A Red Fox named MICA

The western parts of the area have received rain and the mountains snow & rain. Nothing much happening here and the snow that had been here has 99% gone. I let the wood stove burn out – takes 3 days – so the heat pump worked frequently, even with the outside temperature, mostly, above freezing. Friday afternoon I cleaned out the ashes and restarted a fire.

I’ve had the phone ring multiple times this week, several about 6:30 am. None of these do I answer. Two people did start a message and I talked to them. No problem.
I’ve had a dozen mailings from charities asking for donation. Getting more mail is as easy as sending $10 to the Salvation Army or some such. They will sell your name to others, and soon you will get letters, often with address labels, note pads, and calendars. A place called Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home has sent two large envelopes this fall. The first one had Christmassy socks – kid size. This week’s package was different, but still large, with multiple items. I mostly stay local for such giving.
I did get in touch with the Cascades Carnivore Project – this is a small group doing research in the Cascades regarding Wolverines, Lynx, and Red Fox.
One of my first outings with Washington Trails Association was a 3-day session near Mt. St. Helens. The hike-in trail to the work took us to 4,250 feet elevation. Because of the explosion (May 1980) the area was devoid of trees, so we were able to see long distances. There were elk, but one lone small Red Fox crossed in front of us. I didn’t learn until this year that these small foxes are very rare and come in colors other than red. See photos here:

A photo of the black one was used in the Smithsonian Magazine; p.90, July/Aug 2022.
I sent enough of a donation to “adopt” a fox and to get a small plush one. They claim I have adopted “MICA” – but because I will never get to cuddle Mica nor even see her/him (?), the fuzzy toy will have to do. I’ll have to send a bit more money because the postage for this was $6.25 and the credit card donation takes a fee.

Speaking of money – going into a local store this week there were several sorts of Christmas decorations. One sign said “garland” but that would normally be a long greenery to extend 6 to 20 feet. Nor were they wreaths. And if there was Ceder in the mix, I didn’t recognize it.
These are called “swags” – a term with other uses. The $24.99 (plus tax) swag on the top shelf consisted of 6 or 7 short branches held together with a wire. One branch in each was Juniper with its characteristic berries. A few had a couple of pine cones.
I had cut enough limbs from Ponderosa Pines to make 100 of these things. Maybe I should carry one up to the road and tie it to the fence along with a ribbon.
I sent the photo to Kathy. I gave her a 5-gallon bucket of cones last year for a decoration she made for her church.
She sent a photo in return showing the thinning of trees on the small island in their pond. She used some of her branches for in-house decorations.
In the background of my photo there are small plastic-wrapped bundles of fire wood. These too, are expensive, but did not have a price on them. Elsewhere they are about $5 for 7 pieces of wood. Likely, I would go through a half-dozen per day. I’m curious who buys these things.

Keeping Track
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November Snow December Rain

I helped Dale and Kathy with their slow cleanup of his parent’s house and grounds. I brought some wood home, both old boards and tree parts. The latter are still in the back of the truck. Most of it is green, so not to be used until, maybe, 2025. The old wood is likely 50 to 70 years old and catches fire easily. I use the radial arm saw to cut it to proper lengths.

Supposedly the Cascades are having a major snow storm. So far the snow is causing accidents and the winds (NW Oregon and SW Wash) knocked power out for thousands of folks. No problems here. Five inches of snow, and now some rain – for a week.
Significant rain will start soon in Oregon and Washington. Flooding on the west side of the Mountains is expected. We’ll see.

Friday I had lunch in CWU’s Theatre Arts building, with the Chair of the department providing the “scholarship” lunch. Afterwards, Christina gave us a backstage tour. The stage was set for a performance of A Christmas Carol. While intrigued, I still didn’t go to the actual performance. The drive to town costs me $5 and the price of admission is $20. With nasty weather and being “cheap”, I stayed home.

Three of the 5 lights I’ve ordered have arrived. They are a modern design to replace the 1970’s look. They are also the LED type and ought to last longer than I do.
The same can be said for the new WA driver’s license I had to get. This one is good for 8 years. I don’t expect I’ll be doing highway driving in 2032. That’s a scary thought.
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Seasonably Cold Thanksgiving

Monday and Tuesday I went across to the old dairy where Dale and Kathy were cleaning up some of the fallen sheds and trees. I got lunch and firewood for my efforts. Most of the wood is fresh-cut, so won’t be used for a year or two. I only brought the smaller stuff. The trunks, even cut in 16″ lengths, are too heavy to lift – half water. I’ll likely bring those home next fall.
The old sheds yield 80 to 100 year-old boards of various sizes. Most I can cut into proper lengths with a radial-arm saw – less than 3″ thick. Others need a different saw. I intend to get more of these boards Sunday afternoon when the temperature is expected to climb above freezing.

The low this morning was 18°F {-8°C}. By next Sunday the low is expected to be higher than today’s high. We’ll see.

Thanksgiving is a time for baking, so I made Blueberry Pies and roasted pork-ribs. A few years ago, before I learned Washington State’s harvest of Blueberries is one of the largest in the world, I bought two 3-pound bags. Long past their best-buy date it is time for them to become pies.

I notice on the internet that a lot of frozen Blueberries are labeled as “Wild.” A friend’s favorite saying is: “I don’t know about that.” I’ll guess the “wild” part refers to the native (small plant, small berry) type, but not hard to find like a Badger or a Bobcat – or Huckleberries such as are found in the mountains of Washington. Larger bushes and berries were developed and are known as Highbush Blueberries. That story is here:

I still have a second bag in the freezer. Christmas, I think, will see that bag become pies. I suppose the “healthy” aspects of the blue fruits has caused the growth of commercial harvests. In the USA, we get fresh blueberries from Chili and Peru in winter.

Saturday, five us dined on left-over turkey and salmon at Phyllis’s table. I pulled some wine from my stash – 20+ years old. The new trap-door still needs a handle, so I had to improvise. I have a temporary fix, so if I have to get down there again it will be easy.

I emptied ashes from the wood stove and cleaned up there. This afternoon (Sunday) I started it again. It was to the point that I could only get a half-load in it, so burn time was shortened. It takes about 4 days to burn out and cool enough to dispose of the ashes. An inventor should work on this issue.

Monday morning will be near 20°F. I’ll have to do something inside until about 11 AM.

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Watching wood burn

My wood stove has a glass window. There are numerous interesting things that happen when various types and shapes of wood burn. I noticed a new one this week.
I have much brush that I continue to cut and pile out of the way, or I cut many pieces into proper length for the stove. The image on the top right here shows one such piece. Along the main stem are nodes where shoots (or branches) appear. On this piece only one small branch is still there. Others have been cut or fallen off. The arrangement of the branches around the circumference varies. The length between these nodes varies by plant, but are similar in any one plant. Here the inter-node distance is about one inch. A branch like this one is shown burning in the photo taken through the glass window of the stove.

When a piece of wood is added to the fire the heat causes gases to leave and burn – the flame. When all the gases are expelled, the flaming stops and the red glow of a solid remains.
On this occasion the flames appear to be coming at equal intervals along the stem. I suppose this is at each of the nodes. However, I did not watch as this pattern developed. It looked like this when I first noticed. I’ll have to introduce a few more pieces and watch to see how it develops.
Research is such hard work.
I need to rest.

Keeping Track
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Turkeys – no snow

North of me 15 miles is Mission Peak. Near there and facing northeast is a ski area. I can see the Mountain’s Peak, but not the ski slopes. They have just started up web cameras. Not a big surprise, but I have never been there. To get there I would have to go 70 miles to Wenatchee and then back south – about a 2 hour trip. See here – click – scroll down:

Mountain Report

40 miles to the northwest of Mission Peak there is also snow as shown in the highway camera at Stevens Pass:

Saturday morning I had 27 (?) turkeys wander through. They came past four deer that were feeding under my cherry trees along the driveway. I have seen turkeys numerous times in the past three months, while usually they might be around for a week. Also, this is the most I have seen at one time. The flock seems to be growing.

I had a flu shot in September. Recently got the latest Covid shot, and Saturday the RSV shot. Peggy says this is called the alphabet shot. The actual name is respiratory syncytial virus, thus, RSV.

Our government claims “Adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months.”
I had the prior shingles shot, called Zostavax, but that is no longer used in the USA. The term of protection of that is under about 4 years. I can’t remember when I got that, but likely in 2008 or ’09.
Peggy was told the newer 2-dose Shingrix wasn’t being recommended for folks over 80. She is, I’m not – or not yet. A bit more inquiry is in order.

I’ve not had reactions to shots of any sort. Still I don’t get but one at a time. That way, should I have a reaction, I will know which thing caused it.
I go to the grocery pharmacy, so it is not an inconvenience to get them separately.

Keeping Track
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Pygmy Rabbits

I attended a presentation on Thursday evening and then went to CWU Friday for a luncheon. There are groups from CWU staff that pay and host ($60/year) lunch organized by Ruth Harrington – wife of a deceased former professor. I became a occasional member of the group Nancy was in. When Nancy first got involved the lunch fee was $3, now it is $6. I missed last month, but managed this one, several others missed. We visit and share news.
The chairs at the table were mates to the ones I got at CWU surplus for 50¢ (mentioned in an earlier post, Sept 9th) and wonder of wonders there was one with a missing back cover, just as I have.

The previous evening I learned about the Columbia Basin (to my northeast) population of Pygmy Rabbits. The locations are quite close to White Heron Winery, so we know about the bunnies, but not much.
This was an opportunity to learn from one of the State’s biologists.

Habitat loss and fragmentation led to the near extirpation of the Columbian Basin Pygmy Rabbit. In 2001, only 16 individuals remained on Washington’s landscape. In 2003 they were officially recognized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as an endangered species.

Flash forward 20 years and there are currently 2 populations of pygmy rabbits each with approximately 150 individuals. Katherine’s presentation explained how this was brought about.

Katherine Soltysiak with a captured rabbit. Below the habitat is dense sagebrush that provides food, cover and shade. Pregnant ones are the heaviest – just over a pound. The average weight is under a pound. Sage is about 80% of their diet. The bunny in the photo below is up on a branch, and when there is snow they will tunnel through the snow and can get higher if there are drifts.

The region is prone to fast moving fires through the grass and sage, but this rabbit unlike all others digs borrows and can survive the fire. But then, in many cases there is no food. In the next photo folks are collecting rabbits chased into their borrows. After care, they will be released in a suitable location, then fed and watered in an enclosure until they have dug burrows and call the place home.
When it was first realized the rabbits were endangered, the local population was small and inbred. Related pygmies were brought from Idaho and three organizations received small numbers of locals and the new ones. Thus, the Central Washington population is recovering, but not pure genetically. Below is a link to the Oregon Zoo’s part in this, with nice photo.


This week has been one of the coldest ends of October in the State and east, and into Canada. Saturday morning the temperature was just 18°F. I loaded the wood stove on Thursday morning and have had a fire going since then. This coming Tuesday should have a minimum temperature of over 40° so I can, maybe, go back to using the heat pump to mid-November.
Here is one of the better photos to appear this week. I haven’t tracked down the source.

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Fall things

We bottled about 1,000 bottles of Rosé Wednesday morning. I let an uncorked bottle through the line that got up-ended into a box with 4 other bottles. We were not labeling at that point and no one else saw it. Cleaning up the mess and finding a new box got us back in rhythm again.
That’s the first of those in about 10 bottlings. W also had trouble with the corker not dropping the “train” of corks through the tube. So we had a dozen bottles removed from the stand without corks. I caught all but one! Ouch.

Fall progresses. A couple of wild turkeys came by and the little Douglas Squirrels were busy collecting and storing Black Walnuts. The trees produced many more than the squirrels know what to do with.

They have several locations where they stockpile the nuts. Often there is some out of the way place, but frequently the base of a tree gets anointed. The photo above shows the base of a Forsythia bush between two of the trees. They, the squirrels don’t have to carry the nuts far. When a nut is picked up there is a distinctive 2-hole puncture in the husk.
I don’t see this location as a good solution but I left it. Most of the harvest I carted to 4 spots of my choosing where there is a protective cover. I note they are stripping the husks off and carrying the nuts to places I mostly don’t know about. One is in some of the remaining insulation in the big shed – that is going to end next year. They make a mess.

After arriving in the EBRG area I began to help with the Conservation District’s native plant sale. After 7 or 8 years the demand grew so much that the burden, even with volunteers doing the busy work, was distracting the District’s crew from the regular activities. Before the annual sale ended I obtained a few small maple trees – Douglas Maples but commonly called Rocky Mountain Maples., and Mountain Ash Trees. Both are common in the mountains west of me, but my location does not keep them happy. Still, I’ve brought them to adulthood.
Here is what the foliage and fruit of the Ash look like this fall.

The Maples have been the hardest to get the color and fruit for which they are famous. But here is success.

Travelers on I-90 going over Snoqualmie Pass get to see lots of these little maples. I have three and one gets too much shade, so doesn’t perform.

What’s next? Snow! Tuesday through the rest of the week there is a chance of snow and temperatures near 20°F. I’m not happy about this.

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Gone is Summer

The summer-like weather is over for our area. This is what the forecast looks like for the Washington Coast.

There won’t be a lot of rain near the coast, but the higher western ridges and the peaks will measure rain and snow in inches. Mount Rainier will get many inches per day of snow.
I expect drizzle. For Mon/Tue/Wed, I might get an inch of rain. Sun returns Thursday.

Boys Town or not to …
I got a large stuffed envelope from Boys Town on Tuesday. All sorts of things were inside, including all the usually things such as mailing labels, but also 3 pens and a envelope opener {plastic with embedded razor}, and a kid’s size pair of socks – Christmas decorated. There is a calendar and a yearly planner. It is, of course, a plea for money.
My question – why me? My name is being shopped around, I think because two years ago I gave $20 to the Salvation Army, or some other charity. I do wonder how much this cost and how many were sent out. Hmm?

Thursday evening I went to a talk regarding the women that were the first instructors at the Normal School (teacher training school) in Ellensburg. The progression here has been similar to the Normal Schools in Pennsylvania – I got a B.S. in Education at Clarion State, now Clarion University.
I likely would not have attended except for needing to go to town for groceries. It, also, was suggested by the Retirement Association. New retirees are not participating much and the old folks are dropping out. This issue is a concern for many organizations.

In addition to moving rocks and dirt around this week, I cleaned enough of the shed so I could lay out 4 sheets of plywood. I have painted these with bright white acrylic semi-gloss. I bought a “peel and stick” vinyl mural that almost fits the 8 ft high by 16 feet wide space on the sheltered side of the rebuilt shed. [The mural is 9 x 15] It is a western theme – horses on a grassy rise with distant mountains.
I can trim the bottom by 4″ and the top by 8″ without degrading the image. The sides of the space will need some fill. I haven’t decided on what that will be.

Last week I carted an old wooden file cabinet and a dorm-room type desk out to the county road. Free to the needing person. No takers. I must have a higher class of motorists passing by. Today I carted them back to a shed.

Meanwhile, the Black Walnut trees have turned yellow and have blessed the driveway with a bushel of nuts. This time next week – the trees will be bare.

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It came and went

Official fall in my area was Friday, September 22, 2023 at 11:50 pm PDT.

… and I hardly noticed.

A few of us had a gathering Thursday starting at 5pm. Meal was potluck but with grilled sausages. We had a couple of games of Pétanque – throwing steel balls (boules) at a target officially called a jack (French: cochonnet). When not trying to get close to the target, one tries to knock other’s boules away from said target. Wine helps.

At home, the squirrels, Blue Jays, Magpies and I try to get the Walnuts before one of the others does.
All are noisy. A video of the local sort of squirrel: Douglas.

And I keep moving rocks and dirt from the front to the back hole (Jay’s folly).
Rain is likely on Monday; I have other projects out of the rain.

Keeping Track
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Last full week of summer

Friday morning: No internet. Without a connection there is no way to tell what has happened. After the communications company fixes their issue can I learn anything at all, and then not much. After lunch (4 o’clock east coast time), I was able to get connected.
The chart below shows Midnight in the east as 00:20 – – – note the 3 peaks prior and then the peaks on the right, morning and afternoon. When the blue is above the dashed red line it is considered an outage, or system issue.

62% of calls to the company have been about loss of internet. Phone, TV, and other issues made up the other 38%.
At about 2 pm, my time, I am connected and have been for an hour. The reporting page doesn’t have information about what was wrong or even if it is actually fixed.

A young lady, Neve Pratt, tells silly jokes . . .
“So what if I can’t spell Armageddon?” she says in one video. “It’s not like it’s the end of the world.”

File this under “There is always something”
Willy is the main worker on remodel projects for me. He recently had an appendectomy. That would normally mean very little activity for two weeks. But shortly after the operation his young son (6 ?) was misbehaving. Apparently, Willy tried to diffuse the situation and got kicked at the site of the incision. He didn’t expect damage, but a few days later – as pain continued – inspection showed otherwise. The medical staff questioned his judgment.

Critters this week included a flock of turkeys. They can fly but prefer not to. They will eat the sunflower seeds when they can get to them. They are not real friendly, so I have to approach carefully or photos tend to be of their backsides. Left photo is at the feeder station; right photo – moving on.

Walnuts have started falling but most are still solidly in the husk. I’m keeping up by taking a light-work break after lunch. Once out of the husk they need to dry in a single layer. Much preferred is for them to open on the tree and fall already dry. Oh well.

Keeping Track
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