Monday, December 24, 2007

Snow on Christmas Eve

Walking at Wilson Springs, near our house. It started to snow in earnest just as we were leaving.

The veg garden under snow.

Winter in the desert.

Hard to believe there'll be daffodils there in a few months.

I'm cold! Let's go in now!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Winter evening musings

This is a picture of Solstice morning 2006. Listening to Malinky's 'Three Ravens' CD. I like Karine Polwart's clear, flexible voice, and the low whistle. My favorite is the last song on the CD, 'Follow the Heron', a song for singing in mid-winter, to help you remember Spring is already on the way.

'The back of the winter is broken
And light lingers long by the door.
The seeds of the summer have spoken
In gowans that bloom on the shore.'

We're coming up on the longest night next weekend. Solstice is a special night for us, our true anniversary. Not sure I'll be awake til sun-up, but we may get close.

So, while I heartily recommend Malinky if you like Scottish traditional music, I have to say I am not as happy with a CD I just got this week, Allison Crowe's 'Tidings'. It has Christmas carols, but I bought it for the Leonard Cohen song, 'Hallelujah'. I really like the melody, and his words. However, I really don't like Crowe's voice. It's got a harsh quality to it that I find irritating, and she really over-acts the songs. I'm sorry if there are Allison Crowe fans out there that don't agree. It's just my personal preference. Maybe someone I know likes her and I can give it away. But now I need to find another recording of 'Hallelujah' that I like. In particular, I'm looking for the version that was used on a West Wing episode.

Hubby is off playing fiddle at his contra-dance gig, and I'm somewhat annoyed with myself for not going. I probably would have like it fine, but I guess I needed some alone time. So I roasted the pumpkins for the pies I'm making for the Solstice party, wrote the Christmas letter, and made some mailing labels. Did a lot of cleaning today as well, getting ready to put up the tree in the morning.

We have a lot of food to prepare next Saturday, in spite of the fact that it's a pot luck! We're doing a turkey, hubby's (in)famous oyster stuffing (can you believe it, not everyone likes oysters!!), mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, date-walnut cookies, Kourabeides cookies, and mulled cider. With all the amazing things other people bring, it's usually quite a feast. We're hoping for a good jam session as well.

There was a good article published in our local paper last week, about getting back to a simpler celebration of the holidays;
This is my favorite time of year for many reasons; I love traditional holiday music, winter weather, chosing gifts for people I love, and good times with friends and family. But the excessive consumerism, the stress over getting the latest and trendiest gifts, seeing Christmas things in the stores before Thanksgiving - none of that is what the holiday is about.

I hope you and yours are able to celebrate this season the way you love best.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nearly Christmas!

An inch of snow on Monday brought traffic to a halt all over the valley. I'm so glad I have a job that lets me to choose when and where I go. I was able to stay home until the snow had melted off the roads. It’s been very cold this week, not getting much above 32F. So even though Monday’s snow melted off the roads and sunnier areas, it’s still hanging around in the shadows, including on our front deck. More fell tonight, but only a sugar-dusting.

We’re getting ready for our big Solstice party next weekend. It could be a big crowd this year – eek! So this weekend I’m cleaning and baking. Hubby is playing a music gig on Saturday night, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to go, unless I get most of the cleaning done. On Sunday morning we’ll put up the tree, then I plan to spend at least half the day baking cookies. These are a family favorite, Kourabeides. They’re like Mexican Wedding Cakes, but take 45 minutes in the oven, which makes them really melt-in-your-mouth. The long baking time also means it takes a while to do a double batch, which is usually what I need.

Last Saturday I made two evergreen wreaths, one for us and another for my sister. I cut three kinds of juniper and some wild rose hips, and wired them onto dried grapevine wreath forms. One juniper grows wild in the area. It has lots of bluish berries on spreading stems, so I use that around the edge. Another is darker green with berries, so I put that in the middle, then fronds of a grayish-blue low-growing one as an inner ring. The rose hips I put at intervals around the ring. I hadn’t used the dried grapevine forms before this year, but they worked well. I also bought fake cardinal birds to wire on as an accent. They turned out pretty nice, if I do say so! For ours, I bought a set of battery-powered LED white lights to wrap around it.

My sister and I spent most of last Sunday at her house, baking the other favorite family cookie, date-walnut-spice cutouts. Hubby came along and watched a movie while keeping my sister’s 2 ½ year old busy. We enjoy making them, but the process can be a bit fraught. As soon as you’ve got the cookies off the baking sheet, one person has to be ready to spread the icing, and someone else has to shake the colored sprinkles on before the icing sets. At least those cookies only take 8-10 minutes in the oven, so you get through a double batch pretty quickly.

Our last Scottish Country Dance class of 2007 was Monday night. Everyone brought goodies and we danced to Christmas carols played by an accordion band on a new CD I bought. It was lots of fun. I think the class is doing really well. We’ve added some great new folks this Fall, and I hope they continue to come to class. It seems a long time until we start up again – January 28! That’s because most of January is taken up with rehearsals for the big Burns Night dinner we perform at every year. This year it’s at the Riverside Doubletree Inn, where hubby and I spent our wedding night. They have a wonderful ballroom – so it should be quite a special evening – I hope!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Fox in the Duck House

This is our vegetable garden under the first snow of the season, in early November.

Well, my last duck is gone. Hubby went out on Tuesday morning and found...nothing. We're assuming it was a fox.

After the first attack we fortified all around the pen with small sheets of 1/4" plywood, weighed down with logs from the woodpile, and a piece of fencing. We figured whatever it was couldn't dig under all of that again. We missed a small foot-wide area where the plastic kiddie pool sits inside the pen, figuring the attacker couldn't fit between the fence and the pool if he dug under there. Wrong. That's where he got in. It wasn't a big hole, so we're even more certain it was a fox, rather than a dog. Kind of amazing he got the duck through that hole, actually. We also think a dog, stray or otherwise, would have made more noise. Once again none of us, including our poodle, heard anything from inside the house. Aside from some small dog-like prints in the fresh dirt, there's no other proof.

It's sad to think of my pretty black Cayuga drake getting dragged off by a fox. He must have been scared. But I'm more ok with the thought it was a fox, rather than a dog. After all, the fox has to eat, just like any other honest predator. It would be more annoying if it were a loose dog with no urgent reason to take a duck, other than amusement. Especially since a dog would be fed regularly.

Out of the six ducklings we brought home in May 2006, we got two for meat. The females were good layers at least. We had to give away some of the eggs during the summers, since we couldn't keep up with eggs from five chickens and two ducks. So, I guess we got some value out of them.

Next year I'm hoping to get some rare breed chickens, Wyandottes and Polish, if it works out. I want some Guinea fowl as well. We'll have to do some preparation though. The two species can get along ok in the same large pen where we keep the chickens now, but I want to make some changes in there to protect them from foxes. Guinea fowl will roost in trees, but they have to learn their territory first. And to do that, I've read, you need to keep them cooped at night for about 6-8 weeks after you get them. It may be that we have to put the coop on stilts or something. We'll have to think about it.

Other than that, it's been a good weekend. We went to a local St. Andrews dinner on Friday, and then to an early Christmas party on Saturday night. Today we took my step-son out to do porcelain painting. I've only done that once before. It's fun enough, but I've never found that my pieces turn out as good as I think they will. He enjoys it though, so that's ok.

We're hoping for some snow tonight. They've predicted a foot of snow tonight in the mountains nearby, so the ski areas will be happy. But I'd like a little bit here too.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

It's been a busy weekend here. We had seven people over, ending up with 10 of us at the table. All three of hubby's children were there, along with my sister and her daughter, various housemates, and our grandchild. You can barely see the top of his head on the left side of the picture.

It's a good thing my husband's had lots of practice cooking turkey. With contributions from guests, we had turkey, three kinds of stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, green salad, and made-from scratch pumpkin pie.

I used some kind of small, green-skinned winter squash for the pies this year. Not sure which variety, but they had a lot more water in them than the small pumpkins I've used before. After a few tragic attempts in the past at cooking pumpkin from scratch, using boiling, microwave steaming and stove-top steaming, I finally found oven roasting works best. The last thing you want to add to fresh pumpkin is more water. It's hard enough to get rid of enough of the liquid already in there. So I squeezed what I could out of these after roasting the halves. The eventual mixture was a bit more liquidy than I like, but the pies really set well during cooking and the filling didn't split after it cooled.

His oldest daughter, her son, her housemate, and their dog were here all weekend. It was a busy, noisy house these past few days. We had sunny, if freezing weather, so at least we could go outside. My poodle and the Shih Tzu puppy they brought got along well enough, thank goodness, even if our cat was emphatically not thrilled with a second dog in the house. He spent a lot of time outside when he wasn't perched on the highest piece of furniture he could find.

The only black mark of this long weekend was Thursday morning, when we discovered a stray dog or dogs had attacked the duck enclosure. There were large holes dug all around the pen, and IN the pen, so somehow this dog, or whatever it was, got into the pen, chased the ducks and managed to run off with the two females. Probably more than one dog, since they got two ducks. The lone male, my beautiful black Cayuga, has been limping around very quietly ever since. Were these strays, or just a pair that got loose that night and stumbled on our ducks? Why didn't we hear the quacking, as we have so often before for lesser disturbances? If they weren't strays, we wonder what the dogs' owners must have thought that morning when their dogs came home covered in dirt and possibly duck blood and feathers? We haven't found any chewed up carcasses anywhere. It's very mysterious, and shocking. We're relatively sure it wasn't foxes or coyotes, as we haven't seen any in the area. But we really have no idea.

At any rate, the chickens and the duck are due for butchering this winter. The chickens are over four years old and their egg production has really dropped off. It's hard to justify buying their food when there's no return on it. The male duck may still be young enough that he'll make a reasonable dinner, so we'll give that a try. Next year we may try a mix of rare breed chickens and guinea fowl. We'll see.

Anyway, aside from that, we had a good Thanksgiving. There are so many things to be thankful for, I can't possibly name them all, but my husband and family, good friends both near and far away, a job I like, the time to pursue our interests, and good health are all near the top of the list.

Blessings of the season to you and yours.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Asilomar review

We had a wonderful time at Asilomar Scottish Country Dance Workshop last weekend. I remember going to Asilomar Retreat Center when I was a young, for church retreats. The main things I remember clearly are sitting in Merrill Hall looking up at the high wood-beamed ceiling, and going to the beach. Lots of things have changed, but Asilomar beach is still wonderful, even in November.

It was good to see some old friends again after so long. I last went to this event in 1992, so I didn't really expect a lot of people to be there that I'd know. Or if they were, I didn't expect them to remember me! Happily, an old friend, one of my bridesmaids from my first wedding, was there. I haven't seen her since about 1995. It was good to re-connect and catch up a bit on our lives. We've both been through a lot since we last saw each other.

There's lots going on at this workshop. There's a welcome dance on Friday night, and an after-party, of course. Our group had chosen to be in the party dorm, so our common room was the center of activity until 3:00 or 4:00 am. I went to bed at midnight.

Saturday morning was taken up with dance classes. I was put in the Advanced Technique class. It was good, but I wouldn't say we were worked as hard or challenged as much as I'd expected. My seven Idaho compatriots were spread between three other classes of different levels and they felt the same. We all thought there were people in our groups who perhaps should not have been there. But it's a very difficult task to categorize dancers when you haven't seen all of them dance. So no surprise if some (who knows, maybe us!) were misplaced, I guess.

Saturday afternoon was mostly open. Finally time to go to the beach! A bunch of us went down and walked through the coming evening’s dances. And of course we paddled in the surf. Ice cold water is great on sore feet. Mine barely hurt at all afterwards.

The other Idaho dance teacher and I went to the Teacher's Reception before dinner. We're so isolated from every other SCD class in the country (the closest is 345 miles away), it's important to network as much as we can. I keep trying to recruit other teacher friends to come out to Idaho, do some rafting or hiking, and teach our Monday night class. It would be good for our dancers to experience other teachers. About half of them have never had another teacher.

The Saturday Ball was wonderful. I danced at least 80% of the program, which I don’t often get to do because my feet hurt, but so many of the dances were really great. I've included a picture of Merrill Hall to show the banners and other decorations. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves - at least six dances were repeated by request from the floor. Afterwards was a ceilidh, then the after-party/musician's jam in our dorm's common room.

The ceilidh was nice, but it didn't seem as enthusiastically supported as I remember from before. Maybe it was just an off year.

A fair amount of musicians are hired for this kind of weekend. Aside from two evening dances, there are six different classes on Saturday, running concurrently, and all of them need two class musicians. So we had Andy Imbrie, John Taylor, Lyle Ramshaw, the three members of Terpsichore, Janet Kurnik, and Mike Hird. And most of them came to the party/jam after the ceilidh, as well as a few others who'd brought their instruments. It was amazing. This was when I was really wishing my husband had been able to come. He would have loved joining in with his fiddle.

Sunday morning we had all of those same musicians up on stage for the combined class in Merrill Hall. What a great sound. We learned some fun dances that were interesting but not overly-complicated, to allow for our sleep-deprived brains. In fact, we remembered two of those dances well enough to bring them home for our Idaho class.

Now I’m back at home and well into preparations for the holidays. We’ll have a small crowd for Thanksgiving, then there’s the Solstice Party in December, so I want the house to look clean and tidy. We had the carpets steam-cleaned yesterday. They may be old (circa 1970’s) but they’re good quality and cleaned up very well! Our bedroom carpet looks so much brighter now. And of course, once we moved things out of the way for the cleaners, the rooms looked so much tidier and open, we couldn’t face putting it all back. So we’ve spent today sorting and throwing things away. Less is the new more!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

November Already?!

Happy All Saints Day to everyone. Gee, November? How'd that happen? Halloween was quiet for us. We never get any kids here, since we're on a hill and surrounded by older families.
Sure enough, previous experience held and we had a good frost last night. It really feels like proper winter now.

For the past three weeks we've been working out more at the local Rec Center, and I can feel it. We walk a mile on the indoor track and then do some weights. I hate lifting weights. I wouldn't go on my own. But my husband likes it, and there are no exercise classes in the early morning when we go, so I do it along with him. I used to be soooo conscientious about exercising in my 20's and 30's. I was in much better shape then too. I think getting married and owning a house really started the downward slide. Anyway, it's satisfying to feel fitter again, and the good feedback helps me keep going. It makes all the other physical things I do easier as well, like Aikido and Scottish dance.

In fact, I'm off to Asilomar, CA, tomorrow morning for a Scottish dance weekend. This is one of the most popular SCD weekends in the western U.S. It takes place in an early 1900's retreat center built right on the beach north of Monterey. You can walk out of your dormitory and onto the beach boardwalk along the shore. Most of the attendees are from California, but there are also people from Oregon, Washington, B.C. Canada, various other states, and this time there'll be 8 of us from Idaho!

The forecast is for mid 70's F. all weekend, with sun, a change from here! Hope I haven't packed too many warm clothes. My summer shorts are all in boxes now! Figures. I haven't been to this particular event since 1992, before my first marriage. It will be interesting to see how many people I know, and how many of them remember me.

Anyway, it's been a busy few weeks since I last posted. My parents were in town for two weeks. They helped us fix the carport roof, got us a dishwasher, and installed a new toilet in the master bath. Basically our Christmas presents a few months early. It's soooo nice to have a dishwasher again. Hubby is still getting used to it, as he's never had one. But I am thrilled!!

The garden is pretty much over, though I've had a few late raspberries. This recent frost has probably done them in now. Still haven't dug up any potatoes, but that will be soon. My husband harvested the gourds. There's a whole army of them drying in the living room. One really is as big as a beachball. The others are more normal, basketball-size or smaller.

So, early day tomorrow. More soon.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Less Stuff

We’ve been getting rid of things. It’s always harder than you expect, especially if you’re at all sentimental or have pack-rat tendencies. Both terms fit me. And, surprisingly, my husband falls into those categories as well. Never thought I’d marry another pack-rat.

Acknowledging you have a problem is the first step towards solving it. So this past year we’ve been going through old boxes of stuff; old clothes, old papers, old photos, books, old school work. And then there are the odds and ends of computer paraphernalia and electronic trinkets, like obsolete computer towers and keyboards, a parallel port flatbed scanner, various cables, multiple-end jacks, a headset for verbal IM-ing, floppy disks, a top-of-monitor webcam w/ cables and software, old games I never play. Some of these things I don’t want to put out on garbage day – there are hazardous materials in there. I know there are organizations in town that take them and remove the bad stuff, but that means I need to find the business card I picked up from a booth on Earth Day. I know it’s around here somewhere….

We really have made progress, thank goodness! Our bedroom is actually pretty big, but until recently almost half of it was taken up with boxes of stuff I packed up before I went to Korea in July ’02! I’ve lived in this house since April ’05, and still haven’t unpacked everything. Partly because my husband has had to get rid of some of his things so I’d have room to put mine away, and partly because going through all that old stuff is NOT a job I’ve been looking forward to. He’s been steadily throwing away his old stuff for the past year, and has made great progress. Now it’s my turn.

Last weekend I went through four or five boxes of old clothes, old papers and old computer stuff. When you haven’t seen something for two years and haven’t missed it, it’s not hard to give away or toss – unless there’s some sentimental value to it. Those are the things that make the entire process difficult.

Reducing our ‘stuff’ quotient is something both of us feel pretty strongly about. We both prefer open space and clear surfaces in our home, and at the same time, we both have a fair amount of dust collectors. Nice things, to be sure, things that mean something to us, but needless to say our rooms are not as open and surfaces not as clear as we’d like.

This desire for fewer possessions goes along with the rest of the way we try to live. Naturally, as with most people, we don’t always live up to our own ideals, but we continue to work at it. And that’s the important thing. Heard an interesting piece on NPR yesterday about a similar topic:

We’ll keep chipping away at the stuff, and recycle when we can.

Less is the new more.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Getting ready for colder weather

Here we are, first week of October, and the day's high was only in the upper 40’s. No frost yet, but that’s bound to happen soon. Usually by Halloween we’ve had at least one frost. Over the weekend 2-3 inches of snow fell at Brundage, and there’s visible snow on the Boise mountains to the north and the Owyhees to the south.

Our dance group agreed to do a performance along the route of the Leukemia Fund-raising Walk tonight. It’s only going to be in the mid 50’s, with scattered rain. Lucky us. The organizers have lined up all kinds of entertainment groups to keep people’s spirits up along the walk, which starts at 7pm. So we wait until we see the whites of the walkers’ eyes before we start dancing. It’s going to be dark by then anyway. Just as well we’re wearing white dresses! Thank goodness it’s only a couple dances, then we can pack up and leave. We might have to thaw ourselves out in the bar at a nearby restaurant!

In spite of the weather, my tomatoes are still going, the beans are still producing, and there are even late raspberries. I pulled out the last of the beets on Sunday and baked them. They were amazing! We ate two or three of them right away. I froze the rest in bags for making soup later. Soon the gourd plants will get frosted and we can collect the gourds for drying. A few are impressively large – one’s as big as a beach ball. The potatoes should be dug up soon as well.

The ducks and chickens take their egg-laying cues from the length of the days. The ducks have already stopped. The chickens are still laying, but since we let them out to roam the property back in mid-summer, they’ve quit laying in their coop. So it’s much harder to find the eggs. Now I know where Easter egg hunts came from! Back when most chickens roamed the farmyard, I imagine people had to listen for “I just laid an egg” sounds in the Spring and start looking. I heard the first hen this past Spring. At least then it was in the coop. Now we have to search in the wild roses, under the junipers, and other rough areas where I don’t garden :-).

Aphids attacked the zucchini plant. This was hugely popular with the local ladybugs. They laid eggs and we had tons of ladybug larvae feasting on the aphids. The aphids pretty much killed the zucchini anyway, but that’s ok. We got plenty of squash from it. So much that we couldn’t eat it all or give it away. I had to grate a bunch of them to freeze for making zucchini bread later. Now I’m wondering if I should move the zucchini plant or if the ladybugs are going to hibernate there. Probably should move it soon if I’m going to. I’d hate to disturb them after they’d really settled in.

Not a lot happened this past week. We spent most of Sunday going through storage boxes and throwing stuff out. We all managed to put a good chunk of old clothing in the donate pile, and hubby nipped off with it right away so no one could have second thoughts. I still have a bunch of t-shirts that have been packed away for three years. I haven’t missed them at all, but just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them. Perhaps once I try to find space for them I’ll get more heartless. It’s past time to switch out the summer and winter clothing. I’ll try to do that this coming weekend. It’s hard sometimes to decide what to leave out during the winter. No matter how cold it is outside, you don’t want to be wearing a sweater at a dance. So I have to remember to leave out the t-shirts that match my skirts or I’m constantly searching through the summer clothes boxes.

Happy Columbus Day, and happy Autumn to you all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Highland Games

Our Scottish Dance club performed at the local Highland Games last weekend. As predicted, the weather was cold and rainy. What was not predicted was the rain starting first thing in the morning. I'd hoped we'd have most of the afternoon at least partly sunny, with the rain coming later. Oh well.

Hubby and I arrived well before 9am, as asked, and were told at the gate that we were late, and should have been there before 8:30 if we wanted to take our car in. But, after brief negotiations, they let us drive onto the fairgrounds so we could unload. Since we had a heavy folding table, card table, shade canopy, blankets, folding chairs, costumes, etc, that was a good thing.

We unloaded the car and hubby drove off. Meanwhile, I started unpacking things. We got the booth set up and settled in for a long day. I was very glad I'd brought a blanket. There was a light rain off and on for most of the day. Fortunately, it didn't seem to dampen attendance. Maybe folks liked the fact that the weather was being Scottish too :-).

The stage we danced on is two large flat surfaces, about six pieces of plywood together on each side. These sides are each bolted to a metal framework. Attached to the frames are four small trailer tires. There are also leveling legs that can be put down to support the surface above. The two sides are set next to each other. It's plenty large enough for what we do. The only bad thing about it is, as groups of people essentially jump up and down on it for minutes at a time, the two sides gradually separate, leaving a gap of two inches, or more. So performers have to be very conscious of the gap while using the stage. Thank goodness the Games organizers were able to shove the two sides back together before we did the afternoon demo. With all the groups that had been using it, those two sides were at least six inches apart by lunchtime.

Our first demonstration was late morning, in a light but steady rain. The grass was wet, and the stage was wet, and our shoes got soaked. We did have one dancer slip during the dancing, but she got right back up and kept going. And we had plenty of people get up for the audience participation dance. So it went tolerably well! By the afternoon, it hadn't rained much for a few hours, and the stage was nearly dry. That demo was even better.

Aside from Scottish Country dance, there was a Highland dance competition, Irish dance demonstrations, pipe band competitions, Scottish athletics competitions, Celtic music groups performing at two other stages, a dog agility competition, and Clan booths. Your typical Games, but in miniature. We showed up somewhat grumpy at having to be there allllll day, but it turned out to be fun.

Since then the weather has become decidedly colder. We're supposed to get down to 45F tonight. There was even patchy frost in our area a few nights ago, though I didn't see any. We are still hoping to go camping one more time in mid October. I hope it's not downright freezing and there's lots of fall color by then. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Camping in the SNRA

We went camping over last weekend at Alturas Lake near Stanley, ID. Alturas is the southern-most in a chain of lakes that runs along the Salmon River valley, at the edge of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It tends to be the quietest, probably because it's the farthest away from Stanley. The best campsites are nestled into the trees along the lakeshore.

We got there around noon and set up our tent. We brought the large canvas vertical-sided tent because my husband wanted to be able to use the heater in the morning. Good thing too, as it got down into the upper 20's F overnight. With the tent set up, we decided to go for a short hike. We drove to the end of the lake access road to the Alpine Creek Trailhead. The hike led us up along Alpine Creek to the meadows at its head. Only about 400-ish feet of altitude gain. Very pretty scenery, with the steak-knife jagged Sawtooths looming over us to the north, big white clouds snagging on their peaks, and some leaves already turning yellow, orange and dark purply-red.

We puttered around in the meadows awhile, taking pictures and admiring the creek, looking for fish. About 4pm it looked like rain, so we headed back down.

That night we used the double air mattress, with a wool blanket spread over it, our sleeping bags, and two blankets spread over us. I wrapped the dog's crate in a blanket as well, hoping that would help. It got pretty cold, but we slept well. I woke up a few times when I heard noises outside. At least twice I heard the yips and howls of what I thought might be coyotes, but they could have been wolves. It was a group, so more likely wolves. I've always had the impression that coyotes are more solitary. The first time seemed distant, but the second time sounded pretty close - within a mile of us. Although that could have been a trick of the geography. Another time I heard an animal walking past the tent, probably down to the water. Could have been a deer or elk. I really wished I could see outside to see if my guesses were correct or not. But you forget just how dark it can get when you're nowhere near any source of artificial light!

The next morning my husband brought the heater into the tent - such a difference! It was very cold, but not frosty outside. To warm up we sat in the sun on a log next to the lake, drinking our coffee. Alturas is beautiful in the early morning; mirror-smooth, steam rising from the water in swirling patterns or hovering on the surface like ground fog. We'd forgotten to bring eggs, so we had bacon, tomato and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. Then we packed up, and drove to Petit Lake for another hike.

This one was from the Tin Cup Trailhead, at the end of the Petit Lake access road. We headed towards Alice Lake, but only went about two miles, as far as the Petit Lake Creek waterfalls, which are very pretty. Took lots of pictures, hoping to get one nice enough to enter in the local paper's "Wild Idaho" contest.

I do want to get up to Alice Lake sometime. Maybe we'll be up for it next time. We want to go camping again in October. It really is wonderful without all the crowds of summer. More like my memories of camping when I was a child.

This coming weekend is the local Boise Highland Games at the State Fairgrounds. Our Scottish Country Dance group will be doing two demonstrations. We'll perform two dances, Napier's Index and Da Rain Dancin', and try to get folks up for an audience participation dance, January Welcome.

This means my husband and I have to be there before 9am to unload our group's booth stuff and drive off the site. It's a 40-minute trip from our house, so we'll be there most of the day. For the past few years the weather has been relatively nice. September is iffy here. You never know if you'll have pleasant 80F days, or pouring rain. My first year, 2003, it was cold and rainy. And I had to hang around all day in a white satin dress and fleece jacket. Brrrr! This year they're predicting rain by late afternoon. Our last demo time is 3:45pm, so we'll see how it goes. If it's raining too hard we won't want to be running the sound system or dancing on the somewhat-wobbly elevated stage. You can bet I'll be more prepared with warm clothing after the '03 experience!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I've been home all day typing, for work, and listening to NPR news radio. Most of the coverage has been, of course, about 9/11/01, and the testimonies happening in Wash. DC this week.

I interview a lot of soldiers in the course of my job. Some of them have been, or are due to be, deployed overseas, and quite often they're between 18 - 25. Some have been admittedly scared, not knowing what it was going to be like. Some were stoic, saying they understood they could be deployed when they signed up. Some have already been to Iraq or Afghanistan two or three times. If that's had any effect on them, they hide it fairly well face-to-face. There are often other indicators of trouble that we come across.

I still remember one individual who met me at a coffee shop on his way to the airport, the day he was flying out. His spouse was with him. Both of them were understandably preoccupied, but still managed to be cheerful, even friendly and chatty, with me. Every once in a while I meet people through work and think, if it weren't for the circumstances of our meeting, we could be friends. He and his wife were among those. I didn't hear about him after that. I hope he made it home.

I never hear the results of a background investigation I do. Occasionally I run into someone on a military base whose case I worked, so I know they made it through, but usually those are the officers. There have been so many names in the past 3 1/2 years, I can't remember most of them. But I still find myself looking through the lists of casualties published in the local newspaper. So far I haven't recognized anyone. I hope it stays that way.

However one feels about the politics, our service members are out there, doing their best at the dangerous work they've been given. I hope people remember that when they come home and need our help to return to civilian life. Never be too shy to thank a military veteran for their service. It's a small thing, but it's really appreciated.

Now, for a complete change of subject...
I've been reading some good books lately. I'm now on the last volume of a great series by Lian Hearn, "Tales of the Otori". It's a blend of fictionalized Japanese history, and Ninja fantasy. Basically it's Hearn's version of what it would be like to be a member of a ninja clan (although the work ninja is never used) in feudal Japan. Sounds corny, but she's done a lot of research as far as the cultural and historical aspects go. Nice detail about various martial arts, battle scenes, and relations between men and women of that period. There may be folks who know more about early Japan who disagree, but it seems fairly accurate to me. Technically Hearn is not writing about the actual country of Japan at all, she's just borrowed the environment, culture, and broad historical background for the story. I'm looking forward to the last volume, "The Harsh Cry of the Heron".

The other book is "Becoming Jane Austen", by Jon Spence. He's done a lot of research about the Austen family and extended family, especially Austen's early life and it's influence on her writing. One of the main topics he covers is a romance Austen had with a young man when she was about 18. She never married, and did not appear to have many suitors. This was a young man she really fell for, but it didn't work out. Probably because she did not have much of a dowry, but no one is really sure. The details of their relationship and why it failed have always been something of a mystery because Austen never wrote a lot about it in her letters to family.

The book is particularly interesting to me because I lived in an area of Hampshire near Steventon, where Austen lived, and have visited the house. Also, just outside our town are two family estates that Austen visited, and in the town itself is an assembly room where she was known to go to balls and dances.

There is a movie out now, based on this book. I think it's called "Becoming Jane". I'd like to see it, even though I've read it's mostly about the romance part, rather than the entire book. Realistically, if you're not already very interested in Jane Austen's life and how it affected her work, you might not like the book. I'm enjoying it, but I'm also alternating reading it with two other books, depending on my mood.

Back to work...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fall is Coming

Summer days in SW Idaho get hotter and hotter until 5 or 6pm. But for the past few weeks we've really seen a difference in the length of days. With the shorter days the air starts cooling off by 4pm. Makes it much nicer to do things outside in the afternoons. In July and August I don't want to go outside after work - so no walking or weeding the garden. The heat hits you like an iron frying pan when you walk out the door, and keeps weighing you down until you can barely think. I can just about stand to water the plant pots if they're drooping, then escape back inside. Sounds pretty wimpy, I know, but I did not grow up with 100+ temperatures every summer. I don't care if it's dry or humid, two or three weeks in a row of 98-105 temps, day after day, is not fun.

But that's all over for the year. It's nearly Fall. Cooler nights when you actually *need* the covers, fields full of ground mist in the mornings when we go walking, late summer flowers finally in bloom, my scarlet runner beans *finally* producing beans, huge thunderstorms, noisy V's of geese flying over, Boise's annual Art in the Park festival, not having to wear sunscreen every day...This is my favorite season. Except for Spring and Winter, of course ;-).

We're going camping next weekend up near Stanley. I'm hoping we can find a campsite at Alturas Lake. That's where my sister and I were camping in Sept. 2001 when it snowed on us. I got some beautiful pictures that morning. Fresh, untrampled snow piled on everything, steam rising from the lake, broken clouds wreathing the trees and mountains. You just can't substitute being in the right place at the right time in photography.

It'll be cold in the mountains. That area has already got down to 29F on some nights. But what a great time to go hiking in Idaho. The weather is usually clear, it's cooler, the bugs are dying off, and it's far less crowded. You can't go whitewater rafting anymore, but there's plenty of good walking. We'll probably bring the canoe and paddle around on Lake Alturas, too. It's one of the few in that area that doesn't allow motorized boating, so it stays relatively quiet in the mornings.

Weeded in the garden this morning, and planted 10 new iris. I only ordered two different kinds, but she sent a bunch of others as free bonuses. With all the different names, I made a map of where I planted each kind. Hopefully next year I'll be able to figure out what they're all called.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day weekend

I had minor surgery on my forearms on Friday. There were five lipoma that were bothering me when I rested my forearms on a hard surface - like when I'm typing. So those have been removed. The incisions aren't very big, but of course they hurt with pressure - like when I'm typing! :-) At least once they've healed that will be the end of it.

They actually put me out for the surgery. I was hoping for just local anaesthetic, but with two arms that would have put me too near the dosage limit. It made the time pass quickly anyways! It was as if they wheeled me out of the prep area and into the recovery area! Of course I was sleepy for the rest of the day. Felt pretty much normal by today.

10 minutes after we got home from the surgery, a big thunderstorm blew through. Only lasted about 30 minutes, but in that short time it managed to dump lots of rain, tear the outer layer of roof off our carport, knock over my pole beans and the hops, and scatter debris all over the yard.

These storms are typical for the time of year, but that doesn't make it any easier to prepare for them. We just had the carport roof re-felted and sealed earlier this year. Now we'll have to get it done all over again.

The beans have mostly survived. Only one of the seven plants was actually pulled out of the ground. Good thing, as they've only just started producing!

This morning, Labor Day, we drove out to the Sunny Slope area, along the Snake river. They grow lots of grapes and tree fruit there. We visited Williamson Orchards, which seems to have the best selection. Bought pears, two kinds of nectarines, peaches, and corn. Many people were obviously buying enough fruit for canning. One of those things I think would be good to do, but have never gotten around to it. Lately I'm happy if I can get out to pull weeds in the garden on the weekends!

Otherwise, we took it easy. It gets hot here in the afternoons. I can't pull weeds this particular weekend, but I did go out to pick beans and raspberries, take care of the ducks, and pick the latest zucchini.