What is Old is New (and even better)

My cousin’s wife Suzy did a post on her blog about My Little Pony redesigns.  She captured the issues quite well and included links so that you can check out the freakishness that is My Little Pony today.   I’m not going to restate her conclusions— she already did that work and she is right!

Inez asked for My Little Ponies for her birthday, which sent me into double fits.  First of all, the things are plastic, plastic, plastic, and although less offensive somehow than other plastic toys, are still made of fresh petroleum products that do not decompose.  I don’t want a birthday present for a 5 year old that will outlast the 5 year old, (unless it is a knee replacement or heart valve, and in that case, I am all for it!).  Even with these sometimes weak convictions, I found myself standing in the toy aisle at Fred Meyer, trying to figure out this My Little Pony issue.  Embarrassingly enough, the ugliness of the current ponies was what put me over the edge.  All the tender, plump Pony-ness was gone from these new designs.

Luckily, there is this great thing called Ebay where people are now getting money out of their old pony collections.  I put quite a few bids out there and was soon the proud owner of a lot of 8 ponies from the 80s.  They are used, but in good shape.  The kids don’t care much if they don’t come out of an overly-sealed package, and I can feel good that we are reusing AND that they are super cute.  I call that a win-win situation.


Kids with our friend Grace, the older sister of the little girl on the river last entry.


To the Birds

I kind of love the fall in Oregon.  My delicate constitution causes me to overheat when the temperature goes into the low 80s, so I am made for tepid September and October.

I had heard for years about the September swift migration, but hadn’t gotten the family organized until this year.  Long story short is that Vauxs Swifts are passing through Portland throughout September and go to rest for the night in several large chimneys about town.  Just as it begins to get dark, the swifts form a funnel cloud that whirls down into the chimney like a genie in a bottle.  The most striking show is at Chapman school, where they have decommissioned the furnace to allow the little birds to rest in peace (for the night).  The swift is also, charmingly, their school mascot.  Throughout the month, the hillside behind the school is PACKED with people who come out to see the swifts go to bed.  Before that big to-do, there is cardboard sliding for the kids and often a peregrine falcon attempting to pick off a bird or two.  I guess the falcon is not guaranteed, but he (or she) showed up the night we went and it was very exciting in a gladiator sort of way.

My photos suck, but I am going to share them anyway.


The kids weren’t exactly sure why I had them bring cardboard to a picnic, but they soon figured out what it was all about.
IMG_7338 It is sort of awesome how much speed you can get going down, but as Francis pointed out, “you always wipe out at the end”. IMG_7339 Early in the evening, there are a few picnic blankets out.  Eventually there are so many people that you can’t move around at all.  We have the great luck to be seated right next to the Audubon Society bird counters and volunteers who kept up steady commentary amongst themselves on the swifts and their predators.  Super interesting!IMG_7342 It’s dark, but can you see the last of the swifts?


I think the swift action is done for the year.  Swifts don’t know that September is over, but they move along pretty dependably.  Even so, I heard they might be taking a bit longer to make their migration.  Read more about them here.


Plastics and Powering Up the Coast

There are things that you tell your kids over and over again that are hard messages to “come home”.  Brad and my stance on plastics is one such rough message.  We’re horrified by plastics— how plastic breaks so easily, how our society acts as though it is made to be thrown away and yet it is never really gone, how much of it ends up in the ocean, and how as trash it is both unnecessary and pervasive.  I hate the kids buying plastic toys.  They seem to break instantly in ways that afford me no opportunity to repair them.

The kids see our anti-plastic issues as a big old bummer.  Other kids are allowed beach toys—we are told to bring a garden trowel from home.  Other kids have Power Ranger dolls—we have to pretend our stuffed animals are ninjas.  Other kids have splash pools in the summer—we have to fill up the ice cooler and play in that.  Other kids can eat Otter Pops all summer—we have these weird home-made popsicles in our freezer with off-kilter broken chop sticks to hold on to.  (I want to make a side note here that this particular entry is really, really preachy, and that we are by no means perfect in our issues with consumption, plastic or otherwise.  We also buy plastic toys on occasion.  Those Playmobil sets are just so charming!  And our kids have legos—-we try to get them second hand, but they can be found in our house.  You CAN also find many Barbies in Inez’s room—not just corn husk dolls, and although most have come from thrift stores, at least one was a brand spanking new petroleum product.  We aren’t perfect…..even though we live in North Portland.)

But some issues don’t really come home when you just talk about them.  You can talk and talk and talk, but when you ask someone to go without, especially when that someone is a child, it is a hard row to hoe.  Brad sums these things up well—“We don’t want you to have plastic stuff because we don’t want to wreck the Earth!”.  That’s very esoteric for kids.  When we went through Bandon by the Sea, we came upon a public art installation by a non-profit group called Washed Ashore that made our messages about plastics take on a whole new light.  The people at Washed Ashore are making art out of the plastics that are showing up regularly on Bandon area beaches, flip flops, broken sand toys, water bottles and styrofoam.  The huge installations are going on tour both nationally and globally to educate people about the problems caused by marine debris.  

plasticfish The works are lovely and yet sad.  The group says that they have used EVERYTHING that comes in.  Nothing is thrown away (a second time).seal Inside the gallery, they have an interactive display of styrofoam “coral”.  You can drum on some of the larger pieces and get these beautiful tones.styrofoam This water bottle jellyfish can be turned like a carousel.  The kids are inside the piece.

jellyfish Each work of art was displayed for kids to touch and interact with.  A volunteer led our group through the exhibit, encouraging us to play with the pieces.  When we were done exploring, the kids were invited into a craft area where they could contribute to a brain coral piece by making what the volunteer called “trash kabobs”.  Their pieces were yellow and clear plastic chunks strung on metal rods.  Each station had an artist’s rendering of the end product.  It was cool to have a job to do.  Our brain coral would be at Sea World San Diego within a week.

helpingWe were really impressed with little downtown Bandon.  There were interesting things to see and do in the little 6 block area.  Down at the candy shop, the woman behind the counter was so impressed with the kids liking licorice that she gave them each a sample from the huge jars on the wall.

Someone hoped I was enjoying Bandon, and guess what?  I was!  But we had to drive on to reach Beachside State Park.bandonsign


Beachside was our last night of camping for the trip, so it was bitter-sweet (mostly sweet to be honest!).  It was one of the most luxurious campgrounds (free showers!  Clean bathrooms!) compared to many of the places we’ve stayed, but not a fantastic setting.  It is a narrow little strip of treed park wedged between the beach and HWY 101.  Obviously I had no problem with the beach…. but our campsite backed up along the highway.  Trucks went by in the early morning and sounded like they would run right over us.  If we had been on the beach side, we wouldn’t have even heard the trucks, but alas, we were camping on the side of the highway.  I mused that ironically, if I had just pulled the family off the highway and tried to set up my tent, that would have been illegal, but here we were.

In the morning, we had time to hop into Old Town Newport.  I got the kids back up on the power boxes to take another picture.  Inez was still reticent and worried.  She hadn’t forgotten her birthday weekend when she first decided that jumping on the electric box would kill her.grabhold Newport is such a great little town.  I never tire of visiting the caterwauling sea lions on the Harbor Front.
And it is cool to see fishermen and cannery workers going in to their work in their big boots.  Zephyr wanted a picture of himself with his favorite food.zephyrsalmon On this trip, we have met so many very kind people fishing or crabbing.  I don’t know if it is a fisherman personality type or what, but by and large, everyone was happy to let the kids hold their rods, look at their fish, watch them gut and clean, and answer questions.

This man let Inez throw back the too-small crab.inezthrowsitback And let Francis pick up the little guys.

newportcrabNice times in Newport.  We got back in the car and headed for Lincoln City where we were to meet Brad’s parents and grandpa for lunch.  That night we would join our friends Jason and Angela in Manzanita.  Oh, it is getting close to the end!

Southern Oregon Beaches

Nesika Beach, where we were staying for a couple days, is a lovely place.  There isn’t a ton of culture in the Southern Oregon Beach towns, but the coastline is by far the loveliest in the state.  The beach house my friend loaned was quite convenient to a quiet, pristine beach, so we walked there in the evening.

The beach is so golden that you can’t help but have sort of lofty thoughts.  I’ve been a religious person all my life, so I suppose that I have professed to believe many questionable things.  On the beach though, the immensity of the ocean grants me a greater sense of faith and wonder…. not pondering minutia, or dogma, but just observing that the water is awesome and mighty and we don’t seem to know much about it.  I see all this light and frothiness, but underneath it is dark and full of bizarre life.  The ocean goes where I will never go.  It sustains us, and can do us in in a second.  We are powerless before it.  I am impressed by the ocean.  Wow, YOU ocean, YOU are wonderful.beach Day one we were so tired that we were pretty happy to just get our camping gear back in working order.  Tents and sleeping bags were soaking wet from our last foggy morning in the Redwoods, so everything had to be hung to dry and then folded up again.  I have done very little folding and rolling of tents on this trip (it’s been mostly Brad’s job), but I do think if I never had to roll another tent, I would be just fine with that.

Day two we decided we would be big old losers unless we walked to the tide pools at the south end of the beach.  There we found a whole world of wonders…. like tiny hermit crabs, little bitty rockfish and baby crab.crabWe explored for about an hour, and then noticed that it was getting late and dark.  Inez was dead tired…. and said so.  When the little one says she just wants to be in her bed, you make all haste to get her there.

The kids are troopers.  When I think of the many miles that we have asked them to put on their little legs, it fills me with pride.  They’ve risen to meet many challenges, and most of those have been done with pretty good spirits.

Sometimes you gotta give the kid a ride.bradinez

Sumpter and Granite Creek Hike (by all of us!)

We’ve now traveled over 1000 miles.

We left Baker City and headed west like a pioneer family. We stopped in Sumpter on our way to John Day.  There was a dredge that made its own pond by digging up rocks, putting them through sluices, picking out the gold, and dumping the rocks back out the other side.  It operated all through the gold rush, and only went out of use in the 40s when there was no more gold to be found.  Now it is a National Heritage site.  Unfortunately, it turned the land into giant piles of rocks by reversing the layers of earth—-the topsoil is on the bottom, the gravel in the middle, and huge ro

cks on the top.  It made an ugly landscape around Sumpter.  Brad says the dredge is evil, but it is cool to look at.


IMG_6647At Sumpter we got to pan for gold with real gold in the water.



We went way out in the woods to this almost abandoned town called Granite.  This is their City Hall/Church.



We went way up into the woods (Umatilla National Forest near John Day River), into miner country and took a hike at Granite Creek.  There were actual miners living along the creek and claim signs in some places.  There were ruins of old miner cabins and lots of outhouses in the woods.  Strangely, a lot of the cabins had burnt down, but the outhouses remained!

There was a ton of mica in the creek, so it glimmered like gold.  We skinny dipped in the shimmering fools gold.IMG_6659


Our car got really dirty on all those gravel roads!  IMG_6655This wasn’t a big driving day, but we fit a lot in.  We pulled in late to Clyde Holladay State park which was the fanciest camping that our family has ever done.  The other campers were right next to us, which was sort of strange, but okay.  The campground was remarkably quiet for having so many people.  The place had showers, which we needed, but we didn’t like the place much.  Even though we were suppose to stay 2 days here to avoid the no-water campgrounds, we planned to go back out to the woods to rough it rather than hang out with all those people.  Tomorrow— John Day Fossil Beds.  Bring on the fossils!

Hike in the Wallowas (by Francis)


Today we found a nice hike called Hurricane Creek. This is indian paintbrush.  It is all over the place in the mountains.IMG_6577

We drove a lot to get there, but when we got there it was awesome.  You could see the creek and the mountains.

Gavin and Zephyr are fooling around.  They had a pinecone fight.


This is a photo of us. We took many photos, but every one had one person missing.


We hiked for 2 hours and used up all our water. Dad took us kids back and mom, Devra and Gavin went on. End of post.


This is Ingrid here— Brad selflessly took the kids back to the trailhead where we had more water, and D, G and I plowed on in search of “Slick Rock”.  You know how you don’t always know what you are going to get with these hikes?  And how they have names like “Slick Rock” that seem to have enough information, but you can’t figure out if you’ve made it there yet?  Is that a “slick rock”?  What about that?  We needed to ask a couple women on the trail, both if we were there yet and what we were going to be seeing.  They advised us to scramble off the trail in order to get above the slick rock.  There we would find a series of pools that were not visible from the trail.  A sort of mildly treacherous scramble and we found these:


The “Slick Rock” is below, and not as impressive as the lovely pools.IMG_6598

It felt awesome to put our feet in the freezing water pools.  You can’t get much closer to the mountain’s water source than this.  The glacier was right above us!

People often say, “You MUST go…” to this place or that.  I sort of like our corner of Oregon and feel that we have a good idea of natural beauty, so I have often been skeptical of the inflated descriptions of the Wallowas.  “The Alps of Oregon”?  But the Wallowas IS totally unique in Oregon.  This countryside is strikingly rugged, full of intense contrast and a sort of extreme beauty.  The plants, the flowers, the funny little rodents—- all are so different from anything we can see in the Willamette Valley.  You MUST go to the Wallowas!IMG_6575

On through Hell’s Canyon tomorrow (Sunday) and into Baker City!

A Whole Load of Awesome Just Arrived

At the farm store the other day, I looked down and saw a squirming bag of insects just sitting there next to the debit keypad.  Woa!  They must be mine!

The amusement factor of letting 100s of ladybugs go in our yard was enough for me to shell out $7.  I admit, it doesn’t take much to amuse me.  I figured it was the price of a movie ticket, and I rarely go to movies, (so think of all the money I have saved!).

We rushed home and opened up our ladybugs on the aphid-overun rose bush.  Carnage ensued!  It was so cool!

IMG_6242The kids, especially the little ones were curious about what was going on here.

IMG_6238But bugs are interesting even if you don’t know what is going on.

Go get ’em, ladies!


More Things I Can Fit on My Bike

I never tire of this.

I met Anne last week for a little “boring” shopping and fit

  1. Two tents
  2. Four glass casserole dishes
  3. One replacement CO2 canister
  4. One stock pot plus vegetable steamer and lid
  5. Five pairs of water proof pants
  6. One really big purse
  7. One bag of clothing that Anne had borrowed

I loaded it all on the bike and then headed up Interstate Avenue hill.  Whew!


Invasive Plants…love ’em AND leave ’em?

That’s not pot in the trunk of my car.  It’s a huge load of invasive yellow flag iris, on their way out to my parents’ house where they will hopefully spread and hold in a collapsing pond wall.  Invasives are good at that.  Ever notice?

I have mixed feelings about invasive species.  On one hand, I admire the buggers.  They grow well.  They don’t seem to need much, and they can often fill in space where other plants couldn’t cut it.  They are determined, that is for sure, and I am not one to look down my nose at something that works so hard.

On the other hand, they are pushy.  They squeeze out native plants and don’t often have much benefit to animals, making them run out of control.  Some are actually impossible to control, like scotch broom, and though sort of pretty on a faraway hillside, are tyrants to live with.  Master gardeners and other such knowledgeable grey heads tell me they are bad, and I like to respect my elders.  Plus I like those master gardener types.  I feel like I should believe them.  They have the word “master” right their in their name.

This last week I had a huge chunk of time to myself where I simply dug out all the plants that had gotten too cheeky.  But instead of tossing them right in the yard debris, I carefully bagged them up for transport.  I even tried to give some away.

In the interest of being COMPLETELY HONEST (brad), I even clearly identified this one as an invasive.  I am not sure what it is, but within a couple years, it has nearly overtaken my entire front yard.

It’s hard for me to outright kill a plant.  I want to give it a chance.  It’s pretty.  It is usually one of the first things that blooms each year, but it is definitely a plant on the move.  What started as a sweet little patch of yellow is now marching across the yard.

There were some people who actually took my little plant home.  I mean, sometimes there seems to be a place for something that knows how to be prolific.  But I assure you, I am not totally stupid.  I once knew these people who cultivated the himalayan blackberries on their fence line because they liked the idea of berry picking.  I’m not that bad.  Yet.


City versus Country

I feel really lucky to live in Portland.  I guess if I was living in New York City, after awhile, I might learn how to escape the city.  And my short year that I lived in Toronto, Ontario, I definitely learned places to go to pretend I wasn’t really in an urban area.  I have thought a lot about the city versus country thing.  At heart, I think I am really a country person.  High school years withstanding, throughout my life, I’ve felt comfortable in the country.  I love the woods.  I love the quiet.  On the other hand, the city is full of fascinating people.  I feel part of society in the city—ironically I find I love people more in the city.  My memories of growing up in the country are of being happy on my own up on Rock Creek Road, but lonely and sad whenever I had to venture out to Willamina or Sheridan.  Maybe that just represents the angst of youth, feeling like you are just so weird that you can never quite belong, but I never learned how to feel okay in my country community.  On the other hand, I feel really comfortable in the city, but I get tired of the constant noise.  I don’t find peace as easily in the city.  The constant sound is so invasive.

It’s very important to me that my children learn how to feel at home in the woods because it has felt like such a grounding presence for me.  (I still need to read Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods but I am afraid it will freak me out too much.)  Luckily it isn’t too hard to get out even in Portland.  Just a few miles from our house we have access to hundreds of miles of trails and semi-wilderness.  We went for a great hike a few weekends ago on one of the Fire Lane Trails.

These trails are nearly deserted this far out of town.  We passed one woman with a dog during our two and half hour hike.

The kids liked being out under the trees watching maple leaves slowly spin to the ground.  Zephyr especially dug the pine cone fights.

So “one foot in/one foot out”.  I guess it is a balanced way to live….