Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Small steps

Surprise! I'm still here. Just been a busy time.

For anyone on any spiritual path, doubting whether small steps can make a difference, I post this. There's a saying in Buddhism about 'drop by drop the bucket (of wisdom) is filled'. Look at what was accomplished below in 5 months of steady effort, and realize that your own steady effort to fill the bucket of wisdom can be just as effective. We just don't have photos to show our inner progress.

I've been watching the reconstruction of this spillway on the live cam pretty much daily, from the beginning. The progress has been astonishing. Today is their deadline to be finished with phase 1, and as of this morning, they are finishing the last bits and pieces. Next year, they'll replace some of the upper spillway and probably those barriers at the bottom, which they judged to be in good enough condition to wait. And also finish the entire spillway with more layers of enriched concrete, as I understand it. That entire middle section is lower than the upper section, for example, and I believe it's a different level from the bottom section as well. But it's deemed strong enough to take large amounts of overflow for the upcoming rainy season.

Another fun graphic from yesterday.

This roller-compacted concrete was only used in the middle section, where the deep washout is shown above. The upper and lower sections used poured concrete with huge rebar grids. I've really learned a lot watching this, and the drone flyover videos they post on twitter once or twice a week.

What's hard to grasp in the photo of the entire spillway is the sheer size of this job. The drone flyovers get down close and show just how wide, how deep, and how big a job it really was.

So that's most of what's on my mind today. What's on your mind?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The fires continue

Napa and Sonoma are still burning. Almost 200,000 acres so far. This fire, the Tubbs fire between Calistoga and Santa Rosa, was one of the first and is still spreading and causing mayhem. According to CalFire a moment ago, it's at 37,440 acres and only 10% contained. Seriously threatening the wonderful old city of Calistoga, which has been under mandatory evacuation all day.

Another big fire further south is threatening the historic city of Sonoma itself, and many homes in the surrounding area have been burned. The Mayacamas mountains, between the Napa Valley and the Sonoma County, began blazing at the very top a couple of days ago, moving down the Napa side to Mt. Veeder Road where there are many wineries and homes.

Not the clearest image, taken from a live map. shows all the fires currently burning in the area, from Cloverdale to the north, to the Tubbs fire that is threatening Healdsburg as well as Calistoga. Down into the eastern side of Sonoma county in the mountains and over into the Napa side. Plus fires still active in Napa. This is not over yet. Barely contained anywhere, still spreading. High winds in the forecast that can continue to spread it quickly, which is what happened initially.

The planes, large and small, didn't get into the sky until today because of poor visibility.  Several of the large tankers, shown above, and numerous smaller planes. Helicopters have been at work all along, but the planes are a big help.

Heading to bed tonight, wondering what morning will bring.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Fire -- or a Buddhist lesson in impermanence

Update 10/10. Soda Canyon Road, which leads to my friends' home in Napa.

After a week or two of being under the weather, I'm happy to say that Cipro has done it's job and today my energy is back in force. Seems I had a bladder infection, which is something I managed to live almost 75 years without experiencing. Could have gone another 75. Could have been worse. A mild case, from tales I've heard.

Turned on the computer at 4am and saw 'napafires' trending on twitter. I was mesmerized and heartbroken over the next 4 hours as I reached out to friends (all safe) and watched the devastation. People, this is home to me, regardless of where I was born or where I live now. Given the money to make it possible, this is where I'd choose to live. Eugene's a pretty good second choice, but it ain't Napa/Sonoma Counties.

A house frame is totally set alight

Napa got it first, but Santa Rosa is actually taking the brunt of it, with whole neighborhoods wiped out. Hospitals being evacuated at 4am. KMart, hotels, motels, various unknown businesses, wineries, eateries, all burned. Fire departments in Napa and Sonoma counties considered the fires unstoppable, and have focused on getting people evacuated and safe.

At this writing, 3:30pm, at least 1500 structures and over 70,000 acres burned, zero percent contained.

Happy my friends are all safe, though.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tibetan proverb

This little jewel arrived in my twitter feed this morning from @tinybuddha, and it's something I think all of us can benefit from hearing.

In a world filled with so much stress, far too many of us (me included) tend to eat too much, exercise too little, forget to laugh and love. So I share this reminder with everyone.

Took me several days of limp noodle exhaustion, but as of yesterday I'm pretty much back to normal after the waterfall hike last week. I'm still utterly glad I went, but that doesn't alter the fact that it was hard on this old body! Good for the mind, and the heart, however.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Beat up, battered and bruised -- in my mind

I feel worn out, beat up, battered and bruised, and every damn year of my almost 75, but it was worth it.

I had a friend from Bhavana visiting in town for a couple of days. We spent the first day in Eugene, seeing the sights, walking in nature and downtown. She lives in Florida and was right in the path of Irma. No harm to her house, or her, though. Still, a harrowing experience. She's never been to Oregon before, so I wanted to give her a good tour of this beautiful place.

Yesterday, we drove into the mountains to walk the waterfalls trail on the McKenzie River. I did this once, probably 1997 or so, by myself when I stumbled across this place accidentally, and probably again with a local hiking group 10 years or so ago. I'm not really sure. But, I was younger and more nimble in those days.

The trail is only about 2.5 miles, but they are not easy-walking miles. From the parking lot one descends a very short distance to the beauty above -- Sahalie Falls. This is an OLD photo -- no snow yesterday. But it was drizzly and my camera was in my pack, so I didn't get one of this view. From here, the trail descends downhill via steep steps that are mostly wooden railroad ties, with no hand railings. I really could  have used a hiking stick for extra stability, but no longer have one. The wood was wet, too. I was wearing my hiking boots, and while the Vibram sole is great for most surfaces, it's pretty slippery on wet wood. So -- it was slow going. Plus the view of the river and various rapids and cascades and falls was so great we stopped often just to take it in and take photos.

One of many light drops/cascades/rapids along the downhill walk.

The water was crystal clear, and I am always fascinated by deep pools with that astonishing color.

The day was damp and drizzly much of the time, but still beautiful. We've had days of rain, so were grateful to have this much of a break so we could walk in comfort.

This is Koosah falls, the second large one on the trail. Memory tells me this one is 90 feet, while Sahalie is a tiny bit bigger at 100 feet. Very beautiful, regardless of size.

Naturally, what trail goes down must go back up. At the bottom there is a bridge then we picked up the McKenzie River Trail up the other side. Not so many viewing spots over here, and the trail is as steep going up as it was going down, but no steps. I wasn't sorry to see them go.

This is the top of one of the falls, but I honestly don't remember which one. Since it's towards the end, I'm guessing it's Sahalie.

It was hard to get a really clear view of the falls, so I had to settle for the downhill view and lots of that fabulous blue-green water. 

Gotta say, I was really happy to see this bridge! My old body handled the whole thing much better than I expected, especially the uphill portion. I trundled right on up it, though by this point I was getting a bit tired and ready for some food and water and a soft car seat!

Upstream view from the bridge.  From here, we still had a good walk back to the car, but it was mostly level and a good trail.

All in all, it was about a 3-hour hike, which is a lot for such a short distance. But it was difficult on the downhill side in particular, and when you factor in stopping often for photos, time adds up. I'm so very glad we went, though. I doubt that I'll ever see this trail again in this lifetime, and while the body feels beat up, battered and bruised and really tired, that's all temporary and in the end the body will be stronger. Not bad for an old lady, really. Especially an old lady who hasn't walked a hill to speak of in about a year and a half.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hazards of old age

I didn't realize until this morning how long it had been since I posted anything.

Happy to say that I have not expired either from dill pickles or hazardous air. Or anything else.

The awful air only lasted about 4 days, then gradually cleared up to the beautiful clear skies we usually have this time of year. Ma Nature even threw in a little rain to make us feel better. First rain all summer, which is not normal for Oregon. Now, everything is beautiful. Clear blue skies, cooler weather, cool nights once again, breezes. The smell of autumn is in the air and I think we are all ready for it.

So. Yesterday I opened the freezer for some reason and saw a container that I didn't remember putting there. It wasn't old -- right on top of other stuff. This is a hazard of old age -- forgetting the simplest of things. Since I'm in a using-up-leftovers mode, I took it out, thawed it. Looked to be something from chicken -- I could see little bits of it, plus there were a couple of bones. And lots of onions. Otherwise, just a thick concoction that I decided to eat for lunch today, along with some beans and rice from yesterday. So far, so good. But I was still wondering what it was and when I'd made it.

Sat down to eat, wasn't finding much chicken, mostly onions. It was tasty, but strong. I ate a few bites, with the beans/rice, still wondering. Then it hit me. I'd roasted a chicken last weekend, and this was the condensed remains of the onions/lemons underneath the chicken plus a lot of chicken fat! I'd saved it to use as a base for some chicken stock I want to make soon, with all the leftover bones I've been freezing for months now.

I like to think we've all done similar things, but perhaps not.

I didn't eat it. It was too concentrated even with the rice/beans. Would have been a wonderful addition to the stock but it ended up in the garbage. Alas. I really need to start labeling things, since I clearly can't rely on memory all the time. Now, some of the actual roasted chicken is in the oven, thawing and heating up for lunch.

Monday, September 4, 2017


The air in Eugene yesterday. Worst yet, with fires encroaching from the east and smoke from fires all over Oregon and Washington combined with a heat spell and little wind. I went outside briefly, and it was brutal, so I've stayed inside with the AC going, day and night. This morning I opened the blinds in my bedroom and could smell the smoke coming in around the closed window! I immediately engaged the lock, which closes out more air, and closed the little vents at the top of both windows.

Maybe this will illustrate it better. This was yesterday afternoon in the surrounding area. Of the three towns, you can see that Eugene was the worst, literally at the top of the scale.

Somehow that's surprising, since the fires are approaching Oakridge, to the east. I'd think they'd have more smoke, but not according to this.

Today should be the last day of the heat wave and hopefully, some winds will come along with the cooler air and blow some of this away.

I'm grateful that I have AC, and a place to live where I can escape the smoke. Not everyone is so fortunate -- people living in homes without AC, particularly those with already-existing breathing difficulties -- must find this very difficult.

I need to go out this morning long enough to be sure my plants are watered for another 100 degree day, but that doesn't take long.

Aside from the unhealthy and unpleasant air, I personally hate the idea of so much of the northwest's beautiful forests burning, perishing into blackened stumps.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kat dancing

Around here, this is known as the 'vacuum cleaner side-step'. Hard to get a pic of the full experience, since I can't move the machine and hold the camera at the same time. Moving the machine towards her is what brings on the dance. But this is close enough. Always brings a chuckle to the chore.

And oh, by the way, I'm still alive and well!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dill pickle perfection amid smokey skies

Eight quarts from eight pounds of cukes. Just put into jars, cloudy sediment may or may not settle, but is harmless in any event. Mere byproducts of fermentation.

Despite a lot of doubt about the edibility of these over the last couple of weeks, I ate two small ones today and have to say they were the absolute best I've made yet. Now, if I'm still alive and healthy this time tomorrow, I can safely say all those doubts were for nought.

Doubts? Yes -- because this was by far the stinkiest batch I've made yet. First, there was only the smell of freshly-fermenting dills, which was expected. After a week or so, the smell got really strong and really funky, making me wonder what the hell was going on. Last week I dumped the crocks into bowls, strained off the oak leaves, dill, spices and such to throw away, then put the pickles and brine back into the crocks to continue fermenting. I like to let them ferment for 3 full weeks, as it supposedly takes that long for all the good strains of lactobacillus get a chance to develop and grow. And while they taste delicious, the main purpose for me is the probiotic benefit.

I'd reached out to the folks at the Wild Fermentation support forum, but not one person responded to my plea for help and answers. Maybe they were afraid they'd be held liable if they told me this was normal and then I died, or got really sick. Mind you, I'm not completely crazy. The smell was never rotten or repulsive, merely really, really strong with something I couldn't place. At any rate -- today was the 3 week mark so I opened up the crocks again, unloaded the garlic and pickles into jars, filled the jars about half-way with brine from the crocks then added fresh brine to the top.

I generally don't do that if I have enough brine for all the jars, but something in me wanted to thin out the smell, which was actually barely noticeable by then. My semi-educated guess is that because this batch started fermenting strong and fast and kept it up for a week, there was simply more yeast byproduct, and that was what I was smelling. Over the last week, I'd decided that the funky smell had a yeasty character to it.

In the meantime, air quality in Eugene has been horrid for the last few days, as shown in these photos by my ever-favorite local photog, Brian Davies. The sun has been blood red every morning when it rises, and the moon has been about the same. Someone told me much of the smoke is coming from a big fire in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness near Brookings, which I find heartbreaking. I won't guarantee the spelling on that -- but it's close and I'm too lazy to look it up.

So that's that. Don't worry about me if I don't check in tomorrow -- doesn't mean death by dill pickles, just that there'll be nothing to write about.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Moon over Oregon

So -- this is what it looked like 30 miles or so north of Eugene this morning. By my usual favorite photog, Brian Davies.

And, while it was cool to watch it through the little glasses, I have to say that the small orange sphere I watched wasn't nearly as interesting as what Brian watched through his telephoto lens. That's a pretty damned awesome shot.

Other than that, pretty dull day.