Back to Bandon, Oregon… And Its Art

We returned to one our favorite go-to places on the Oregon Coast last week, Bandon by the Sea. The area features the wave-tossed Pacific Ocean, magnificent rock sculptures known as sea stacks and a charming town. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I’ve blogged about Bandon before. And will undoubtedly do so again. The coast with its crashing waves and towering rock sculptures calls to us. And the town is charming. It comes with good restaurants, fun art, cranberries, cheese, and a bookstore—no town should be without one. While Winter River Books is small and doesn’t include a book-store cat, it is well-stocked for its size.

One of the books I bought was the “Roadside Geology of Oregon” by Marli Miller, a professor of earth science at the University of Oregon in Eugene. Our library includes a number of books from this series on other states as well. If you have ever found yourself curious about the rock formations you are seeing beside the road, these books make wonderful traveling companions.

I am going to do three posts on Bandon this time. The first is on art in Bandon. Next will be the Devil’s Kitchen State Park. There are interesting houses hanging out on the cliff, sea stacks, and forts made of driftwood. I am also going to take a look at what the recent storm tossed up, mainly kelp, piles and piles of it, plus a bouquet of sea palms for Peggy. I’ll conclude the series with a visit to Face Rock State Park and its famous name sake. While there, I will include a number of other sea stacks/rock sculptures that we admire and can never get enough of. As always, our cameras were quite busy!

The art of Bandon: Not surprisingly, it comes with an ocean emphasis.

Meet Nora the Salmon. She is one of a number of sculptures in Bandon made out of trash collected on the beach and created by Washed Ashore, a nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness about all of the garbage we are pouring into our oceans around the world.
A close up. Nora is a fun sculpture with sharp teeth and a serious message.
Henrietta the Rockfish, another fun sculpture by Washed Ashore, was decked out in her Covid-19 mask, bringing us two messages at once.
And finally there is Grace the Humpback whale whose tail tells a tale of trash.
A close up. An information board next to Grace listed a few of the items used in the sculpture. Included: water bottles, hat visors, a toilet seat, golf balls, a cooler, a steering wheel, flip flops, toy wheels, boots, and an umbrella handle. But enough trash talk, there are a number of other art works scattered throughout Bandon. These are from along the Boardwalk.
I’ve always been intrigued by this carved wooden sculpture of an octopus with its waving arms.
And this carved seahorse. I immediately thought of a merry-go-round.
Like so many cities and towns today, Bandon has its share of murals.
This dramatic totem pole was a next door neighbor to the two fish murals shown above.
Main Street, Old Town Bandon, is filled with small shops and restaurants. We always walk along the sidewalk and find something of interest. The book store is a must. But there is also great chocolate to devour, good food to experience, and craft beer to drink.
There is also a toy store that Peggy finds irresistible in her ceaseless efforts to spoil our grandchildren. While she was checking out games, I found this crow. I thought a close up of its beak appropriate for Halloween.
I’ll conclude today with this wild looking fish that was part of a mural. It was my fave!

NEXT POST: Peggy and I visit the Devil’s Kitchen State Park where the ocean crashes against the rocks, interesting homes hang out on the cliffs, forts are made of driftwood, and storm-fared kelp is tossed up on the shore.

Two Oregon Towns Destroyed… The Price of Global Warming

I went for a drive Saturday through the small towns of Talent and Phoenix, Oregon. It was heart-rending. Today’s post features photos of the devastation caused by the Almeda Fire.
I found this sign just across the road from the above photo.

When Donald Trump came to California two weeks ago to comment on the devastation caused by raging wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington, he was asked about the impact of global warming on the fires. Here is his response:

Well, I don’t think science knows, actually… When trees fall down after a short period of time, they become very dry — really like a matchstick… And they can explode. Also leaves. When you have dried leaves on the ground, it’s just fuel for the fires… It’s a management issue… It’ll start getting cooler… You just watch.

Peggy and I don’t buy the ‘It’ll start getting cooler” argument, but we do take forest management seriously. We spent $20,000 this past year doing what we could to fireproof our property. And it didn’t involve ‘sweeping the floor’ as the President recommended a couple of years ago, cleaning up the leaves and fallen branches. We had forty, 80-100 foot trees cut down on our five-acres removed. They were dead as in d.e.a.d. Ten years ago when we moved in, they were happy and healthy. The years of drought and excessive heat killed them. As it has millions of trees across the west. Yes, good forest management is important, but all the management in the world will not save forests when draught combines with 100° F heat, high winds and fire. Nor will it save towns, as Talent and Phoenix learned.

Peggy and I prepare for fire, obviously. We live in a forest. Fire comes with the territory. We spend countless hours working outside and doing what we can to reduce the danger. But we are also prepared to vacate the premises, to ‘get out of Dodge,’ to skedaddle! When a level two warning is issued, we will be packed and out of here. Forget level three. We have lists. Things are organized so we can grab and go. The greater the danger the less we will grab. Quivera the RV is packed and ready right down to clothes, tooth brushes and tooth paste, everything we need to live. If our house burns down, it will be sad, but not tragic. “We’ll just buy a new RV (sorry Quivera) and hit the road,” Peggy says.

People who live in towns and cities have different expectations. Homes burn down, yes, but not towns. Back before all of the codes designed to prevent fires were adopted and before modern fire departments came into being, they did. But not today. Except they do. Ask the residents of Talent and Phoenix, or Santa Rosa, or Paradise or numerous other small towns and cities that have been caught in the paths of raging fires over the past few years.

Peggy and I know the communities of Phoenix and Talent well. I was born in Ashland where the fire started. Until recently, our doctor’s office was in Talent. (It still stands about 200 yards away from where I took the top photo.) One of my great grandfathers and a great, great grandmother are buried in Phoenix. She came across the country in a wagon train. I fear, but don’t know for sure, that the graveyard was wiped out.

The fire came on fast and ferocious. So fast that people were literally running down the street, leaving everything behind. “It came like a huge wave,” an 82 year old woman stated. A man reported that he had been working when he heard the first warning. He dropped what he was doing, jumped in his truck, and broke speed limits heading for his home so he could save his cat. He was too late.

My Saturday drive was heart-rending as I looked at the devastation. The following photos capture just a small portion of what I saw.

Some areas were totally devastated. This photo and the following two close ups give an idea of the furnace-like heat of the fire.
Note how the roof here was literally melted. Also, I am amazed that the propane containers didn’t blow up. Safety valves must have released the gas and allowed it to burn off.
Like in most of the fire damage, it is difficult to determine exactly what you are looking at. You can spot a seat in the cab of this vehicle and a large saw blade.
This photo gives an example of just how totally things were destroyed.
Here, a chimney was left standing.
A burned out car was in front of the chimney. I rendered it in black and white. Shades of grey were how I felt.
Here’s the car by itself.
And how about this truck.
I thought this photo was interesting in that it showed a totally destroyed car but in the background is a Rite Aid the fire didn’t touch. I parked my truck in front of the store. It was open and doing business. It has always amazed me how a fire will destroy one property and not touch the one next to it.
A boat that will never sail again…
A bed mattress that will never be slept on…
A child’s wagon that will never be pulled…
A tool box with tools that will never be used…
And a doorway to nowhere…
Wasn’t sure what this was but it looked a little evil to me, like what we can expect from global warming…
And this was simply sad.
I will use this car lot for my final photo of the damage done by the fire that ravaged Talent and Phoenix. It came on fast and furious, torching anything that got in its path. There was no time to move these cars. There was barely time to get out and survive.

Global warming is real. Extreme weather will not go away by denying its existence, or by claiming “It will get cooler.” Fires will continue to rage, hurricanes will become more frequent and more powerful, polar ice will melt and the seas will rise. Expect more floods, droughts, tornadoes and other types of extreme weather. We owe it to ourselves, children, grandchildren and future generations to do everything humanly possible on a national and international level to reverse this trend. Playing ostrich and burying our heads in the sand is not the answer.

Big Bucks, a Strange Squirrel, the Fires, and the Oregon Coast… Update

The boys are now hanging out together. A situation that will change as their interest in the girls makes a quantum leap in the next couple of months. This buck’s antlers were still covered in velvet and growing when we left on our road trip in June. Now they are ready to do battle to win true love, or at least a quickie.

Since I am still working on my next post on the 1908 Great Race, I decided to throw in a quick update on life here on Oregon’s Upper Applegate River. First, fall has arrived. Leaves are beginning to turn and the white oaks have produced a bumper acorn crop— a fact that has the deer all but climbing the trees.

The big leaf maple trees growing down in our canyon are adding a splash of yellow.
The plump, white oak acorns here are delicious this year according to squirrels, deer, turkeys, woodpeckers and bears.
The deer start with the acorns that are easy to reach…
And then up they go, standing on their hind legs…
It’s quite a reach.
Meanwhile, the kids have been growing up. The spots are just about gone. This one is all legs.
The birdbath continues to serve as the local watering hole. It’s time to refill!
The bird feeder continues to attack the attention of various and assundry animals. It still hasn’t totally recovered from the time in June when the huge black bear used it for tether ball practice. BTW, we haven’t seen him since our neighbor threw firecrackers at him. He left us some scat, however. BIG scat. But what the heck is this animal? Is that a large mouth?
Turns out it was the hind foot on this fellow!
The forest fires continue to have a major impact on our area. The towns of Phoenix and Talent, which lost approximately 2500 home and businesses, were totally devastated and are still under evacuation orders. While our home was never under a direct threat, the air pollution has been some of the worst in the world. This is what it was like a week ago looking down toward the Applegate River in front of our property, a couple of hundred yards away. Rather than poison our lungs, we decided to escape to Florence on the Oregon coast.
The closer we got, the cleaner the air became. This is the Umqua River. My dad lived near here in the 70s. Rain clouds, not smoke! A welcome sight.
A creek along the way. Driving to and from the coast is almost as good as being there.
Even the elk seemed happy to be breathing clean air. This herd can almost always be found along Highway 38 near Reedsport.
Florence is one of our go-to places on the Oregon Coast. We like to stay at the Siuslaw Marina campground because it is an easy walk into its historic town. It was packed with RVs, a sign of the times. This is at the Marina where the Brandy was selling freshly caught tuna off the boat at $3.00 each. Fog was rolling in.
There are always seals to amuse us. This one was tracking through the water like an arrow shot from a bow. The old pilings from days gone-by add a touch of mystery.
Some of the pilings even came with character. Looks a bit like Wile-e-Coyote.
Possibly a giraffe with a furry tail.
Here the pilings provide foreground for Florence’s iconic bridge.
This one provides a convenient location for a cormorant to dry its wings. A sand dune provides the backdrop. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area starts just south of Florence.
Florence has a considerable amount of art for a small town. Most of it reflects local sea life, like this octopus…
This great blue heron…
And this seal.
Peggy and I were impressed with the fact that most people, and this pirate, were wearing Covid-19 masks. (iPhone photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The Marina has an attractive walkway complete with lamps and hanging baskets leading into the town. After five days of breathing clean air, it was time to head home and see what the smoke and fires were doing.
I’m happy to report that the smoke had cleared out. Some. Compare this picture looking down on the cottonwoods growing along the Applegate River to the same photo above.
A final view of our big leaf maples turning a fall-ish color. Looking beyond the maple, you can still see the smoke hanging in our valley. We aren’t out of the woods yet, so to speak.

NEXT POST: We will rejoin the Great Automobile Race of 1908 as it makes its way to San Francisco.

Massive Fires Near our Home, Plus Covid-19, Plus Really Weird Politics

I glanced out our window Wednesday and saw a massive plume of smoke looming over the mountains. If fire came over the ridge, Peggy and I were packing up and getting out. Fires can travel fast! (Photo from Peggy’s iPhone.)

It’s a bit hard to focus on my Great Race series. 

On Tuesday, our whole county was on a Level 1 fire alert, “Dangerous fires are lurking in the area.’ Level 2 is ‘Pack what you need and prepare to leave.’ Level 3 is ‘Get out now.’ The sheriff’s office called to urge everyone in the county to stay off the roads unless they were being evacuated. Portions of Ashland and Medford plus all of the communities of Talent and Phoenix were under a Level 3 alert. I-5, the major north-south freeway for the West Coast had been closed near Ashland. Truckers had abandoned their big rigs on the road.

We had started our morning with a power outage. Extreme winds were playing havoc with the power grid in Oregon as well as creating extreme fire danger. I walked up to where we park Quivera, our small RV, and brought her down to the house. At a minimum we could make coffee. At maximum we could power up the van’s generator and turn on the air conditioner.  Temperatures around here have been soaring over 100 degrees F. Fortunately, the power was back on around 10 AM. I quickly filled the bathtub so we would have an emergency supply of water. We have our own well and pump. No power, no water, no toilet. Quivera works in a pinch— and then there is the mountain side. Years of backpacking have trained us. Our shovel is handy…

At about two, we saw a huge plume of smoke southeast of our home boiling up above the mountains where Peggy and I had backpacked two years ago. We watched nervously and discussed putting together our emergency evacuation packet of necessities and a few treasures— like Bone and Eeyore (grin). If the flames topped the mountains we’d be out of here. Bye, bye. The fires can move at incredible speeds. Where we’d go was something of a question since so many areas in California and Oregon are burning. But with Quivera, at least we would have our vacation home with us.

The plume was back yesterday. I did a quick internet search and discovered it was the Slater Fire that had started in Northern California on Monday night. It has now crossed the border into Oregon and burned over 120,000 acres. Fortunately for us (not so much for others), it is not moving in our direction. So far. 

This is what the plume looked like on the other side of the ridge. A person took this photo near the Seiad Valley. Peggy and I backpacked into it on the PCT 2 years ago.

We are used to fire danger in our area since our home borders on national forest land. Four years ago, we had to evacuate under a level 3 alert. Towns and cities have always seemed safer. Not this time. Talent and Phoenix, which had been under the level 3 alert, were devastated on Tuesday night. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, including possibly our doctor’s office. National news coverage showed footage of the fire. It looked like a war zone. 

Meanwhile, the pandemic hasn’t slowed down. Jackson County which started off with one of the lowest rates of Covid-19 in the state, now has one of the highest. We’ve been moving backwards in our reopening status. Our masks won’t be disappearing anytime soon.

A chart showing our local Coronavirus rate. And we didn’t even have Sturgis!

And then there is the incredibly weird political situation America finds itself in. I cringe each time I read the news. Each day there are new revelations on the national level. And then there is the local scene. Peggy and I were at the Bi-Mart in Medford on Monday doing our weekly shopping when a guy came in wearing a Trump mask. He asked the woman checking people in if the store carried ammunition for his assault rifle. Who knows what his motivations were, but we kept our distance. Have I mentioned that these are scary times? 

A halloween Trump mask very similar to the one the man was wearing in Bi-Mart as he looked for ammunition.

NEXT POST: I’ll get back to the Great Race— assuming the fires, Covid-19, and all of the scary people out there behave.

Floppy the Doe Brings by Her Kids… Nature Tales

One of the twins. She had been standing under the bird feeder when a scrub jay flew in and startled her.

I had another post on Rome in the armchair series ready to go. All I had to do was hit the publish button. And then Floppy brought by her twins late yesterday. She has had them well hidden ever since the bear made an appearance. But he hasn’t been around for several days. Apparently it is safe now. Anyway, I promised you photos of Floppy’s babies. Here they are. Enjoy. Peggy and I kept handing the camera back and forth so these pictures are from both of us.

The twins follow along. Floppy was a fawn when we first moved here and has been hanging around ever since. She likes apples and is now the dominant doe in the area. Even young bucks pay her homage.
Floppy noticed us taking photos from inside while one of the twins scratched an itch. I think that was a ‘Where’s my apple’ look but we didn’t’ want to disturb the family.
Floppy made two complete circuits around our house. We took lots of photos!
This is probably about as much cute as you can handle on a Monday morning. Someday this kid will grow into its ears!

NEXT POST: It’s back to Rome, unless, of course…

A tiny Fawn and a BIG Bear… Nature Tales

“Curt,” Peggy called, “come here quick! There is something small moving through the grass.”

I hurried over to the window. You never know what new animal, bird, snake, lizard, etc. is going to drop by for a visit. This time it turned out to be a fawn, probably on its first venture out from wherever it had been hidden by mom. The doe had just jumped over our fence, leaving her baby behind. Peggy’s mother-instincts kicked in. No need, the fawn easily crawled through the fence.

Peggy started snapping photos. So did I but my camera was beeping at me. I’d forgotten to put the memory card back in after downloading photos. Oh well, Peggy took enough for both of us. It was our first fawn of the season.

The fawn had crawled through the fence and was looking for mom. It is one of the smallest fawns we have seen. And, of course, cute. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I’m coming, Mom! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And I know right where I am going. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Ah, there is nothing like fresh milk. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
If, I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a dozen times: Stop pulling so hard! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
Wait, did I just hear a door opening? (Peggy and I were caught as we tried to sneak outside.)
We got the ‘Leave my baby alone’ look while the fawn hid behind mom and peered out. “What are those strange two legged creatures, Mom?”

And now for the bear.

Peggy and I came out of a deep sleep at 2:30 am yesterday. Something was crashing around outside our bedroom window. “Bear!” we simultaneously exclaimed! Our neighbor Bryan had texted us on Wednesday to tell us that a large, black bear had rummaged through his garbage the night before. Apparently, it was our turn!

I jumped out of bed without getting dressed, grabbed our heavy duty Mag-lite and made a dash for our patio door. Bears can do a lot of damage in a short time. I threw the door open. Nothing. Our garbage can was my next thought. I had spotted fresh claw marks on it a couple of weeks earlier. I ran though the kitchen and threw open the back door. Again, nothing.

Then I heard a crash on our porch. Damn, the bear is going for the grill, I thought, and went charging through the kitchen, dining room and library. We had already had one Weber grill tipped over and damaged by a bear. I didn’t want to see it happen again. I threw open my third door of the night, this time shining my light on the grill. It, too, seemed fine. Then I noticed that the bird feeder was swinging back and forth and been turned into a crooked parody of itself. The bear had been playing tether ball with it! I pointed my flashlight up our driveway to see if the bear had taken off. He hadn’t.

He was standing 30 feet away staring at me. And he was big, as in BIG. I had only seen one that was larger, and given that it was standing on its hind legs with its feet and claws raised above its head growling at me, I may have exaggerated its size.

“What are you staring at Bear?” I asked. “Haven’t you ever seen a naked man before?” And then I yelled. He leisurely turned around and ambled off up our road. I prefer that my bears run.

I’m sorry I don’t have any photos for you. My mind was a bit preoccupied. He really was a magnificent creature. I suspect we will have more opportunities for photo ops. But here are three pictures for perspective. I’ll close with a final ‘cute shot of mom and baby.

This is our bird feeder after I bent it back into shape. And our back porch. The grill is just off to the right. I had come out the door and was standing on the porch. The bear was standing where I took this photo from.
The sound we heard next to our bedroom window was this patio chair being moved by the bear. I’d set my ground squirrel trap earlier in the day and left some sunflower seeds under the table. Apparently, the bear really likes birdseed!
And garbage. This is a close up of our garbage can and the claw marks. We will be moving the can into one of our sheds until the bear goes away. I will also take the bird feeder in each night.
So I don’t leave you with a vision of a bear slashed can, here’s a final shot of mom and baby as they headed out. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT POST: I’m assuming it will be on the fabulous market in Barcelona unless the bear comes back or more fawns show up. (Grin)

A Lizard With a 3rd Eye, Floppy Gets Svelte, And a Wren Talks— and Talks: Nature Tales Continued

It’s time for more nature tales brought to you by the wild animals that live on our property and entertain us continually by doing what comes naturally.

Let’s start with a very pregnant Floppy. This is what she looked like last week when she was grabbing a snack. I’d meant to catch her with a mouth full of oak leaves, but she’s fast when it comes to scarfing down food. It seems that the twigs sticking out of her mouth were dessert. She waddled off searching for more.
Here she is on Monday! Notice the difference! Our very pregnant deer had become svelte! She has had her fawn, or fawns. Don’t expect to see it for a couple of weeks, however. It is carefully hidden away in our canyon. Babies are born virtually odor-free so predators can’t smell them. Ask a coyote. They also know how to freeze in place. I’ll do one of those ‘cute’ posts if and when Floppy brings her fawn or twins around.

Our property is a regular herpetarium. We have wall to wall lizards ranging in size from tiny babies that have hit the ground running up to foot-long alligator lizards that can scare the heck out of you. We also have skinks, beautifully iridescent lizards with bright blue tails.

Fence lizards dominate, however. You can’t go outside without seeing dozens at this time of the year. They are fun to watch as they scamper across our yard in search of bugs. And they are even more entertaining when they try to impress another lizard by doing push-ups and puffing up their bodies to almost twice their normal size.

They are also quite curious. Or at least they seem to be. Anytime I am outside working around the house, they show up and watch me, often choosing a high perch for a better view. If I do something that chases them away, they’re back in a minute or two. The fellow below came out to watch me when I was building a brick planter around our yellow rose bush earlier this week.

I was curious about the white spot on the back of its head and did some research. I learned that it is called the parietal or third eye. While the lizard can’t ‘see’ out of the eye, it is light sensitive. When a hawk flies over, it skedaddles! A kid’s hand poised to catch it has the same result. The eye is connected to the pineal gland and helps control circadian and seasonal rhythms.

I think we have seen all of one wren since Peggy and I moved here. But a couple of weeks ago, a pair showed up looking for a home. It was pretty funny. The male wren, it turns out, is responsible for house hunting and nest building. The location may be a tree cavity, a birdhouse, a drain pipe, etc. Even an old shoe will do in a pinch. Once he finds what he considers the ideal site, he fills it with twigs and invites his lady love over to check it out. She’s the one that makes the ultimate decision about his nest finding abilities. I can see where she might be concerned if he has picked an old shoe. The poor guy may find himself building 3 or 4 nests before she finally says yes. 

I think ours must have been on number four— or maybe five— when he showed her our bird house. He seemed very eager, or maybe he was nervous, like a real estate agent about to close or lose a big sale. He talked and talked and talked. Finally, she hopped in to take a look. And immediately hopped out with a feather in her mouth that she spit out. I could almost hear the discussion. “You are trying to sell me a used house!” “No, no sweetie. Think of it as an already feathered nest.” Whatever he said, she went back inside and came out with another feather. This time she ate it! Apparently that meant yes because the little guy started hopping around and talking twice as fast. Then he zoomed off to pick up some grass to add to the nest. Soon, they were both busy at work.

Here’s the new home. BTW, the fence you can see in the background was what the fox was climbing up.
The female pokes her head out to take a break from sitting on the eggs.
And the male drops by to visit with a typical wren tail flip. Soon he will be busy helping with feeding responsibilities.
Peggy put this unique bird house on top of one of the 10-foots posts surrounding our garden. She thought of it as a decoration…
But a pair of tree swallows thought otherwise! Now, Peggy is scolded any time she works in her garden. I could watch these birds forever as they perform their incredible aerial acrobatics. They arrive here in March and will leave once their babies can fly. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I’ll close today with a few more photos of the deer herd. Do you remember when I did the post on young buck and his fearless leaps over a wall and a fence to get at our honeysuckle and native shrub garden? Well, it turns out he isn’t so young…

You have to have some years behind you to grow a rack like this. He will be at least a three pointer and possibly a four pointer. If you have ever had the feeling that someone or something is watching you…
Here he is under the madrone in our backyard. His antlers will be in velvet and continue to grow for at least a couple more months. The rounded knobs suggest that each of the top four antlers may split again. If so, he could be a five pointer!
The bucks hang out together at this time of the year. While the older fellow stretched out beneath the madrone, the kid stopped for a drink of water in the bird bath. He also had a message…
Be sure stop and smell the flowers.

Tomorrow’s post: Who knows? Not me. (grin)

A Fox Climbs Our Fence, A Coyote Trots By, a Bumble Bee Bites Plants and Other Tales of Nature: Part 1

Peggy and I were sitting in our library downing an English muffin and a bowl of fruit on Friday morning when a movement outside caught my attention. A fox was climbing our eight-foot deer fence after a Stellar jay that was hassling it. Once again we found ourselves in a zoo looking out from our comfortable cage. The fox climbed down, made its way through our shrub garden, and climbed under the fence. I took this photo right after it climbed under the fence.

We weren’t fast enough with our cameras to catch the fox climbing the fence. We sat there in awe for too long. But fortunately, the fox was having a leisurely morning and hung around for a few minutes..

Given its reddish color, my first thought was red fox, but its black capped grey tail and climbing ability quickly identified it as a grey fox. Grey foxes are the only ones that climbs trees (and apparently deer fences). They have even been known to raise their families in tree dens high above the ground. We catch glimpses of them occasionally on our property but normally they are secretive. One time, we watched a doe stalk one, following along behind, carefully raising and placing each hoof. That was neat.

My guess is that they have a den (or dens) on our property. The male and female raise the kits together. For the first couple of weeks the mother tends to her babies while the male hunts and supplies food. Our experience is that they form a close bond. A few years ago a fox was run over on the highway below our property. Each night we would hear its partner howling down on the road. Only when I went down and buried the fox did the howling end.

The fox plopped down in our driveway for a brief rest. I suspect he was on his way home after an early morning hunt. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
He then looked up at us. Note the short legs. The literature says that’s what allows foxes to climb trees.
And then he was off on the hunt again.

Having enjoyed the fox, it was only appropriate that we would see a coyote as well. We met up with it last week as we were hiking in the forest behind our house. It seemed as curious about us as we were about it.

It came trotting up through the forest and didn’t see us at first.
Then he stopped and checked us out. I thought it looked quite regal. The coyote stared at us for a couple of minutes. I thought it might continue up toward us but it headed off in the other direction, stopping every few feet to look back at us.

This is hot off the press, and it isn’t about Covid-19. Woohoo! I was skimming through Apple News this morning and I came across an article that bumble bees bite plants. How could I not read the article? Had the plants somehow irritated the bees. Was there a bee-plant war going on? No, there wasn’t a war. The bees depend on the pollen from the plants for their survival. But they were irritated. The plants weren’t blooming and providing the pollen. So the bees bit the plants to speed up the process. Apparently it cuts two to three weeks off the wait period. I rushed outside to see if I could spot a bumble bee biting a plant. No luck, the flowers were already blooming. I did catch a couple of photos of bumble bees harvesting pollen, however. I conclude my post with them. Bzzzzzzz.

Bumble bee harvesting pollen from the clover that grows in our back yard.

NEXT POSTS: Tomorrow I’ll take you window shopping in Venice. Thursday: Part 2 of nature tales. Among other things, you will meet a Buddhist lizard.

Eeyore Is So Tired of Wearing His Face Mask, He Has Started Using It as a Feed Bag…

I’ve been avoiding writing about Covid-19 directly. There is more than enough out there without me adding my two cents worth— to say the least. But an incident happened to Peggy and me the other day when we were out shopping while wearing our masks that deserves a brief post.

Eeyore demonstrates how to turn a face mask into a feed bag. After I carefully explained to him that its purpose was to protect others from Covid-19— not himself— he plaintively asked if he couldn’t do both. I told him to go for it. The poor fellow has to eat. Lots. I understand.

Peggy and I were shopping at Home Depot a couple of days ago, buying what I needed to make a gate for our shrub garden. We had worn our face masks while we shopped and then worn them back to the truck while we were loading our purchases into the back. A man in his 60s was parked next to us and digging through his car trunk. It was stuffed to the brim and looked like it hadn’t been cleaned or organized in 10 years. He spotted us and quickly started sifting through the mess and came up with a black sweatshirt. He held it over his nose and mouth and pretended to shoot us.

Peggy was stunned and I was angry. I was sorry I didn’t have my black cowboy hat along so I could slap it on my head and pretend to shoot him back.

But I didn’t have my hat and wouldn’t have done it anyway. What we don’t need during this pandemic is more tension and confrontations. For all I knew, he had a gun in his trunk and may have pulled it out. It was probably an irrational fear— odds are, he was just being a smart ass— but people have been shot lately over the mask issue. And I thought of the armed men who invaded the Michigan Statehouse a couple of weeks ago demanding that the state be reopened. People marching around with military-grade, semi-automatic weapons and screaming, or just standing silently, are scary. And they mean to scare us and to intimidate us. They aren’t freedom fighters, or true patriots, or heroes; they are bullies.

The real heroes are the men and women working in hospitals and serving as first responders in the fight against Covid-19.

We all want to see America up and running again. We all want to see the world up and running. It has to happen. The point is: It can be done in a reasonable and relatively safe way. We have all the information we need. It involves widespread testing, identification of those who have the disease, voluntary isolation with support, and tracing the contacts of the people with Covid-19. For the effort to work effectively in the US, it needs to be carried out on the national level with national funding. A small portion (estimated around 5%) of the two-plus trillion dollars voted by Congress for economic relief will cover the cost. Countless lives saved and a healthy economy will be the likely results. With true leadership, we can return to a relatively normal life while we wait for the more permanent solution of a vaccine. Prevention works.

Eeyore and Bone, both true patriots (and citizens of the world), prepare to ride across the country for a discussion with the President on how to cope with Covid. (Red, white and blue masks courtesy of Peggy Mekemson.)

Help! Let Me Out… Keeping Sane in the Time of Covid-19

Peggy and I have found a number of ways to maintain our sanity and sense of humor in this time of Coronavirus. I will share a few today. We laugh a lot. If that doesn’t work, there is always wine!

Help, let me out!

Number 1: Catching ground squirrels. In the world of dastardly rodents, few are more dastard than the ground squirrels. We have a catch and release program. Of course these criminally inclined rodents steal birdseed, but that isn’t what gets them banned. They can chomp though a garden faster than Superman can leap a tall building. And even worse, they see nothing wrong with climbing up in our vehicles and chewing on wires! “Some fun,” they think.

Plus they have an attitude. I spotted this fellow a couple of years ago sitting on our deck banister munching sunflower seeds. When I politely asked him if he had been over at the bird feeder, he gave me the paw.
And they lie. “I have never stolen your sun flower seeds,” this one claimed. “I am the greatest ground squirrel alive. The tree squirrels did it!” I pointed out to him that he had at least 40 seeds stuffed into his cheeks. “That’s not true,” he proclaimed. “Fake news!”
Jail break! We turn the squirrels loose in the forest across the river where there are no sun flower seeds, no gardens and no engine wires to chew on. Squirrels have to make a living the old fashioned way— eating grass. BTW: You would not want to go up against this guy in the five yard dash. “Free at last!” I heard him exclaim as he disappeared into the blackberries. I wished him good luck in his new life.
Squirrely advice to their Chief. Courtesy of my T-shirt. Note the cheeks. (Grin)

Number 2: Learning about nature. We took you on a nature walk in our last post, so there is no need to dwell on it here. I did want to share one more thing, however: How to spot deer beds. I’m pretty sure it is a critical skill.

This is what a deer bed looks like in the woods. Not much, you say. They scratch out a hole for themselves by moving dirt around with their hooves. It takes a minute or so. Once you learn to spot them, they are fairly obvious. Even more obvious…
Here’s what a deer bed looks like at our house. BTW, I’m not sure you can get more pregnant that Floppy. She has been restless the past two days. I suspect she will have her fawn within the next week. The bed has been in constant use since we moved here ten years ago.
Buckus leapus, who shows promise of being at least a three-pointer, made his own bed. When I suggested that he not rearrange our rocks, he gave me the look, but proceeded to lie down. And aren’t those legs gorgeous! “Great for jumping over the barriers you put up to keep me out of the garden,” he muttered to himself.

Number 3: Working puzzles. While lots of businesses have suffered during this pandemic, I can pretty well guarantee it hasn’t been the puzzle industry. It there is one item hotter than toilet paper, it’s puzzles. Peggy is the addict in our family. I’ll put in a piece on occasion, but mainly to show support. She sits down and there isn’t a peep for an hour. If she disappears, the first place I look is the puzzle table.

Peggy lost to the world. Our dining room table was drafted into service for the duration. The puzzle in front is a colored marble seduko that our friends Tom and Lita sent us. I play this one but Peggy is a whiz. She finishes a square and five minutes later calls out, “Done!” Tom suggested we compete. Ha!
She has completed a lot of puzzles, each one with its different challenges. With this one, it was the head of the rooster.
She did this puzzle to honor our canceled trip to Europe this summer.
Of all the puzzles, this was by far the toughest. I heard lots of complaints coming from the puzzle room. Peggy even threatened the puzzle by telling it she was going to tear it apart and put it back in the puzzle box.
But, with a little help from a friend, she finished it! And then, of course, she needed a glass to celebrate.

Number 4: Watching flowers grow. Our flowers are deliriously happy. Normally, they just get started and off we go on another adventure. They would turn us into the SPCP, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants— if we gave them access to a phone. Not this year. I’ve put in 10 new trellises and moved at least 11.32 tons of dirt and rock— as least it seems like it. I’m the muscle in this operation. Peggy is the gardener. She is out every day futzing with her babies: planting them, talking to them, and watering them. We both work at trying to keep Buckus leapus out.

Peggy standing on top of our Gabion Cage deer barrier giving plants an extra shot of water.
Remember when I posted about sitting in the sunroom and watching sunflower plants grow while I was writing…
Here’s what they look like now. Happy plants! The barriers on barriers are to keep the ground squirrels and the birds out.
Lots and lots of happy plants. This is the first of the lavender. Soon it will be blooming all around our house with thousands of bees and butterflies to keep it company.
And of course our pioneer rose which now has more flowers than I can count.
I’ve been learning more about this rose since my last post. It is deeply connected to our local history and worth a post on its own. And it is rooted in the history of the west. Another name it goes by is the Yellow Rose of Texas!

The four activities listed above are only the beginning of how we have maintained our sanity and sense of humor during the age of coronavirus. Here are a few other things we do while ‘sheltering at home.’

Peggy makes masks. Lots of them— enough to outfit us, our kids and grandkids, and her brother, sister and spouses.
And quilts. Our son Tony sent us some of his favorite T-shirts for Peggy to turn into a quilt. She is making another one for our son-in-law Clay that features tractors and barns.
I blog. Sometimes it feels like a full time job! Those are my crocks peaking over the top of the screen.
Peggy bakes oatmeal-cranberry cookies. Healthy, right! My job is to test them right after they come out of the oven. I know… it’s hard work but somebody has to do it.
And I make sure the freezer is full. This is a pork roast I cut in two. I turned the first half into a rather tasty lima bean soup. The other half is waiting for me to turn it into pulled pork.
Peggy is kept busy sending and receiving Marco Polos from our kids and grandkids.
Both Peggy and I are avid readers. This is what I am working through in non-fiction. I always try to include science, history, current events, something for the soul, and a book on writing. My fiction is sci-fi and fantasy. I am totally about escapism! Especially now. Peggy loves mysteries.
It feels like a thousand years ago when Peggy and I were at Crater Lake, our last adventure out. And yet, it was only March 20th. Like all of you, we are eager to hit the road again. But we will wait until it is relatively safe. To do otherwise will endanger our lives and those of others. Stay healthy, and stay sane.
The Last Word. This ground squirrel was about to escape into the forest. But before he did, he stopped, looked up me, and growled, “Come just a little closer so I can bite you.'”