the trailhead until 4:45 that evening. So, they hiked in a few miles and made camp at a site on Eagle Creek.

The next day was a very special day — Jessica’s Birthday Eve, a.k.a. Jenelle’s Birthday. Not just any birthday, but the Big Three-O. (Some of our acquaintances would find this hard to believe, since they tell Jenelle she looks so young.) They celebrated with a candle-studded carrot cake muffin. That day they hiked and hiked, passing beautiful waterfalls, steep cliffs, peaceful forests, and sunlit groves. They pondered how much more pleasant backpacking can be in good weather. Late that afternoon, they reached the end of the trail at lovely Wahtum Lake and then made camp near a creek a few miles back on the trail.

Their third and final day was uneventful, though breakfast was cut short when the stove ran out of fuel in the middle of the first pancake. (Jonathan needs to learn to conserve fuel. Or just bring more.) Afterward, they went home, cleaned their gear, and treated their blisters.

Pictures are available here. We hope you enjoy them — Jonathan has said that he isn’t taking a camera with a heavy zoom lens backpacking again.

Return of the Critters

It was a ripping, munching sound that tore at Jenelle’s dreams early one morning. She opened a sleepy, tax-return weary eye and looked out the window. There they were on the lawn, big, furry, hungry animals, black with white accent — the skunks had returned.

But these weren’t skunks . . . instead, they were racoons looking for grub-munching goodness.

Racoons and skunks and grubs, oh my! She woke up Jonathan, and he got out the camera.
Apparently, the racoons were social animals, with one big racoon accompanying several little ones. They soon realized that they were being watched, and they made racoon sounds and soon became as curious about us as we were about them. Before long they were only inches from our bedroom window. The younger ones seemed to be the most curious.

Fine Art in the Vance House

A number of years ago, Jenelle took a watercolor painting class at BYU.  Over the course of a summer term, she painted several lovely scenes that now grace the walls of our living room.  More recently, Jenelle also learned to cut mats for these paintings.  Jonathan’s contribution was pounding nails into the wall. . . .

Caught Red-Handed

Jonathan did. By moonlight. And porchlight. The biggest black animal with a white stripe you have ever seen. As he was returning to bed after a trip to the bathroom, Jonathan’s keen sense of hearing detected the faint clawing, ripping, and shredding of what is left of our backyard lawn – thanks to our partially opened window. My keen sense of hearing woke me from a deep sleep as I heard him carefully opening the blinds on our bedroom window. He was staring intently out the window, the full moon casting an eerie shadow over the hedges. I got out of bed quietly (since the window was open). We could hear the unmistakable rip of the grass and see a large black shape where the sound was coming from. It was surprising how big the lump of shadow was. It scurried to a new spot on the lawn and then we saw it. The unmistakable white stripe. It was a skunk! Jonathan took a chance and turned on the back porch light. The skunk was undeterred and continued its grub munching frenzy. It seemed to tire easily of its current feast and move to a complete new part of the lawn versus just down the pocked lawn a bit. Perhaps it had already eaten the grubs in that area on its previous trips. I tried to follow its movements out of one window while Jonathan readied the camera. Without warning, he snapped the shutter, but the skunk I was watching was no where near his field of vision. It was then we realized there were really two skunks working their 4 am havock! A big black and white grub-eating polecat Thanksgiving – right in our back yard! So that’s what ate my tomatoes and dug up the flowers! It’s disturbing to think how many grubs must be wiggling in the grass to keep the critters coming back. The lawn is a mass of grass clumps, dead and dried, thrown carelessly next to neat little holes. Did you know they can inflict their oily foul-smelling stuff 15 feet? We didn’t open the door. Though I suggested it – they were intriguing. Jonathan remained more clearheaded in the wee hours and reminded me of this minor factor.

After the reality of 4 am sank in, we called it quits shortly after this, went to bed and resumed our sleep, albeit dreaming of black and white stripes and grub annihilation.

The Fairbankses Visit

Jenelle’s parents spent the weekend with us here in Oregon.  A good time was had by all, though I think we wore them out enough that they were glad to go back to regular life and recover from their vacation.  Highlights included:

  • Silver Falls State Park
  • Powell’s City of Books
  • Crown Point in the Columbia River Gorge
  • Larch Mountain and its view of the surrounding peaks