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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Aplodontia!

One of the native Pacific Northwest mammals that I've been eager to see has proved to be elusive.  The Apoldonatia, or Mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa) is a primitive rodent that leaves ankle-breaking burrows all over the Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and Swordfern (Polystichum munitum) forests that I've been playing in ever since I arrived here in September of 2006.
While I've seen lots of feeding sign and stepped into many a Mountain beaver hole, and have seen clear tracks in a mud puddle, I only just saw my first live animal. And I had my camera!




Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Something New and Different

 I've always been fascinated with glass. I've played around with stained glass, and my tools and a stash of colored glass are still waiting in storage back in Missouri.  It's something I plan to take up again when I have the room to do it.
 When we went to Silver Dollar City, I'd stand and watch the glass blowers as long as my family or friends would let me.  But glass blowing is not a craft one can take up at home, and so I never really thought much about learning that craft.
Recently, a friend found a groupon for the Redmond School of Glass, and we took a mini glass blowing class. We each got to choose one of 3 color combos and decide if we wanted to add texture to our ornament or float. 

The nice young man in the photo pulled a glob of molten glass from the furnace, then handed me the pipe to apply a coat of crushed lavendar, pink and blue glass, then I heated the glob in the "glory hole" and repeatd the crushed glass coating.  The hard part was remembering to continually turn the pipe so that the glob did not start to slump off the pipe.  By keeping up a constant turning motion, the glob stays more or less round. I opted for texture, applied by the instructor, who laid the glass into a wooden mold cut inside with a diamond pattern. Our instructor plopped the hot glass into the mold and gave a puff of air to expand the ball, which picked up the pattern. It sort of reminded me of one of my antique target balls.

                  
 We worked in teams under close supervision...the glass starts at nearly 2000 degrees and cools slowly. While another  student did the blowing, I shaped the hot glass. Here, the danger is in squeezing too hard and cutting off the glob. Getting the correct grip was the most difficult part for me to catch on to.
(I thought the blowing part was easy - it did not take nearly as much air as blowing up a balloon.)
This is what we wanted to see as the still red-hot glass expanded into a neat round shape.  Our instructor cut off the finished ball, then quickly formed a loop on top to create the hanger for the ornament. Then he stuck it in an oven to cool slowly overnight.  If glass cools too quickly, bad things can happen!
It wasn't until 2 days later that I got to see the finished result.  I think it's very pretty, and I'd like totake more classes. Check out the website at http://www.redmondschoolofglass.com/





Thursday, September 8, 2011

And the Final Cedar River Watershed Story

Once we completed the watershed tour, Ellen and I sat on a bench near the rain drums and ate our sack lunches...all the while looking at Rattlesnake Ledge. The trail winds up around this peak across the lake.  It's a 2 mile trail that rises 1,175 feet in elevation.  The trail tops out on the treeless edge of rock on the right side of the peak...hikers who make the top look like ants from this viewpoint.
Now I can walk all day on a level path, but I'm not great on hills.  And I get vertigo. Ellen, however, is training for the Himalayas.  She's going in November.  I said I'd go as far as it was fun.  And it wasn't bad, except that as we neared the top, people started running down hill towards us, and I got scared.  We turned back about 3/4 of the way to the top...here's the view:
By turning back, we did get to see a couple of cool things!

The plant above is called an Indian Pipe, or Ghost Plant. The Latin name is Monotropa uniflora, and it's a  saprophytic plant, or a parasitic plant that does not produce any chlorophyll. It's the first one I've seen, and I found it strangely beautiful.

The coolest thing happened after we got back to the lake.  I picked a table off in a little opening by the edge of the water to eat my last sandwich.  I didn't get a picture of the Osprey (Pandion halietus)that appeared over the willows, hovered for a moment, then hit the water right in front of us! We couldn't believe our luck.  The bird disappeared under the water, and came back up without a fish.  It was amazing to be standing right there when it happened.  I didn't even care that I couldn't get a photo.

All in all, it was a great day, and we had such a good time.  I'd recommend the watershed tour to anyone - it's well worth the $10.00 it cost, and the visitor's center is free, as is parking - but be careful not to park in the Iron Horse State Park lot without a Discover Pass.

My Favorite Fiction Authors and Books

  • Suzanne Arruda- the Jade del Cameron mysteries: "The Mark of the Lion" "Stalking Ivory", "The Serpent's Daughter", "The Leopard's Prey" and "The Golden Cheetah"
  • Ken Goddard - "Balefire" and others
  • Stephen White - the Dr. Alan Gregory books are all great. "Kill Me" is my favorite.
  • Harlan Coben - anything he writes is great
  • Elizabeth Peters - Amelia Peabody mysteries

My Favorite Nonfiction Authors and Books

  • "Coyote's Guide to Connecting With Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas and Evan McGown- 2nd edition coming soon!
  • Gavin De Becker - "The Gift of Fear"
  • "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales- the best survival book I've ever read! Not a how-to, its more of a who does,and why.
  • Candice Millard - "The River of Doubt -Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey"
  • Anything that starts with "Peterson's Field Guide To..."
  • Tom Brown, Jr. - "The Tracker" and others
  • Mark Elbroch - "Mammal Tracks and Sign" and "Animal Skulls"