Wandering through Time and Place… The 2016 Year in Review: Part III

Peggy and I arrived home from our three month to this thunderhead hanging over the Red Butte Mountains. The view is from our patio.

Peggy and I arrived home from our three-month trip around North America to see this thunderhead hanging over the Red Butte Mountains. The view is from our patio.

When Peggy and I returned from re-tracing my bike route, we were more than happy to hang out at our home in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. The wildlife entertained us and the surrounding country provided scenic views. It wasn’t until fall that we returned to our wandering ways with short trips to the coasts of Northern California and Oregon.

We finished off our year with a trip to Connecticut to visit our son Tony and his family, and North Carolina  to visit our daughter Tasha and her family. In between we worked in a trip to Boston. There is a lot of good blog material! Right now I am sitting in Google’s Charlotte, North Carolina office where our son-in-law Clay works. One of my blogs will be on what it means to be a Googler and be Googley. I find the company fascinating!

Another view from our patio. The clouds frequently provide us wit beautiful sunsets.

Another view from our patio. The clouds often provide beautiful sunsets.

The mood changes dramatically when the mountain mists roll in.

The mood changes dramatically when the mountain mists roll in. The Applegate River runs through the canyon.

The Applegate River showing its fall colors.

The Applegate River showing its fall colors on a sunny day.

And fall colors in the Upper Applegate Valley.

And fall colors in the Upper Applegate Valley.

On the opposite end, a pair of bucks go at it in preparation for mating season. I face my writing chair so I can see all of our back yard action and keep a camera handy!

Fall is when the bucks go at it in preparation for mating season. I face my writing chair so I can see all of our back yard action. I keep a camera handy!

And I am sure that most of you remember Little Buck. "Does anyone have an apple?"

And I am sure that most of you remember this photo of Little Buck. “Does anyone have an apple?” He was December on our Family Calendar.

Whipped cream, anyone. If you've never see sea foam whipped up by a stormy sea, that might be your first thought. I took this photo on our recent trip up the North Coast. It's a preview of blogs to come.

Whipped cream, anyone? If you’ve never seen sea-foam whipped up by a stormy sea, that might be your first thought. I took this photo on our recent trip up the North Coast. It’s a preview of my next blog.

As is this: the Humboldt Lagoon north of Eureka.

As is this: the Humboldt Lagoon north of Eureka.

Peggy and I had a great year wandering and sharing our adventures. I’ve also taken great pleasure in wandering around the world with you on your adventures! I am looking forward to 2017. My New Year’s Day blog will feature my plans for 2017.

Happy New Year!

Curt and Peggy

The two of us on top of a lighthouse on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

The two of us on top of a lighthouse on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Oh, Deer! We Live in a Zoo.

One of the two fawns, the most recent additions to animals that call our property home.

One of the two fawns, the most recent additions to animals that call our property home. It’s a cutie.

A few weeks back I blogged on the pregnant black-tailed deer that had taken up residence on our back porch. See here. (Bucks are hanging around now.) Several of you commented that you hoped mom would bring by her babies and introduce them. Well, she did, yesterday. Twins. I think Peggy may have bribed her with an apple.

While Mom searched for apple quarters, the kids checked us out. We were about 15 feet away.

While Mom searched for apple quarters, the kids checked us out. We were about 15 feet away.

I like this shot because it demonstrates just how small these fawns are. They are less than one month old.

I like this shot because it demonstrates just how small these fawns are. They are less than one month old.

Snack time for two.

Snack time.

Check out the length of the legs! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Check out the length of the legs! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Remember how Mom looked in our windows? Now the bucks are doing it.

Remember how Mom looked in our windows? Now the bucks are doing it.

And bed down in the madrone next to our house— a favorite hangout for the deer.  Note: the bucks are still in velvet.

They also bed down in the madrone next to our house— a favorite hangout for the deer. Note: The bucks are still in velvet. This guy will be a three pointer and possibly a four pointer when his antlers stop growing.

Mom had hidden the fawns until they could run. I guarantee they can. They were cavorting all over our yard, like kittens or puppies. Peggy and I sat out on our back porch and watched. A young buck that was hanging out didn’t know how to relate to the babies, especially when they decided he might be a source of milk. It was pretty funny. He gently suggested that they go play elsewhere.

"No, I am not your daddy." Bucks can be fairly aggressive but they are amazingly gentle when it comes to fawns.

“No, I am not your daddy.” Bucks can be fairly aggressive but they are amazingly gentle when it comes to fawns.

This morning, a herd of deer, the downhill crowd, gathered around some shrubs Peggy and I had recently planted. They circled the fence I had built, looking for a way in. It drives them crazy that they can’t get to all of those succulent young green leaves. Finally they gave up and bedded down next to the fence. At one point we had four in a row.

The deer circled the fenced in shrubs, looking for a place to get in. Each day they check the area out to see if something has changed.

The deer circled the fenced in shrubs, looking for a place to get in. Each day they check the area out to see if something has changed. I have strings tied across the top with flags attached. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Finally they gave up and bedded down next to the fence, ready for a nap.

Finally, they gave up and bedded down next to the fence, ready for a nap.

At one point, there were four sleeping in a row along the fence. This is tow of them. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

At one point, there were four sleeping in a row along the fence. This is two of them. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

There is no question about it; we live in a zoo. Our phone has been buzzing. The neighbors are reporting that another bear has come down off the mountain to check out our neighborhood as a possible food source. We hear the dog telegraph each night. They have a special bark for bears. It’s horrendously loud and goes on and on. But we welcome the warning. When I was away at Berkeley last week and Peggy was home alone, the bear came by and took out our garbage can. The can is now living in our shed. If I see the bear, I will advise it, however, that it isn’t wise to mess with Peggy. I don’t.

On the other end of the scale we have the lizards. We park our outdoor shoes next to the backdoor and the lizards think of them as mansions. Given the fact that I wear size 14, maybe they are. Anyway, it is important that we turn the shoes over and give them a sharp rap before we put them on. Peggy failed to do that once. She was painting our shed and her toe had a continuous twinge. Concerned, she pulled her shoe off to see what was wrong with her foot. Out popped a lizard. Boy did it disappear fast.

A lizard duplex.

A lizard duplex.

And ground squirrels, I swear they breed like rabbits. Not even the snakes, foxes, hawks and coyotes can keep up with their burgeoning population. Three years back I bought a Have-A-Heart trap and began transferring them across the river to Bureau of Land Management property, one at a time. It was slow work. This year I wised up and bought a Squirrelinator, a special trap that can accommodate several squirrels at once. I’ve had as many as four.

The first squirrel of the day caught in the squirrelinator trap. He was working hard at getting out but not before he stuffed his cheeks with all of the birdseed I had put in the trap. He spit it out when I came up to take his photo, like he didn't want to get caught with the evidence.

The first squirrel of the day caught in the trap. He was working hard at getting out but not before he stuffed his cheeks with all of the birdseed I had put in the trap. He spit it out when I came up to take his photo, like he didn’t want to get caught with the evidence. He was still getting rid of it. Check his fat cheeks.

The squirrels growl and chirp at me when I pick up the trap to put it in my truck— but I sing to them: “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.” Odds are they may meet their grandmother or grandfather, not to mention brothers, sisters, cousins, parent, aunts and uncles. I’ve transported lots of squirrels, 15 this last week alone. It’s never dull here. Just wait until next week when five grandsons descend on us.

A final photo of the twins by Peggy.

A final photo of the twins by Peggy.

The Baaa’d Goat Feast

Goat in Jackson County Oregon.

Billy Goat, aka Rambo, stood on our front porch and posed for Peggy. He was a handsome fellow.

“Curt,” Peggy hollered at me from the kitchen, “there is a goat running around in our back yard.” I looked out. Sure enough, a white billy-goat was dashing back and forth in the field above our house baaing like the Hounds of Hell were on its heels.

“Maybe tomorrow’s dinner has escaped,” Peggy suggested. Perhaps she was right. Our neighbors Margaret and Bryan were hosting a goat bar-b-que for Memorial Day. It’s something of a tradition, but normally they cook a lamb. This year, our next-door neighbor, Jim, had donated a goat. I could understand why it might want to get away.

While Peggy called Jim and grabbed a camera, I went out to have a discussion with Billy. I baaa’d at him. I often talk to Jim’s goats. And yes, they talk back. Sometimes we have extended conversations. This time Billy came rushing over to tell me his woes. I started scratching him behind the ears. It works for dogs, cats, and horses, why not for goats. Soon Billy was purring like a cat, or he would have been if goats purred. Jim arrived in his truck.

I scratched Rambo behind the ears and calmed him down.

I scratched Billy behind the ears and calmed him down. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

“Come on Billy,” I suggested, “let’s go see Jim.” Billy dutifully followed along.

“His name is Rambo,” Jim informed me as he beat on a can filled with goat food to entice his errant ram. Rambo wasn’t buying it. He was obviously irritated. At a minimum, Jim had interrupted a good ear scratching.

“Are we looking at dinner, here?” I asked Jim. His last ram had ended up in stew.

“Oh, no,” Jim told me. “That’s Pinky.” Pinky had been a bad goat in the spring and caused the demise of two kids from another Nanny. That had irritated Jim, which isn’t a good idea. “Pinky was Rambo’s companion, however.” Jim explained. “And now he is mad.” Apparently Rambo had escaped from his pen to mount a rescue effort. Back in his pen again, he sounded like an angry bull elephant on a rampage. The whole neighborhood shook from his complaints. Jim retrieved another nanny to put in with him. Rambo shut up— immediately. So much for true love.

The next day…

“Stop that,” Bryan’s father Bernard urged when Jim referred to the goat that was roasting on the spit as Pinky. Obviously Jim was having fun, teasing. A fair-sized group of neighbors, friends, and a contingent from Southern Oregon University had gathered for the feast. Everyone had brought food to go with the goat meat and several had brought wine. Fred, the brewer from the Caldera Brewery in Ashland, had brought a generous supply of the brewery’s award winning beers. I considered it my responsibility to sample a few.

This Caldera IPA was quite tasty. So tasty in fact, that I had to drink another.

This Caldera IPA, Hopportunity Knocks, was quite tasty. So tasty in fact, that I had to drink another. I can honestly report that the brewery’s other ales were quite good as well.

Goat bar-b-que in Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon

Ex-Pinky roasting away over an open fire.

Spices and oil are bushed on the goat by Brian's brother-in-law Kieth. The brush is also made of spices such as rosemary and sage.

Spices and oil are brushed on the goat by Brian’s brother-in-law Keith. The brush is also made of spices such as rosemary and sage.

There is something primitive about carving your meat off of an animal that has just been roasted over an open fire. It’s enough to make squeamish folks hesitate. Throw in the fact that it was goat, and even more people opt out. The real gourmet challenge, however, was the Kokoretsi Bryan prepared. He had taken a portion of the goat’s intestine, stuffed it with cut up pieces of the goat’s lungs, heart and liver, trussed it up, and cooked it beside the goat. The meal required a bold palate.

Brian carves meat off the goat roast.

Bryan carves meat off the goat roast.

Bryan serves on neighbor Jim, who donated the goat for the feast.

And serves our neighbor Jim, who donated the goat for the feast.

Kokoretsi being grilled in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon.

The Kokoretsi all trussed up.

But the goat and the goat intestines were quite tasty. With the exception of a vegetarian or two (understandably), everyone lined up for goat meat and most people tried the Kokoretsi. I went back for second helpings of each. As for the vegetarians and the more dainty eaters, there were numerous options, including a delicious apple pie Peggy had baked for the occasion. No one went home hungry.

Bryan's father, Bernard, makes an annual trip down from Portland to oversee the cooking of the lamb/goat. It's a family affair.

Bryan’s father, Bernard, makes an annual trip down from Portland to oversee the cooking of the lamb/goat. It’s a family affair.

Margaret teaches at SOU and served as editor of my book, The Bush Devil Ate Sam.

Margaret, looking chirpy,  served as editor of my book, The Bush Devil Ate Sam.

It wasn't only people who had fun at the goat feast, This dog made quick work of some spilled beer.

It wasn’t only people who had fun at the goat feast. This dog made quick work of some spilled beer.

It was the Australian Shepherd puppies that stole the show, however. I don't know how many there were, but it seemed like there were plenty to go around.

It was the Australian Shepherd puppies that stole the show, however. I don’t know how many there were, but it seemed like there were enough to go around.

Like, how cute can you get?

Like, how cute can you get?

After all of that attention, this one needed a nap.

After all of the attention, this one needed a nap.

Peggy attests to just how good the goat meat was.

Peggy attests to just how good the goat meat was. NEXT BLOG: I’ll take you back to the magical Greek Island of Santorini on my Wednesday photo essay.

 

 

Happy Earth Day 2015… A Walkabout in Southern Oregon

White oak woodland in Southern Oregon in the Applegate Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A variety of trees exist on the five acres around our home in Southern Oregon. These are white oaks. It looks like the Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood, or at least like I imagined it as a child. The road leads down to our house.

It’s Earth Day 2015. To celebrate, I am writing this post from a small deck Peggy and I had built on the upper portion of our property. I took the photo of white oaks from where I am sitting.

An Acorn Woodpecker is hammering away at a dead pine. He just stopped to issue a staccato comment on the day, a Woody Woodpecker laugh. I can also hear a Robin’s distinctive chirp— they are migrating through, scratching around for juicy bugs. Flickers and Stellar Jays join the chorus. The jays are discussing the fact I haven’t put out their morning helping of sunflower seeds. They are loud and raucous, hoping I will hear them. How could I not? I was soundly scolded on my walk up here.

As for the Flicker, he has gone to pounding on our roof vents several times a day. Who knows why, but it sounds like a jack hammer. It gets Peggy quite excitable and she charges around whacking our ceiling to scare him away. I’ve checked the roof, so far no damage. I am not so sure about the ceiling.

One very pregnant and obviously uncomfortable Black Tail doe walked by a few minutes ago. She’s restless. I watched her yesterday as she disappeared behind our pump house for a few minutes (it’s cool and shady), came out, munched on some grass, walked to our house, and plopped down against the side. She will be having her fawn soon, probably down in our blackberry filled canyon. We won’t see the baby for a week or two since does carefully hide their babies and insist that they remain hidden for several days.

Pregnant doe on Upper Applegate River in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The ballooning mom-to-be leans against our house and looks at me with her big brown eyes. It’s like she is saying, “Really, now what?” The deer are used to being lectured by Peggy about eating her flowers.

A cool, fresh breeze is blowing. Puffy clouds float by. The wind is welcome; it’s been hazy for the past few days. The weather people tell us that the haze is caused by smoke blowing in from Siberia. Apparently fires that Siberian farmers were using to clear their fields escaped. Our earth, this seemingly huge planet, is a small place after all. We are all neighbors. If people choose to pollute the air, discharge waste into water, cut down forests, and litter the landscape with the leftovers of modern civilization, it impacts all of us. We all suffer.

Haze from Siberia fills the valleys between our homes and the Red Butte Mountains.

Haze from Siberia fills the valleys between our home and the Red Butte Mountains.

But enough doom and gloom—today is a day to celebrate the natural beauty of our earth. Let’s go for a walk. We will start at the Applegate River at the bottom of our property and move up the hill to the National Forest boundary marker. I’ve built signed trails throughout our property and named them after our grandkids (all boys). Ethan’s Hidden Springs Trail and Connor’s Jungle Trail are examples. The first thing the kids do when they arrive is run off to explore their trails. It is Peggy and my hope that we can instill in our grandchildren the same love of the natural world and desire to protect it that we have.

A Note: I wrote this piece and did our walk yesterday so this post could go up today.

This beautiful river flows out of the Siskiyou Mountains a few miles away from out home.

This beautiful river flows out of the Siskiyou Mountains a few miles away from our home.

Cold, pure water.

Looking down into the river.

I scrambled over and down these rocks to get to the river. Bureau of Land Management land is on the opposite shore.

I scrambled over and down these rocks to get to the river. Bureau of Land Management land is on the opposite shore.

This handsome guy is a mere shell of his former self, literally. I believe it was a dragonfly nymph before the dragonfly popped out of the shell and flew away.

This handsome guy is a mere shell of his former self, literally. I believe it was a dragonfly nymph before the dragonfly popped out and flew away in one of the miracles of nature.

Likely native American grinding rock on the Applegate River in Southern Oregon.

Located among the rocks is what Peggy and I suspect was a Native American grinding rock.

Lichen on river rock of the Applegate River in southern Oregon.

Lichens (from my perspective) always make interesting photos.

Here's a closeup.

Here’s a closeup.

Now it is time to hike up the hill. Our small 1500 foot with its sunroom is perched on the side. The tall tree on the right is a Douglas Fir.

Now it is time to hike up the hill. Our small 1500 square foot house with its sunroom is perched on the side. The tall tree on the right is a Douglas Fir.

Our fence is designed to fit into the local environment.

Our front fence is designed to fit into the local environment.

While oaks dominate the northern side of our property, Ponderosa Pines, Douglas Fir and Madrones dominate the south. I've created signed trails running through our property and named them after the grandkids such as Ethan's Hidden Spring's Trail and Connors Jungle Trail.

While oaks dominate the northern side of our property, Ponderosa Pines, Douglas Fir and Madrones dominate the south. This is Ethan’s Hidden Spring Trail.

Ponderosa Pines growing in the Upper Applegate Valley near Applegate Lake.

The trees, like these Ponderosa Pines, grow quite tall.

Ponderosa Pine growing at the 2000 foot elevation on the Upper Applegate River.

Check out this beauty.

Large Madrone growing near Applegate River in southern Oregon.

This large Madrone with its unique bark lives next to our house.

Madrones shed their leaves in summer. It is like having two falls. The shadow of a fly can be seen through the leaf. Shortly afterwards it flew down to bite me. Bad decision.

Madrones shed their leaves in summer. It is like having two falls. The shadow of a fly can be seen through the leaf. Shortly afterwards it flew down to bite me. Bad decision.

Signs of animal life are found throughout the property. This large hole was probably drilled by a Pileated Woodpecker.

Signs of animal life are found throughout the property. This large hole was probably drilled by a Pileated Woodpecker.

Cat eye flower grown in the Upper Applegate River Valley.

Flowers were few and far between on my walk but I did find this interesting cat eye.

One of the reasons we bought our property was this sign, a boundary marker for the Klamath National Forest that borders the back of our property.

One of the reasons we bought our property was this sign, a boundary marker for the Klamath National Forest that borders the back of our property. Between Klamath and other national forests, over a million acres of public lands are found out our back door.

While our front fence is a fairly serious fence, our back fence is strictly for aesthetics. It is an open invitation to the deer, cougars, bear and other wildlife that live in the forest to "come on down." We'd even welcome Bigfoot. (grin.)

While our front fence is a fairly serious fence, our back fence is strictly for aesthetics. It is an open invitation to the deer, cougars, bear and other wildlife that live in the national forest to “come on down.” We’d even welcome Bigfoot. (grin.) HAPPY EARTH DAY.

Part II: A Walk on the Wild Side of Southern Oregon… from the Mail Box

Numerous ferocious animals are found along our mailbox route, including Charlie who barks more in a minute that the minute has seconds.

Ferocious animals are found along our mailbox route, including Charlie, who barks more in a minute that the minute has seconds.

I took you along for a walk to my mailbox in the last post. We hiked over Cody’s Bear Trail, went looking for a wayward skunk, and found the deer herd that believes it is the true owner of our property. Maybe it is. We then detoured through the Klamath National Forest, rejoined our neighborhood road and arrived at the mailbox.

Today we are completing the trip. We will walk along the Upper Applegate Road, check out the Applegate River, visit with one tiny and two huge dogs, and finish our hike on Ethan’s Hidden Trail. The total walk to and from the mailbox, with detours, is a mile and a half.

But first I have to report on two new developments. One, I found the skunk. He is a magnificent creature, by far the biggest skunk I have ever seen. I’d gone down after dark to collect our garbage can on the main road. And there he was, waddling. In fact he waddled right into our front road culvert. He is one culvert-loving skunk.  I am surprised he fit.

Two, I received an award from the Word Press blog Animal Couriers. I love these people. They transport people’s pets all over Europe but also throughout the world. And they do a lot with rescued animals. They’re good folks. Was the award for my great humanity, good looks, fine intelligence and quick wit? No, sigh. It was for my “off the wall” comments on their blog. So there you have it, in case you haven’t noticed before: I am an off the wall type of guy. I like it.

Upper Applegate Road, Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

On leaving the mailbox, our counterclockwise journey takes us along Upper Applegate Road. It’s my kind of highway. At night, I can drive the whole 13 miles without meeting another car. Charlie the Dog lives up the road on the right. Our river property is just above the grove of trees.

Trail on Upper Applegate River in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I quickly leave the road. There is the Applegate River to explore. Besides, if I had been born to walk on roads, I would have been born with wheels.

There is this sign... but I am sure they can't mean me. Plus I haven't met the owner to ask for permission in my three years of living here.

There is this sign… but I am sure they can’t mean me. Plus I haven’t met the owner to ask for permission in my three years of living here.

River rock covered in moss on Applegate River in Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I learned a long time ago that beauty surrounds us, if we are willing to see it. This river rock covered in moss is an example.

Wood grain photo on Applegate River in Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Another example: grains in wood. I found this long-dead limb just beneath the no-trespassing sign.

Applegate river in winter. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And here is the Applegate River. It is running low now because we haven’t had much rain but that doesn’t detract from its beauty.

Manzanita growing on Applegate River in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Recognize this bush? It’s smooth skin is the primary clue. This is manzanita. In the spring it hosts small pink flowers that smell oh so sweet. In the fall it sports bright red berries.

Manzanita Flowers. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A photo of manzanita flowers I took last spring.

Oregon Red Cedar. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

We return to the road, walk past Charlie’s house, and come to this magnificent red cedar that marks our property line.

Granite rocks on Applegate River in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Before we head up Ethan’s Trail back to our house, we’ll make a quick detour onto the river property we co-own with out neighbors. We have to scramble over granite rocks to get there.

Applegate River. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

But the journey is worth it.

Lichen on rock along Applegate River. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Walking back from the river I find this lichen…

Pool of frozen water on rocks next to Applegate River in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This small pool of water that was frozen over and offered a fun reflection. The pine needle on the left side provides a perspective on the size of the pool.

I also found this site of a feast. Poor birdie.

I also found this site of a feast. Poor birdie.

We have now arrived at our front road. Our sunroom is hiding behind the oak tree on the left. Ethan's Hidden trail starts in the trees on the right. I found the skunk about fifteen feet below where I took the photo.

We have now arrived at our front road. Our sunroom is hiding behind the oak tree on the left. Ethan’s Hidden Trail starts in the trees on the right. I found the skunk about fifteen feet below where I took this photo.

As I head over for Ethan's Trail more neighbor dogs come out to greet. These are A guard dogs and regard everybody but their master with suspicion. I think Griz is finally starting to like me. I've told him waht a good boy he is at least a thousand times.

As I head over for Ethan’s Trail more neighbor dogs come out to greet me. These monsters are Anatolian guard dogs and regard everybody but their master with suspicion. I think Griz is finally starting to like me. I’ve told him what a good boy he is at least a thousand times. He actually wagged his tail.

His brother Omni, on the other hand, has that look that says come across the fence so I can eat you. He lost his eye as a puppy.

Omni didn’t. He has that look that says come across the fence so I can eat you. He lost his eye as a puppy and has been irritated about it ever since.

Ethan's trail

Applegate Valley trail through ponderosa Pines and Douglas Fir. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

While Cody’s Bear Trail makes its way through White Oaks, Ethan’s Hidden Trail wanders through Madrone, Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs on the opposite side of our canyon.

Blackberry vines growing in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Blackberries fill the canyon. By August these vines are loaded with fruit that the deer help us harvest, delicately.

When we can see our pump house, we are almost home. An interesting aside... When we bought the property we noted that the ceiling of the pump house was filled with outlets. "What the heck?" we thought. And then the light dawned. We were in rural Oregon. The pump house had been used for growing pot. I tease Peggy that If our retirement funds ever run out, I am going to become a pot farmer.

When we can see our pump house, we are almost home. An interesting aside… when we bought the property we noted that the ceiling of the pump house was filled with outlets. “What the heck?” we thought. And then the light dawned. We were in rural Oregon. The pump house had been used for growing pot. I tease Peggy that if our retirement funds ever run out, I am going to become a pot farmer. She smiles indulgently.

Madrone tree in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Finally, when we arrive at the large Madrone that provides our back yard with shade on hot summer days, we are home. The smooth skinned Madrone is related to the Manzanita. Thanks for coming along on the Mailbox walk.

NEXT BLOG: I will return to our pre-Christmas visit to Puerto Vallarta where Peggy and I will visit the small town of San Sebastian located high in the Sierra Madre Mountains.

A Walk on the Wild Side of Southern Oregon… to the Mail Box: Part I

Applegate River in Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Peggy and I always stop to admire the Applegate River. Here it reflects the afternoon sky and trees along our mailbox walk.

It’s a new year– a time for resolutions, a time for planning. Right? I mean, right! My laptop is poised and ready for action. But wait, my mind isn’t here. It’s outside wandering around in the woods with the deer and squirrels and foxes and bears.

Why should this be so tough? I love planning. I’ve been doing it forever. I still have plans I developed in high school bouncing around somewhere. I was doing MBO before Peter Drucker invented it. I have plans on top of plans. If I don’t control me, no one will. Or worse, someone else might.

But today, this third day of 2014, my mind just isn’t into planning. Fortunately, I am even better at rationalizing than I am at planning. One of my resolutions is more exercise. Isn’t it everybody’s? It’s on my list every year, regardless of the results. So I will go exercise. I’ll be resolute instead of wishy-washy. I will walk to our mailbox.

Join me as I take a walk on the wild side.

Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

We will start our trip to the mail box following Cody’s Bear Trail. Each of our grandchildren (5 boys) has his own trail. Cody’s happens to be the trail the bear follows when it comes to visit.Last time Bear came by, he tipped over my grill.

Applegate Valley,Oregon deer trail. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The five-year old Cody and I could have named it Deer Trail, instead. (It’s more like a deer freeway.) But that lacks the pizzaz of Bear Trail.

Coming off Cody's Trail, I smelled a skunk. Was our culvert occupied again. Last summer, I had to replace the culvert. My 76-year-old friend Tuffy was removing the last few feet of the old culvert with a backhoe, when the fattest skunk I have ever seen came waddling out and disappeared into the blackberries where the foxes live...

Coming off Cody’s Trail, I smelled a skunk. Was our culvert occupied again? Last summer, I had to replace the culvert. My 76-year-old friend Tuffy was removing the last few feet of the old culvert with a backhoe, when the fattest skunk I have ever seen came waddling out and disappeared into the blackberries where the foxes live…

I got down on my knees and looked into the culvert. I wanted a skunk photo for this blog. Peggy hates it when I poke my head into the culvert; she's afraid I'll be sprayed. No worry, the pipe was empty.

I got down on my knees and looked into the culvert. I wanted a skunk photo for this blog. Peggy hates it when I poke my head into the pipe; she’s afraid I’ll be sprayed and she’ll have to live with me. No worry, the culvert was empty.

Looking back down the road past the culvert toward our house. I would have followed the road if I hadn't used Cody's trail.

Looking back down the road past the culvert toward our house. I would have followed the road if I hadn’t used Cody’s trail.

Blacktail deer herd in Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Ten members of the local Blacktail deer herd were present, however. They were curious about whether Peggy had left them any apples. I caught four of the deer in various poses.

Blacktail deer scratches belly in Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One doe had an irresistible itch on her belly.

Now I am faced with another choice. Do I walk up the neighborhood road past our fence, or do I cut through the woods?

Now I am faced with another choice. Do I walk up the neighborhood road past our fence, or do I cut through the woods?

My preference is always for the woods. Our property line on the back is the Klamath National Forest.

My preference is always for the woods. Klamath National Forest provides our back property line.

Hobbit Tree in Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

So I head up the trail past the Hobbit Tree.

Ponderosa Pines in Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And past the Ponderosa Pines…

Just "me and my shadow strolling down the avenue."

Just “me and my shadow strolling up the avenue.”

View of Red Buttes from Upper Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

There is a small knoll at the top of the mailbox walk where I can look south toward the Red Buttes (looking quite blue) in California.

Now it's time we leave the woods and rejoin the neighborhood road.

Now it’s time we leave the woods and rejoin the neighborhood road.

A week ago this road was a sheet of ice.

A week ago this road was a sheet of ice.

And the goal! Our mailbox is on the right just across the Upper Applegate Road.

And the goal! Our mailbox is on the right just across the Upper Applegate Road.

My reward– a new Scientific American.

My reward– a new Scientific American. “Our Unconscious Mind, It exerts a profound influence: Shaping decisions, molding behavior, and running our lives.” Hmmm.

NEXT BLOG: We walk along the beautiful Applegate River, meet the neighborhood dogs, and follow Ethan’s Hidden Trail as we return to our home from the mailbox walk.

Earth Day 2011… a Home in the Woods

A view from our patio. Tomorrow is Earth Day 2011, a time to stop and appreciate the diversity and beauty found in nature, a time to remind ourselves of the critical role we have in protecting this beauty and diversity for future generations.

My earliest memories of childhood are of exploring the rural countryside around my home in Diamond Springs, California. As a result, I have always loved wandering in the woods. When other boys my age took up baseball bats, I disappeared into the forest and tracked Jack Rabbits.

This splendid fellow considers our property part of his range... Here he reminds me.

Later my enjoyment of nature turned into a passion for protecting the environment.

I was recruiting for Peace Corps Volunteers at the UC Davis when Earth Day I took place. It started me on the road to becoming an environmentalist. I quit my job with Peace Corps and became Executive Director of Sacramento’s Ecology Information Center.

The beauty of nature is found in many forms, from the small flower to the grand vista. The hills behind our home are now filled with spring wildflowers, such as this Shooting Star I photographed last week.

Forty years later the message of Earth Day remains the same.

Diversity in nature helps assure our continued survival. Within that diversity there is also unity. All of life is tied together in a complex whole. When we destroy one part of life it has a rippling effect, reaching out and disrupting other aspects of our existence.

Predators, such as this small fox who has a den on the back of our property, have historically been considered an enemy to be wiped out. Ecology has taught us of the vital role these predators have in maintaining the balance of nature.

It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature.

Protecting the diversity of life through maintaining natural areas does more than help assure our survival, however; it provides a sanctuary where we can escape the busyness and worries of our everyday urban life and return to roots that reach back to the very beginnings of human consciousness.

The beautiful Applegate River flows by our home and provides a rich riparian habitat for birds, mammals, plants and fish. My wife Peggy has already claimed a rock where she can sit quietly and meditate on the beauty.

I am convinced we lose something of our humanity when we isolate ourselves from nature.

When I hike down a woodland trail, a sense of peace settles over my mind even as my fat cells scream for mercy. Both body and soul gain. The benefits are so persuasive I have been drawn to the wilderness again and again during my life.

At an elevation of 2000 feet we have a mixed woodland forest of Ponderosa Pines, Douglas Fir, White Oaks and Red Cedar. A March snowstorm decorated this Douglas Fir.

Our recent move to the Upper Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon is but one more example. The Applegate River flows past out front door and 1.8 million acres of national forest and wilderness form the boundary of our back property.

A herd of deer and a flock of wild turkeys consider our five acres as part of their range. Fat Gray Squirrels chase each other through the mixed oak, pine, fir and madrone forest. A small fox has chosen to make its den in our blackberries.

A herd of seven black tail deer often bed down on our property. They drop by our house frequently to see if Peggy has her garden in yet.

As I look out our window, Mountain Jays, Gold Finch, Grosbeaks and tiny hooded Oregon Juncos are gathered around our bird feeder, more or less taking turns.

Larkspur, shooting stars, buttercups and numerous other wildflowers provide spring decorations on the slope below.

I realize how very, very lucky Peggy and I are to have this home in the woods. With the approach of Earth Day 2011, it is my hope that future generations will still have such wilderness areas to enjoy and cherish.

Sunset from our patio... and a final reminder of the beauty and peace to be found in the natural world. May our children and grandchildren continue to enjoy it. Earth Day 2001.

(Next Blog: How the Pond and the Woods introduced a seven-year-old child to the wonders of nature.)

A Dead Skunk Reeks Revenge

Dead skunks reek revenge; it’s a fact of life for roadkill aficionados, otherwise known as bicyclists.

In 1989 I did a 10,000 mile solo tour of the US and Canada on my bicycle and became a specialist in what North America offers in the way of dead animals. I quickly learned that different regions produce different roadkill. For example, if you are interested in smashed armadillos, go to Louisiana.

Dead skunks, on the other hand, can be found decorating pavement everywhere. Lately, Peggy and I have had to dodge several on our 13-mile drive home from the small town of Ruch, Oregon to our new home in upper Applegate Valley.

I use dodge somewhat loosely since there is no way to avoid the aroma. Dodging a dead skunk is infinitely better than hitting a live one, however. I did that once. It was on my first ‘driving’ date, ever. I was 15.

Paula called me. The date involved Mom, Boyfriend, Paula and I going out to dinner in the small town of Sutter Creek, about twenty miles away from Diamond Springs over California’s curvy Highway 49.

After we filled up on Italian food, Mom and Boyfriend promptly climbed in the back and suggested I drive home.

“Um,” I noted nervously, “I only have a learner’s permit.”

“That’s okay, it will be good practice,” Mom stated before I could add that I had just obtained the permit the week before.

Paula, meanwhile, was waiting for me to open the door for her on the passenger side of the car. She gave me an encouraging smile and my options dropped to zero. Any further hesitation would appear wimpy, which is a definite no-no on a first date.

After doing the gentlemanly thing for Paula, I dutifully climbed into the driver’s seat and miraculously found the keyhole and lights. Minimal gear grinding got us out of town and I breathed an audible sigh of relief.

We had made it just past Plymouth when I ran over the skunk. Its response was to become a virtuoso of glandular activity.

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Boyfriend said as the first powerful whiffs of eau de skunk came blasting through the air vents, “it happens all of the time.”

“Yeah, sure,” I mumbled to myself through tongue-biting teeth, “young men always run down skunks on first dates, especially first dates with Mom and Boyfriend along.”

Fortunately I made it home without further incident.

There is another roadkill story here, though. This one involves a cat and took place in the same area 25 years later.

While working for the American Lung Association of Sacramento, I had created what is known as the Trek Program, a series of multi-day outdoor adventures that people go on as fundraisers.

At the time this particular event took place, I was living in Alaska. ALA Sacramento had hired George and Nancy Redpath to run its Treks. They had a popular three-day bicycling event that incorporated a portion of the same route that I had traveled the night of the fateful skunk incident.

The Redpaths had added a roadside scavenger hunt to the Trek for fun. A sail-cat was on the list of items to be collected.

For the uninitiated, a sail-cat is a cat that has had an encounter with a logging truck’s wheels, after which it resembles a furry pancake with legs. Given several days of curing in the Sierra foothill sun, the cat can be picked and sailed in much the same way you would a Frisbee, hence the name.

Although tossing sail-cats has provided dogs with a new way to chase cats and play Frisbee at the same time, it is a sport without many adherents. Even dogs have serious reservations.

Not surprisingly, one Trekker managed to find a sail cat, load it on his bike and dutifully turn it in at the end of the day. The person won the scavenger hunt, which he should have considering his extended association with the umpteen-day dead cat.

But wait… there’s more. Two other couples became involved in the dead cat saga. I’ll call them Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice to protect the innocent.

Bob and Carol finished the Trek, hopped in their car and naively drove home that evening unaware that they were carrying a fellow traveler. When they arrived back in Sacramento and opened their trunk, lo and behold, there was the dead cat.

Bob and Carol had a good idea it was Ted and Alice who had stowed the unwanted passenger in their car. They vowed to get even.

As it turned out, both couples had spouses who worked for the State of California. A devious plot was hatched. The next day Ted received one of those large inner-office envelopes in his in-basket. It was rather bulky so he opened it with interest. Out slid the sail-cat, your tax dollars at work.

Unlike Aunt Tilley’s fruitcake, the cat apparently ended his strange after-life journey at that point.

A Wilderness Home in Oregon

This view is looking south from our front patio. The mountains are part of the Red Buttes Wilderness area of Northern California. The whole area is being proposed for national monument status because of its beauty and biodiversity.

Our son Tony, his wife Cammie, the two-year old Connor and the nine-month-old Christopher just completed a visit to our new mountain home in Oregon. It was obvious they loved it.

They also liked the historic community of Jacksonville. In fact Cammie raved about the town. I was surprised, however, when she asked Peggy why we hadn’t chosen to live there instead of at our more rural retreat in Applegate Valley.

A view of Jacksonville's main street. My barber, Ed McBee, has his shop on the right.

On one level, I understand the question. It is great to have good restaurants, cultural opportunities such as the Britt Festival, a library, a variety of shops and a grocery store all within walking distance. Finding such a place is rare in our world of urban sprawl.

My ancestors apparently liked the community; I have Great Grandparents buried in the cemetery overlooking the town and a related family, the Colvigs, owned a home there that is now on the National Historic Registry.

But there are also inherent values connected to living in the woods. Peggy quickly related them to Cammie and assured her that I hadn’t forced my lovely wife into a world of isolation. (Jacksonville is only a short 30-minute commute away from our home plus it is a beautiful drive. There are no clogged freeways.)

The view looking westward from our front patio toward the Pacific Ocean.

I was thinking about Cammie’s comments last night as I stood outside our house and looked up at the Milky Way. It’s a view you rarely get in urban areas or even small communities. The bright lights and pollution hide the stars. I could hear the Applegate River rushing by the front of our home and some small animal rustling around in the bushes behind me.

One of the deer that Connor visited who is interested in any garden Peggy may plant.

Earlier in the day I had given Connor a wheelbarrow ride up to the back of our property so he could say ‘bye-bye’ to the deer that hang out there. He’d been up to visit them several times. The herd comes down from the Rogue National Forest that forms our back property line. They are eager for Peggy to put in a garden.

Connor also waved goodbye to the swing that Tony and I had put up for him in a White Oak.

We had carefully surveyed our property looking for the perfect swing tree and a future tree house site. With over a hundred White Oaks on our five acres plus Douglas Fir, Red Cedar, Ponderosa Pines and Madrones there are numerous options.

Don’t get me wrong about Jacksonville, we could live there quite easily and may someday.  But for now, our retreat in the woods with its beautiful views, abundant wildlife, national forest and rushing river is exactly where we want to be. It’s a place that we are eager to share with family, friends and children.

And it is a place where our grandchildren can come and wander through the woods to their heart’s content. It was this freedom and the introduction to wilderness that I loved most about growing up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I can’t think of a better gift to give to our newest generation.

A view of the Applegate River just down from our property.

A side view of our house looking toward front patio.

While we haven't been snowed in, we have seen a fair amount of snow this past week as demonstrated by one of our Red Cedars.

A distant Peggy stands in the middle of our White Oak forest, points to our distant house and says "mine."

Behind this sign at the back of our property are 1.8 million acres of National Forest. I consider this photo one of the most scenic I have ever taken.

One of the reasons we bought our mountain retreat is so our grandchildren Christopher and Connor and their cousins Ethan and Cody can grow up playing in the woods and learning to appreciate the value of protecting America's great wilderness areas.