Look again at that dot…

Mother Nature’s artwork

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” 


― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

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Mi querida Baja-Feliz Navidad, or is that Feliz Saturnalia;)

Estero estuary

The sigh of relief when we cross the border, the smiles at the toll booths and customs, the views of the amazing coastline from the toll road, all the signs of getting back to Ensenada. I can’t quite explain the feeling, maybe it is leaving the city behind and the endless traffic, maybe it feels more like the countries I was raised in, or the slipping back into Spanish, like comfy slippers:) Is it a pristine environment, no, it is a wonderful mix of poor and middle class, the wealthy and folks that live in shacks. It is the smell of meat being roasted over wood fires for tacos and the easy smile from kids you pass in the street, it can be the smell of the fishery in the North of town and sometimes fosa, septic but it is what it is:) There is nothing homogenous about this wonderful place called Baja. We get so hungry just driving through town, the wafts of food lingering in the air! Like dogs with their heads out the window we take in the smell and our mouths start to water;)

We’d called ahead at Estero Beach, the RV park is long gone, a spanking new concrete roads leads to lots, that are not sold and it is not finished. We miss our spot that backs up onto the estuary but are glad to be squeezed into the last small row of houses built back in the 50’s and 60’s. Of the 15 or so houses, only a few get any visitors, a few times a month, otherwise we feel we are on an abandoned street, not a bad thing:) We can see the beach and walk there in moments:) Mike has his telescope set up and waiting for that laminar air flow that produces spectacular seeing! The small trips to the corner store for fresh fruit and vegetables are so easy and so reasonable, and of course Poblano’s Tacos next door, or El Rey del Tacos up the street, or Lupita’s fish tacos in Maneadero, or the Mariscos cart just before the Estero road…sigh…so much good food, so little time;)

It feels like home:) We can walk to the beach, the cats can frolic there, at the very end they race up and down in the sand doing spectacular aerial moves, ninja kittens:) Many smiles watching them tear around and play, climbing up the palm trees and looking for crabs under the rocks and just enjoying life, they have us well-trained, whoever said dogs were smarter?;)

All the familiar birds are back. The Herons and Ospreys, known as Fish Hawks in Spanish, Aguila Pescador. I’ve come to think of these birds as travelers, just like us. They go to Canada for the Summer and head South in the Winter:) The osprey differs in several respects from other diurnal birds of prey. Its toes are of equal length, its tarsi are reticulated, and its talons are rounded, rather than grooved. The osprey and owls are the only raptors whose outer toe is reversible, allowing them to grasp their prey with two toes in front and two behind. This is particularly helpful when they grab slippery fish.

The osprey has several adaptations that suit its fishing lifestyle :

  • reversible outer toes
  • sharp spicules on the underside of the toes
  • closable nostrils to keep out water during dives
  • backwards-facing scales on the talons which act as barbs to help hold its catch.
  • dense plumage which is oily and prevents its feathers from getting waterlogged

The osprey is unusual in that it is a single living species that occurs nearly worldwide. according to Wikipedia, I learn something new every day:) Love the fact it can close it’s nostrils:)

A new bird of prey I have not seen before, a Merlin (Falco columbarius) has shown up, not the wizard but this beautiful raptor;) this is their Winter range, they migrate, the last pair I saw was on an Otty Lake boat ride:) This female is slightly larger than her male companion, who I have not seen. She has the same perch every afternoon, looking for birdie numnums, yes, they are also called pigeon hawks, for obvious reasons.

and the hummingbirds:) I do miss these Anna’s as we head North and East and the Ruby Throated takes over. The feeder has been up for a week and we have quite the population already of various males and females coming to visit, but this little guy thinks he owns it:) I won’t try to tell him otherwise;) After battling a cold and flu for the better part of the week I’m starting to feel a bit more normal. With Christmas almost here we’ve decided to stay, the neighbour has offered his oven for a price…a meal…hahahaha, great neighbour (Thank you John!!!) and it looks like our Condor amigos will be here as well so it is going to be a wonderful celebration, the sharing of food and smiles, laughter and wine and good company. I do miss my family, but this is my Baja family:)

So tonight, on this eve of Christmas, we want to pause and wish you and yours a wonderful holiday, in what ever religion you care to celebrate, or none if that be the case. May it be full of good food and friends, even family;) and peace, in our often less than peaceful world. Saludos amigos y Feliz Navidad:)

12-19-Santa quero

 

Back to the desert…Tucson, Yuma and then the land of little manners

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We were considering our options as stops and our favourite places on our way West, Portal, Arizona, been there, Kartchner Caverns, been there several times so we decided on a new state park, about 30 miles North of the 8, Roper Lake State Park, or reservoir actually. It was a fair hike off the 8 but below Mount Graham Observatory so it sounded interesting…and Ok, yeah, I figured there would be a lot of birds as well;)

It was a pretty place, we had a large back in site in the Hacienda Campground. It offers three campgrounds but the views to the lake mostly consist of marsh. It was not as wild as I had expected I guess, it felt very man-made. Groot and Gamora enjoyed stalking the local Road Runner sunning him/herself and a feral cat hid in the bushes but not really a great birding/photography area, unless you have a boat or kayak.

But always good to see new places. The Graham Observatory is not a place you can just drop into to visit. Tours are scheduled at $40 per person, lunch included they say, but a minimum of 6 people so no visits this trip. We were off to Tucson the following day back to Desert Trails RV Park right on the edge of the Tucson Mountain and Saguaro State Park. This has to be one of the friendliest, and funky RV parks we have stayed at. They found us a primo spot with birds and bushes for the cats ( yes, we do look for that, I hate seeing other RV’s out the windows) and it was Food Truck night, Wednesdays and Sundays they bring in different food trucks. We actually opted for the one on the corner as you are driving in, Jandy’s, great tacos and salsas:) we highly recommend him!

I do love this area, the parks and trails, the views. I was planning a visit to the Sonora-Arizona Desert Museum but a sick person must have coughed our way and we were under the weather for a few days. We did get a trip to Total Wine though…oh my, it is an amazing place for wine, spirits and beer lovers;) Mike gets his fill of wonderful Greek whites and Kölsch beer and I just wander around dazed by the selection! Worth a trip just to gawk!

Be patient with my videos, a new thing for me with the phone, which at times works and at others does not;) ha! Great for Sanpchat! Tucson has a kind of cool downtown as well, old buildings and lots of interesting places to see. I still don’t get the double stop signs will have to ask next trip;) for really tall people? or short?

Time to move on, we spent a night in Yuma at the Riverfront RV Park right on the Colorado river, not the one off of the 8 where all you hear is traffic all night but the on the “other side of the tracks” 😉 it makes the jump to San Diego shorter. The owner is quite the lady, she gets an A plus in my books, anyone who can run a backhoe without blinking an eye gets my vote!I think we could drive this route with our eyes closed. At least no wind warnings and clear skies:)

and back to sandy Dayglo as we affectionately refer to it as. It’s not that I don’t like Southern California, I’ve spent decades here, it perhaps is just large metropolis that make me feel as we as a species are somewhat doomed. The lack of manners, the very simple stuff, holding a door, saying thank you, seem to be rare qualities. Never mind trying to merge with a 37′ trailer and truck;) or walk on a sidewalk without having to step off and let folks three abreast pass, yup, happens…someone told me just not to step aside, I guess that did not occur to me. It’s as if these large population areas need a Miss Manners refresh, a reboot;) I’ve been accused of not liking Americans, that is not true, as I wouldn’t like half of myself if that were the case;) I just find in our somewhat hyper individualized country manners seem to give way to the “me” problem, empathy dissapears and many fall through the cracks with little safety net. Perhaps it is the time of year to pay it forward, hold a door, let someone merge happily with a smile and try to bring a little bit of politesse to the world around us. I will always try to cover the good, the bad, and the ugly:)..or maybe just stick to landscapes and birds;)

Santee Lakes is our go to spot for now, enough spaces you can get a weekend slot. During the week we get a primo lakefront space, #44, watch your AC units on the low hanging oak branches but your view to the lake, wonderful and it is where all the Wood Ducks hang out in the late day and evenings…bonus! The elusive Kingfisher only comes out when I don’t have my camera it seems;)

I hate to admit most of these were taken within 100 feet of the trailer, some from my chair;) You also get good cell signal here, further back in the park it is always problematic. So we had this great space from Sunday to Friday and then moved back to the more long-term stays are. I swear the cats know when we come back to familiar places:)

The variety of bird life here is astounding. The migrant ducks are always a joy to watch and the local Egrets, Herons and Cormorants are a treat. Everywhere you look something is flapping, flying or swimming by. Go during the week if you can, the weekends are loud and noisy and the birds go into hiding, not that I blame them;)

Did I mention I like to photograph birds;) ha!

We had a few unusual grey California days, had some great visits with family, the reason we stop and a few good meals. Discovered the “Yummy House”, how could you go wrong with that name;) up on Convoy thanks to a great food writer and critic Michael Gardiner with the San Diego City Beat, not many people who I trust in food tastes but he is one! We wanted the Pekin duck but did not realize we had to order an hour ahead, so that will be for the next trip! The stir fired vegetables (pumpkin, water chestnuts ,wood fungus mushrooms and shrimp) and spicy pork was amazing! The Shank and Bone, fusion Vietnamese in North Park was great as well, the grilled scallops were to die for, we ate them before any pictures, so sorry and the BÚN ĐẶC BIỆT, the works is my go to;)

We had a delicious breakfast with my aunt and uncle, always a treat to catch up, Sunday brunch with my brother and the extended family on that side with a birthday thrown in. Santee squeezed us in a few extra days as well so it was not too rushed but at about the week point Mike and I are ready to get the hell out:) Guess we were not made to live in the city. We were craving the easy smiles of Mexico, the great food and the overall happy feel we get when we are there:) I did get a whole new slew of billboards from the city. From Psychics to Cannabis delivery it has a whole different feel that the South;)

Borders, always a bit of stress, whether they are US, Canadian or Mexican I never really seem to get the right information on what we can bring or can’t so have given up and just get rid of most of the produce and leave the rest to chance. The lovely aduana lady in Tijuana was refreshing. We know the routine, go to the bus lane as the trailer has to go through the large Xray machine. We was sweet and polite, asked a few questions. We inquired as to how all was going given the massive influx of migrants from Central America, she smiled and shrugged, saying it had been quiet and we were nice to ask. Off we went and parked in the Xray lane, we take the three cats out in the carrier, go behind the shield, the same guy has been running this for years and he knows us, after that we pull away and park, waiting for the final OK to leave, the nice aduana lady came a few minutes later and motioned us on our way, with a smile. When is the last time a CBP smiled at you? Welcome back to Mexico:)

6-25-Coastline sign

From the toll road-Baja coastline

So very very nice to see those easy smiles, it always feels like we are coming home, and I guess it is after a decade.

Saludos amigos, stay tuned for tacos and hummingbirds….we’re baaaaaacccckkkk:)

From dunes to the mountains…back to the birds!

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We were really quite shocked as we pulled into the Monahans Sandhills ( yes hills, not dunes;) State Park. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect only being a hop and a skip off of the very busy I 20 but the road into the campground takes you further and further back, away from highway noise and the train whistles. We backed into a spot surrounded by sand and no close neighbours, talk about happy cats, rolling and digging…heaven! This was a one night stop so we hopped into the truck to run into Monahan 5 miles West for diesel and a quick stop at the grocery store, forgot it was Thanksgiving eve, full of busy harried, unhappy looking customers. Brings out the best in people doesn’t it;)

Glad to fuel up and return to the park to await the moonrise. Climbed to the top of a dune near the trailer with a glass of wine, a fold up chair and my tripod and camera and waited. It was incredibly hazy but a beautiful evening sit to and watch the full moon coming up.

A really worthwhile stop, even for a night to take in the sites. Lots of people clamouring around the dunes. There are no marked trails and the front interpretation center was being remodeled so didn’t do much other than poke about around the trailer. A deer wandered past behind the dunes and I followed a ton of trails of small animals in the sand. The wind was from the North, in the morning we awoke to the stench of petroleum, wind was from the South where a huge refinery of some sorts sits, not pleasant but we were ready to head South a bit to Fort Davis.

It wasn’t a big jump, we planned it that way stopping at the dunes. A far different view than one we had several years ago after heavy rains, it is very very dry. We’d planned on staying in a RV park in Fort Davis as the park had been fully booked but the front desk staff said to call the morning of, “You never know” and how glad we were we did. A pull through had come available, for three nights! Woohoo!

We had planned on staying two but really wanted a rest and at least one day of only walking, no driving!  The very cheerful desk staff checked us in, open fires prohibited in the park due to the dryness, no surprise there, but when we reached our site, another camper was in it and they didn’t look like they were getting ready to leave…sigh…went back to the front desk and they called the park rangers who paid them a visit, took them another hour and a half to leave. They said their truck had broken down and were waiting for someone to arrive, but it was an A class and a pop-up trailer. They finally borrowed a hitch and moved the pop-up with the A-class. Front desk ladies were not happy, seems they had taken this spot this morning, taking down our “reserved” sign…the neighbours noted that. Patience is indeed a virtue:) they were kind enough to come over and tell us they were trying to resolve the problem:)

Did I mention they have bird blinds;) Our camping site was in the center. In the future, as we will be back, I’d take 18, 20 or 21 facing the arroyo. Here the trees are alive with birds, live oaks and small pines along with plenty of cover with mesquite. I didn’t get to see the javelinas, another birder saw them early in the morning. No hummingbirds…yet!

Wonderful to sit and rest and watch all the fluttering about:) I followed my favourites around for a few hours…The Acorn Woodpeckers. Watching them gather acorns and then find precisely the exact spot to stash those acorns is very amusing! The electrical poles are full of acorns!

We had considered spending a night watching for the Marfa lights, but that will have to wait for the next trip. A cold front coming through dampened our spirits to sitting outside in the howling wind and we opted to check out the area first with the truck and take our laundry into Alpine.

What we did discover is we could camp here overnight and keep an eye out all night is need be! We started our laundry and had a coffee next door at a lovely coffee shop, and lunch from the “Cow Dog” food truck. Wonderful hotdogs, everything fresh and made to order as well as home-made mashed potato patties with green chillies and cheese! YUM!

The other food truck we wanted to go to-Tri la bite…was closed for Thanksgiving;)

It is always with a heavy heart I leave here. I could stay weeks, maybe next time:) We took the back road out of Fort Davis towards Marfa, cut across on the Texas 166 that meets up with the 90 and then back to steady traffic on the I 20. It was pretty straight, a few curves, but not the winding road leading past the McDonald Observatory.

We passed the Prada Store, a piece of architectural art, mocking perhaps mass consumerism? Read about it here: Prada Marfa. I’ve been told it gets so crowded you sometimes can’t get a shot…not today! ah, right hand shoes and handbags with no bottoms…

Our next scheduled overnight was at another Harvest Host, Sombra Antigua Winery, just across the border into New Mexico. These are long straight freeways full of semi’s and a few billboards;) The only God in West Texas appears to be oil.

The Sombra Antigua winery is located well off the 1 20. Quiet roads leading past pecan groves and cotton fields lead you this spot. It was fairly busy this Saturday, live music and wine tastings. We went and dieseled up before partaking and upon arriving at the turn to the winery followed in another DRV trailer. It had Florida plates but turns out they were a lovely pair of Canadians fulltiming like ourselves, what was the chance we would pull in, in almost identical trailers? Love them, had a few glasses of wine and great conversation. Garth and Debbie, we will meet up again!

For today, I’ll leave you here, a few more stops and jumps and we’ll be back to the Pacific Ocean! Saludos amigos and stay tuned!

If not for the billboards, it would not be as much fun…Deep South and Texas

As the passenger I get to spend a lot of time looking out the window, the billboards, wow, I can only chuckle at times and wonder what they say about our society;) If aliens were to come to Earth and just read them…now, that would be a story worth listening to:) maybe they have, I want to believe;)

We had a gray day  leaving Tennessee, by the time we arrived in Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama the clouds followed us with drizzle as well. We opted for a few days here. The sites were a bit wonky but it turns out we were alone on either side for our stay and we had full hook ups as well. It was chilly! This was a Groot and Gamora approved park. Full of paths and soft leaves to dig in and very little traffic, Gamora is not fond of cars, Groot doesn’t like strange humans;)

We had a cold night, frost everywhere in the morning. We had to refill our propane tank at the local TSC store, seemed to have the best prices, but a grumpy staff, guy a head of us called the clerk a “horse’s pattootie”…hahahaha! Had me thinking of Colonel Potter, Sherman T, in M.A.S.H 😉

Felt like the cold and rain were once again following us! We wanted, needed some sunshine! We headed out clear and cold towards Mississippi, our next stop, Yogi on the Lake, a RV park in Pelahatchie. We had sun, glorious sun and not so many crazy billboards;)

This is a lovely one night stop unless you are into closed water parks, or open water parks for that matter. We were the only trailer backed up onto the lake, for a few dollars more we had a premium view, a few trailers were scattered further in. Pelahatchie Lake looks like a reservoir, the RV park on one side and cottages and homes on the other. It was the first time we’ve been able to open our door! We were in for another cold night according to our weather app, that is why we opted for power over a Harvest Host location. Keeping Beezil’s electric blanket and the fireplace on high!

I knew as soon as I woke up I had to go outside. I sat at the picnic table drinking my coffee and watched Mother Nature’s light show unfold:) Spectacular mists and fog rising from the lake surface. It was nice to see life, Canada Geese and Mallards, a Great Blue Heron and Egrets fishing on the shoreline. It finally felt that we were leaving that cold zone. It seems like months since we left Perth, it is a mere 10 days. Wish we did not have to hurry along as we are…The staff was friendly there, the large statues of Yogi and Booboo a bit weird but hey, this is America;) I didn’t opt for the photo with them;)

Our next jump was under 4 hours, our limit for the old cat Beezil. I found a campground in the Kisatchie National Forest North of Minden, Alabama that came with rave reviews. The Beaverdam Campground. I prepaid my $15 a night, yes, $15, now THIS is affordable camping and our GPS’s, both of them, did take us an odd route through some very small back roads but we arrived in one piece and were astounded by how lovely it was. Take State Route #159 North from Minden and turn left onto the Caney Lake Road, it will avoid the back road we came in on, follow the campground signs:) We could see Caney Lake out our back window. The camp host stopped by and chatted for a while, he’s been there 5 years, I can see why:)

I have never seen so many different mushrooms in all one place! These are all a few hundred feet from the trailer. This was another Groot and Gamora approved park, it was warm enough to leave the door open! un milagro!

This must be a healthy forest to have such wonderful assortment of fungi! Check out this article by the forest service: Interesting facts on Mushrooms and a fabulous page by Paul Stamets “Fungi Perfecti” and a Ted Talk: Six ways mushrooms can save the world.

I didn’t want to leave but time to move on. Make note that Minden is a dry Parish, yes Parish, not county. Religion at work here, but nearby Dixie Inn is not, a town made up of liquor stores I might add;) We did some grocery shopping, alligator nuggets anyone? Ate lunch out at a Sam’s crawfish-seafood shack, we had the grilled shrimp and passed on the deep-fried chicken livers and gizzards…nothing wasted here!

Love looking at local grocery stores for what’s cookin’;)

I wasn’t looking forward to our next stop, it was going to land us in Dallas/Fort Worth. Mike had found a county park with decent reviews so we sadly left the Kisatchie Forest behind and continued West on the I 20. Just about the worst bit of freeway we have hit so far, like riding a bronco going through Shreveport, yeehaw, even the cats looked green and were complaining the whole bouncy way through. Generally we find the freeways through cities to be the worst but this one took the grand prize! It was also a banner day for billboards! The 1-855-for-truth guys had all kinds of competition here!

Between Dallas and Fort Worth, Loyd Park Campground at Joe Pool Lake turned out to be better than I anticipated. It was not picture worthy but a good one night stop. The next morning we headed West to Lake Colorado City State Park, a few miles South of the I 20, now this was better! We were greeted by a beautiful young tabby girl, the camp hosts cat perhaps, we never saw the host. Groot was appalled at the competition, but Gamora was unfazed by the young lady;) We and the camp hosts were the only ones there when we arrived. This is a reservoir as well, 51% full it said at the campground office. Been very very dry.

This was a two-day stay for us, we were planning our next few jumps. Wonderful bird life and bunnies galore. Dragonflies were the cat’s favourite, games of chase and pounce;) There was even a fishing dock to wander around on. We had lunch in town at Mary’s Cafe, I felt brave enough to do a burger, nothing with white sauce on it thanks…0_0….this is another little town that looks prosperity has passed it by. It had a sad air to it, the refueling spot up on the highway had us standing and waiting at the counter for 5 minutes why they gossiped about a friend’s personal problems…not what one might call polite. We’ve found so far Texan drivers to rival Southern Californians in their rudeness on the freeway. Kind of odd, but this is another big “it’s all about me” state, bigger, bolder, brasher hyper individualistic perhaps? Sad after finding the other Southern states were extremely kind and civilized. Maybe it is just the transient working population. RV parks that include the bare minimum line the freeway. Cheap housing, not much personal pride at most of these stops:(

But a good spot to end for today. Tomorrow is sand dunes and then mountains! Stay tuned amigos, hope you don’t run into any old horse’s patooties;)

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Common Buckeye, not so common looking!

 

Guns, God and wineries, not in that order;)

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Bluestone Vineyard-Virginia

…and rain, it seems to be following us! Argh!!! After three days we heard temperatures were going to take a plunge so we opted for a RV park, Harrisburg East Campround, in Pennsylvania for two nights until the cold passed and we could do some laundry and rest from three days of driving. Friendly, clean easy in and easy out, it was an essential laundry and sewer dump stop and generator repair in the heart of the city, next to the interstate. Our trusty Honda had run then suddenly coughed a few times and stopped back in New York. We called around to a few spots seeing if someone could look at it on short notice, I was not holding my breath but a nice lady said “Sure, bring it in, if it’s something simple we can have a look” that was a lovely surprise! Shout out to Kerry’s Lawn and Garden, we didn’t even go to the location we had talked to, there are two, we didn’t know. The folks at the Northern office were just as kind. Turned out we had water in the gas, a bad load of gas no doubt, they cleaned it up and we were on our way! Delightful people! 5 star review! We are truly grateful to people who can help out someone driving through!

We finally drove out of the clouds the nest day and had a few hours of sun in the afternoon at the Bluestone Vineyard, it was delightful! We took a stroll through the vineyard and along the hedgerow, found a few flowers and much to Groot’s delight, wild catnip!

Parking was wonderful beside the grapevines with a view up the hill towards the tasting room. We paid a visit after settling in and taking the furry ones for a walk and sampled some wines. They had a water pump with real well water, sigh, so nice after a few days of chlorinated water, can’t drink that stuff, we could fill up our 3 gallon water container:)

Love these spots. I am truly not a fan of the normal RV park. My heart leans towards State and National Parks, birds and critters and room to move and breathe. Harvest Hosts has been the next best thing to the parks for me! Are there hook-ups, no, but we are pretty much self-sufficient for a few days at least:)

I sleep at night, no highway/freeway roar, no noise at all actually. Perfect. You are limited to a night at these spots unless the host invites you to stay longer.

We woke up to rain the next morning and moved on through some cloud and drizzle as we headed SW through Virginia on the Interstate 81. Our next stop, Whitebarrel Winery in Christiansburg suggested we get their early as they filled for Friday night live music and wine tasting. Scenic drive in off the 81 past horse farms and fields, some low branches bent our air vent back, again, not an uncommon occurrence for some of the out-of-the-way places we choose, nothing a trip onto the roof and bending it back couldn’t fix;) It was pouring rain when we arrived. Lovely lady in the tasting room motioned me where to park, and we went about getting set up and then went for wine and lunch:)

The lady, Maggie I believe her name was, deserved a medal. She juggled 8 plus animated clients, doing wine tastings, did up the charcuterie platters in-between as well as telling us where to park. Give that woman a raise! Lovely spot, we parked in front of the garage where they make the wine, a large A class arrived later and took the other remaining spot. Thanks Whitebarrel, the wines were lovely, your discounts were more than generous including a free tasting! We will sing your and Maggie’s praises!

The morning was clear and cold! -4° celcius, chilly! We drove through with the sun, all the way to Tennessee! We’d stayed at this RV park before, Two Rivers Landings RV resort, (a pool makes you a resort BTW:) on the  Broad River in Sevierville, Tennessee. We had an appointment in Knoxville on Monday at RV’s for less to replace the awning motor and microwave that were under warranty and thought we’d weather out the cold front with full hook-ups. It is a very touristy area, Dollywood being the big draw I think. That is Dolly Parton, of the country music fame theme park for those of you who did not know, she has her own Disneyland;)Pamorama SiervervilleAsign

It is a lovely spot, not too noisy down by the river. The spots facing the river are saved for A-classes, sadly, but this time of year it was half empty and the cats enjoyed a nice walk along the shore doing their sniffy thing. This is an odd part of the country, billboards market not only God, but Moonshine, personal injury lawyers and the dangers of “lust” as well as machine gun rentals;)

Not sure if I can ever get used to this but it is what it is. Tennessee:)

We tried a BBQ joint we’d visited last year, not very good, sadly but found a Mexican market with a small restaurant and had lunch there the following day in Gatlinburg. Real gorditas and chiles relleños! Quite the surprise!

In the morning we headed over to RV’s for Less North of Knoxville in the rain. They replaced the awning motor and the microwave I had sent there after a few calls back and forth to the Good Sam Warranty department we eventually got everything straightened out, authorized and done…by then it was fairly late and they invited us to spend the night, they have electric and water hook-ups so we graciously accepted after sitting waiting in the car for 5 hours while the repairs took place. We spent an hour or so talking hot rods and the in’s and out’s of the area with Ken and Butch, it was quite enlightning;) and maybe a bit scary…just a bit. I didn’t hand out an Astrogypsies card:) This has got to be the most over the top Christian paraphernalia spot I have ever seen, when you swear, you “Lose a little bit of Jesus” our salesman Ken claimed. That explains my complete loss of religion I guess;) I have never seen so many God stickers and placards in my entire life, it is a wonder we did not spontaneously combust in their presence. They were helpful, kind people but I would not have wanted to stop in wearing a burka. The alien fish on the back of the trailer was enough to send us to hell I’m sure;)

We will be back this way. So far the going has been great and the stops at the Harvest Hosts a new direction for us. Enjoying it, tomorrow we move on, time to head to the West as we’ve come as far South as we needed to get things done.

Saludos amigos and stay tuned! Alabama here we come-there are way more billboards as well;)

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View of the French Broad River-Tennessee

Heading South-here we go!

Hard to say goodbye to our spot on the lake, good friends, good times, great spots for cats to run around and frolic, but that cold is coming. After our first bout with 4″ of wet snow we waited for a sunny day to slip away after our goodbyes, au revoirs, hasta leugos, we’ll be back;) I’ll miss the people, the wildlife (which was sometimes the people;), the quiet times and fabulous views of the wind still lake but after 10 days of rain and clouds and howling winds my inner tropical self was very much alarmed;) ha! Such wusses we are!

We debated a few different routes South, mainly getting South as quickly as we could perhaps on a new route, we choose to cross the border going into Vermont, we skirted South of Montreal, great roads and South past Saint Jean sur Richelieu. Beautiful countryside, horrible border for trailers or RV’s. Tight turn at the last-minute showed the scraped paint of many trailers. Mike managed to swing right into the other lane with the help of some lovely motorists that gave him room to do so and then they “selected us for a random search”, yes, yes, humorless CBP, really humorless, you know when they don’t react to an orange tabby poking his head out the window you are in for a rough ride;) Sometimes you have to shake your head and wonder just how much time is wasted confiscating rice…seems we had illegal “basmati” rice, yes, you heard it folks, rice, basmati, that we had bought “in the USA” and took to Canada was confiscated on its way back in, why it could have picked up a serious disease while sitting in our pantry in Canada…I have never felt like such a criminal;) That’s it, we are marked for life as basmati rice smugglers;) I had to so bite my tongue…our tax dollars at work, confisgating rice. Didn’t know the US had such a burgeoning basmati rice production I was threatening. What do these people do when they go home at night????

Aren’t borders fun! NOT! Well, with that under our belt, we need more rice;) Our first stop was a Farm stand, Sam Mazza’s part of the amazing Harvest Hosts network www.harvesthosts.com. For $49.00 a year you join and have access to hundreds of farms, ranches, wineries and even antique stores and museums that let you spend a night for free, some even have electricity for a small fee. They are usually quiet and in the country and often offer stores for their products, or tasting rooms for their spirits and a flat place to park!

This lovely stop had stunning trees in glorious colour, goats and ponies and a wonderful store with their produce and even doughnuts! And we had sun, for a short time anyway! The cats were good their first time out, seems the feliway cat pheromone plug in worked miracles. Gamora hardly put out a peep, Groot fell asleep and Beezil snuggled in under many blankets by my feet, it’s the warmest he’s been in a week. I would certainly suggest this product to anyone traveling with a pet who fusses. We kept looking at each other going” wow, wow, wow” happy cats make for happy passengers and drivers;)

I was not expecting so many leaves, perhaps being close to Lake Champlain moderates the temperatures, it was truly beautiful! Groot and Gamora were not so sure on their first foreign outing, very open they said, hiding under the apple trees was better than getting near those scary goats!;)

Our good news was tempered with bad news as we found out our current housesitters, who are amazing, have to leave at the end of the month for health reasons:( So sad as they have been the best, we wish them well and hope everything turns out as they are wonderful people. So it’s back to adds and vetting people, working past the wackadoodles and people who don’t actually read the add, “Do you have a 4×4?”…”No?”…”Can you read?” and hoping we sell sooner than later…ranch for sale in Baja! Anyone? must let that sarcasm go;) Let’s all be nice now!

We left in the morning under cloudy skies headed to our next Harvest Host’s destination, an Apple and Cherry Farm in Gardiner, NY. It was a dreary drive but splotches of Fall colour came and went as we made our way South on winding roads until we hit the freeway. All the campgrounds I’d called in the area was already closed for the season so these Harvest Host locations were our only option, other than driving for a lengthy period of time, something the old cat doesn’t let us do;)

We arrived at Wright’s Apple and Cherry Farm and after a short wait the delightful owner motioned for us to follow her back up behind the store and out towards the fields behind on a small gravel road. She explained they had music festivals and other events up here. We were a bit worried about pulling off the road but she said the ground was hard so we moved the trailer to the side. After she left and we started to set up, a large hissing noise was coming from the back left tire, oh dear, a very large piece of screw was wedged in the tire…what to do, what to do…call a mobile tire repair service! Luckily there was one right down the road and as it started to rain two very pleasant guys came by, took the tire off after jacking Myrtle up, and decided to take it back to the shop after battling to get the gigantic screw out. End to the day, well, not really, the generator stopped running after a few hours so we decided to call it a night and climb under the covers. We’d filled the propane tank in town and dieseled up so just had to wait for the tire in the morning to go!

The morning wasn’t clear, but it wasn’t pouring rain, yet, the radar showed it was coming. Gamora spotted several deer behind the trailer passing by, that was exciting. We took them for a short walk around, they are still getting used to this not being at Otty Lake when they come out the door, the look of surprise on their faces is most amusing! The Wright Farm Stonehenge was a fun cat jungle gym.

Our repaired tire arrived at 9:30 and it was quickly installed by the younger of the two guys, he was in charge of the truck today, and we were ready to go just as the skies opened up again. Mike backed the trailer down the road before we could back it into y where another gravel road branched off. We didn’t want to risk turning around on the grass with all that weight and pouring rain all night, the idea of being stuck and finding a very large tow truck was not appealing so we erred on the side of caution. Bad things come in threes right?;) After backing down the lake road over 400 feet this was a piece of cake with no trees;) and we were on our way, South again…and did it rain…from fog to hard rain to bits of clearing it was a dreary day to drive.

These are the days you’d rather be bundled under a blanket reading a good book than traveling on the interstates. A large accident involving three semis slowed us down just before our destination in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Almost there but not quite. You need to find the beauty in the small things on days like this. Gamora spent the slowdown gazing out the window, I took pictures of raindrops…there is beauty everywhere, we just need to look. Our first world problems sometimes feel huge, but in all reality, we are so lucky. Period.

Saludos amigos, stay tuned as we continue to drive towards the heat;)

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Beauty in everything

 

Wait…it has snowed! We’re still here;)

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I can’t say I mind, it is so beautiful! It started falling and quickly covered the ground and trees. Wonderful wet snowball and snowmen snow! Gamora got to see snow for the first time, I think she is part snow leopard, Groot was not as amused and went from dry patch to dry patch, looking for rocks and stumps to stand on.

Glad I’d gotten a winter jacket the week before at the GT boutique, needed it, as well as out hats and mittens! It seemed a few days ago it was warm! You never know here. Halloween kids will be dressed as snow men this year:)

We’re holed up in the cottage keeping the wood stove going to keep the pipes from freezing. Night time temperatures have dropped below zero for a few nights and with the wind it has been chilly. Hopefully we can close up the cottage this coming week and help drain the lines and pump. In the meantime it has been odd being in a house with a kitchen! Woohoo, and a large sink! The cats are taking full advantage of the room to run and gleefully skid around the corners at top speed sliding on the wooden flooring with no traction at all:) Vacation time for cats! The old guy has his bed and the wood stove, he is quite content:)

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Last ride down the paths littered with leaves crunching under the hooves…:)

We went down to the barn at the end of the week anticipating leaving and to say goodbye to our four-legged family and their fabulous caretaker Jennifer. Had one last hack with her and Joanne, Boots, Maya and Phoenix, walking on a long rein between the bare trees, cold but beautiful going down these trails with the sound of crunching leaves under the horses hooves. Their coats are getting woolly and thick, soft to the touch like a plush toy.

Mike stayed and stuffed the cats and donkeys with treats. They are adorable, and they wanted in! and food! They have their winter coats and are ready for winter! It all seems to change so quickly, ten days ago we were at peak colour and now, not many leaves left on the trees, the snow and wind knocked down a new blanket of them to cover the ground.

By tomorrow this white stuff, it will be all gone, just a taste of what is yet to come for souls hardier than us. We will very soon be heading South! In the mean time though, this is glorious!

Saludos amigos, stay tuned!

Time to make like a Loon, and fly South…wait, we are already loony, aren’t we?

Heading South, always the question, when, where, what route. The winds are howling outside tonight and the temperatures will be dipping close to zero°…celcius that is. Myrtle is very comfortable in these temperatures, the DRV’s are known for their excellent insulation and RV values, it’s just getting…well, cold:( yup, we are wussses;)

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I don’t often photograph our wonderful trailer or its able companion Hagrid, the Dodge Ram 3500 that hauls her about, yes, a she, like the sailboats I was raised on;) and I should more often. I tend to veer away from man-made things and towards nature but it is good to share how, and why we choose to live this way! Being mobile, sometimes for months at a time, and sometimes stationaryth , as we love this lake near Mike’s home town of Perth. No there are no RV parks or campgrounds here but we have made do over the years, squatting is a great technique;) on our wonderful friends property, and next year, on a property we now co-own with them next door that includes a cottage and a bunkie! The sewer is set up, as well as a 30 amp service, a bit of gravel will even it out and presto, we have a spot to call home, or a base over the summer. Now this is the view…instant smile:)

The view

Right now we are waiting for parts covered under our Good Sam Warranty that are backordered. Four weeks they told me at the RV Store, I call every week, yes, we have not forgotten about you, no, still no parts…and now the microwave/convection oven gave up the ghost, just in time for Halloween…the old cat is looking at me with horror in his eyes..”How will you heat my food? I can’t eat it cold” says the soon to be 19-year-old Burmese..aka..Beezil…sigh…what to do, what to do, our first world problems;)

Makes me think just how comfortable we are and what my ancestors lived with, farmers and fishermen, not exactly upper crust. I was told my great-great grandmother’s family sold all they had in Indiana and made their way West, only to have her return, with nothing, farm and land had been sold, after the death of her husband on the way West. No running water, outhouses, if you were lucky;) and your transport was 4×4 hooves, horses and mules and carts;) We are so incredibly fortunate today, almost too much. Kids think food comes from a supermarket, not a farm. They view their steak and hamburgers and I think they might not be able to eat that if they had to kill and butcher it themselves. Things have changed, so quickly, we are too far removed from our roots at times. 45 years ago I scraped coconut meat from a coconut for cream, now I can buy it in a can. I miss sitting on the back deck of the boat rasping it out of its shell, then putting it in cheese cloth and wringing it out for Poisson Cru-check out the recipe, a Polynesian fish dish with lime and coconut, like ceviche, come to think of it, someone on the boat had caught the fish as well.  As a teenager I was shown how to roast coffee beans in a cast iron skillet, then they were ground, by hand in a wonderful little box that smelled like heaven. Everything today is so fast, we want it now, we become frustrated with waiting for the smallest thing. Is this evolution, or are we running in the opposite direction.

Time will tell. Our politicians and elected representatives line their pockets at the expense of those with less, disregarding the huge changes happening on our planet. The reefs I swam over and among as a child are starting to bleach and die, what will the dolphins eat that swum at the bow of the boat, our entertainment. Not a phone, or a device, but the real deal. Will todays kids ever really get to experience that? Sad isn’t it. Cold does that to me, a feeling of sadness perhaps as I know we can not stay, the cottage is not made to live in at -30° Celcius in January. Not going to happen. Heading South, I also feel a deep sense of melancholy, those states we go through, the beliefs, the religion, the racism, it makes me feel ill at ease. With the increase in massive hurricanes and coastal destruction will these people move to the cities? The ever overflowing cities…Blade Runner seems more real today, it was science fiction in 1982…

I like seeing the dirt on my food, the imperfect carrots I have to wash, it tells me they did come from the ground. Not the perfectly shaped ones for sale at the “farm market” stand  going into Perth. These came from a box bought at a wholesale Market in Toronto, it starts with all these little lies, or little omissions, this is not farm stand food, it is just made to look that way and so many will not question it, I guess they don’t like to wash the dirt off their food, how “inconvenient”, many prefer it comes in a bag pre-cooked, just reheat and eat…sigh…we had to catch ours as kids, with a hook and line, or more often with a speargun, gut it, fillet it and cook it, now I can buy it frozen in a bag. Doesn’t feel right.

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One of my favourite places

Are we a generation that will look back at what we gained, and or, what we have lost. I had the incredible opportunity to travel the world young, no outside influence from schools or indoctrination or religious beliefs. We went to many churches, usually just to hear the singing, it was so beautiful these other languages that caressed our ears. We believed we all were equal regardless of skin colour, language, religion or social status. Our church was the open sky, our playground the ocean. I’m sure words like Bohemian were tossed about by mother’s parents and friends, and worse;) We had no shower, we bathed in the ocean, we had no TV, we listened to the radio. I gave away most of my dolls and toys, or traded them for a cool dog’s teeth necklace and beads made from seeds and once a beautiful mola blouse in the San Blas that I still have:) My mother finally had to tell me stop giving stuff away. I had a few pairs of shorts and T-shirts, we had flip-flops for shoes, no pants for the longest time, we didn’t need them, a bathing suit was more highly treasured. And we were happy, with so little, as so many people are. Far from malls and shopping centers, far from the marketing on TV and social media. We didn’t “have to have” things based on what others had it seemed. I try to keep that in the forefront of my mind whenever I see a desirable shiny trinket or get stuck in the boxed cereal aisle at the supermarket;)

The space I live in now is not far from what I as raised on, a small space, but the world is our back yard, then and now…and I try every day to keep an open mind and respect others beliefs but it seems to be getting more difficult every day to do so. To see the ignorance and lack of education, the racism, misogyny and the hate. All that hate…people praising “The Lord” when their electricity comes back on after a hurricane, that their “Lord” theoretically created…gets me a bit confused, how about you? Maybe I think, read too much:) Did you know we are related to mushrooms? Read about it;)

 

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We share a common ancestor from about 1.1 biliion years ago…wondering if Ancestry DNA will pick that up for me, I’d like to be related to amanita muscaria please. I’ll leave more than a bad taste in your mouth! hahahahaha!

 

Time to go, I feel better, sometimes writing it all out helps. It doesn’t chnage the madness, but it makes me smile. I really would love to be related to amanita muscari;)

Stay tuned amigos:)

Clear skies and cold nights, but those colours!

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How can our world not simply take your breath away? The stunning beauty that surrounds us never ceases to amaze me. The cloud cover in the last few weeks has been extensive, wishing for a bit more sunshine as the reds and oranges and yellows start to explode around us and quickly fall to the ground:) Last new moon the lake was so calm you thought you might be able to walk on it as the stars and mars were reflected in the water.

The Fall colours are in full swing, the fields are still green and the corn and soy crops have yet to be harvested. There has been no frost at the lake but in some surrounding areas have been hit. The docks are starting to come in and boats parked in the old barns. this week the cottage dock will come in. The boards need to come out and we will lay it on its side out of the water. The shifting ice over the winter can destroy anything left in as the winds and currents move things about during freeze and thaw. Hard to imagine that today, it is warm, the warmest it has been in a few weeks,  but we shall not be tricked;) Yesterday a high of 9° celcius, today 28°….the wild roller coaster ride of temperatures is upon us! This scene of green and blue is quickly disappearing!

…and frankly, I don’t want to be wading in the lake at 9° degrees so it will be goodbye dock for this year! It seems the colours almost change overnight, we go from green to a rainbow of earth tones almost magically, the result of chemical processes that take place in the tree as the seasons change. In the Fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall beauty.

This time of year always gives me pause to think. Everything changes, all the time, yet humans are so frightened of change. How can we overcome that, we must as we are constantly surrounded by change. Perhaps if we lived longer, to see what we have done, both good and bad and to truly learn from our mistakes, humanity as a whole seems doomed to repeat the same mistakes over, and over, over again. Will we ever learn? Perhaps that is why the constant change around us gives me hope for the future when the news about the state of the world is not good, there ARE good people, tolerant people, open-minded people, there are, I just wish they were the majority.

So, we live on, and try to be positive and amazed at the life and beauty around us. The latest rains and heat have caused an explosion in the mushroom population! What an incredible sight! They grow, and are gone in such a short time, the bracket fungus on the dead trees and stumps and roots will be here next year though:)

They also are getting eaten, by our small resident raccoon. I went to photograph a small grouping only to find them all gnawed upon:) The bird feeders have to come in every night or I can hear her swinging from them at all hours of the night. I had no idea she was such an acrobat, the other evening, before dark, she was out and climbing the clothes line that holds the feeders hand over hand upside down!

Fabulous Fall. Perhaps ask me in a week when the temperatures are supposed to dip below the freezing part how I feel but with the warm winds of yesterday still in my memory, this is perfect! The milk weed seeds were flying about in the field as the horses went from green patch to green patch of grass, enjoying their last bit of Summer food. As we rode through the bush the paths were littered with leaves creating a fabulous swishing sound as we walked down them, another week or so and most of the leaves will be gone…

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Milkweed seeds flying about in the fields

But for now, what a glorious show of colour. The sun is shining the colours are exploding from every nook and cranny of woods and fence rows. The Perth farmers market is closed for the year but the local farm stand at Miller’s Bay Farm is full of Fall produce, brussel sprouts and cabbage and wonderful carrots, even tomatillos to Mike’s delight! Walking out this laneway every morning to catch a glimpse of a deer, or the bear perhaps is an amazing way to start and finish the day, so for now amigos, saludos and may your path be filled with colour!

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The colour orange-a time to be thankful

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These days when people say the colour orange we tend to think of a somewhat unpleasant looking president to the South, kind of ruins the colour orange for many sadly, this year I am going to put a positive spin on it. Tired of the news and lack of humanity in so many of our elected officials it’s time to focus on a bit of beauty on this Canadian Thanksgiving day. I can see both sides as my mother came from a IRA card-carrying Republican family (now wonderfully that has joined the dark side mostly;) isn’t that what the democrats and liberals are being portrayed as?) and a Canadian father who worked with his hands side by side with his lovely wife, knows what being a good fair busineman is and what an amazing thing universal health care can be…either way my grandparents on both sides would have been outraged at what has happened to what they thought was a political party. If they could come back today they would be flabbergasted at what was in front of them, the zoo, of news and accusations, truth and false, rage and sadness, the absurdity of corporate play in the political system and the overall greed that drives the machine…but let’s let that orange go…for now.

It is indeed gray and dull but we have had moments of fabulous light in the last few days and the trees are swinging into the most glorious outfits for the Fall dance of the leaves:)

I belong to a photography group that focuses on a different colour each month, October is orange and what glorious oranges we have around us. The harvest orange, the farm stands filled with squash and pumpkins, fresh carrots in multi colours and the mums, the last flowers to grace the porches as the Halloween decorations and cornstalks arrive to sit with giant pumpkins.

The forest floor with the addition of rain has produced an amazing array of mushrooms and fungus. I’ve learned to rush out and take the shots as I see them as the small raccoon hanging about seems to eat them as quickly as they pop up!

As the leaves slowly turn the usual groups of critters comes and goes, I missed a text about a young black bear sitting at the side of the cottage road…darn! The fawns have lost their spots I see as they come down to the lake to drink. Groot stalked a big doe ( from a very long ways away I might add)..she did stop, and look, what is that small mountain lion doing hiding behind that stump;)

The bird feeders have to come in at night, the local raccoon will pull them down and stuff her face, the squirrels are doing Cirque de Soleil acrobatics to get at them as well, storing up for the Winter no doubt. Birds are having a hard time getting in for a feed at times;) The woodpeckers, Hairy and Downy, still trying to get a shot of the two different species on the same tree, and the bluejays are quite bold. The Nuthatches and Chickadees squeeze in at every opportunity for a seed and the Goldfinches as well. The juveniles are changing colour and look like the adults now.

The Merlin has stayed about, usually in the tree tops chasing a band of pigeons from the nearby barns, you see them take off with a fighter like type bird/plane after them, I occasionally find a pile of feathers…The Pileated Woodpeckers have been quiet this week after a mad rampage of tree and bark pruning all around us, settling in for Fall perhaps. Baby boy is still following mother about:)

As the days seem to suddenly get shorter and the nights have a chill we feel our time here is coming to a close for this year, like the Mergansers, Geese and Loons who are still crying out, it is time to start thinking about packing up and heading South, soon….

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Mrs. Merganser still has all nine of her brood:)

Soon, we still have some colour to explore and yes, lot and lots more orange:) Stay tuned amigos. Saludos y abrazos! Think today what you are thankful for, and tell those you love:)

That Fall feeling…I can breathe

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It happens so suddenly, that first cool night and takes you by surprise. I can’t get enough! After the heat and humidity this Summer I love the first feel of Fall. The air is cool, but the lake water warm enough to keep swimming:) I’m waiting for the morning mists to hover above the lake. This evening here, the cloud reflections made the dock look like it was a pathway to the sky, absolutely gorgeous. Mother Nature is such a talented artist:)

Migration has started, the hummingbirds are few and far between, the ducks have been flying over and the honking of the geese is not far off I fear. The juvenile Ospreys are grown up, except for their eye colour, they will turn yellow as they get older, they still look orange now. They have practiced leaving the nest and coming back, one is braver than the other, checking out the tree branches near the locks where they live.

For two days a small flock of Pine Siskins invaded the American Goldfinch feeder much to their dismay but they shared, and then they were gone. South, to spend the Winter where it’s warm. It never ceases to amaze me the distances these small feathered creatures go. Thousands of miles at times!

The dead pines are taking a beating, from the Pileated Woodpecker pair, their call and constant hammering let’s you know where they have found bugs under the bark. You can see the bark flying as they chip it away! I can see where they have been by the bark chips on the ground. They are insect eaters and bore into the trunks of trees to get at the larva form of bark beetles and wood-borers. The birds are not indiscriminate and don’t start poking into the wood just anywhere. They have both exquisitely sensitive hearing and keen eyesight. They can hear larva under the bark and zoom in on that area for boring, just deeply enough to access the insects and then extract the worm-like critter with their long tongue. I sat for an hour and watched a female at work.

Many people think they kill trees but in all reality, they are boring holes into trees that have already been attacked by insects and are quite likely to suffer serious damage from the insects anyway, a sort of pest control you might say;)

The Hairy Woodpeckers are quite keen at the feeders, picking out a sunflower seed at a time and hammering on it against a tree until it is open and ready to eat.

The squirrels and chipmunks have been busy. I left a new bag of seed beside the trailer and within a few minutes a cheeky red squirrel had a small hole in the bag and was helping himself greedily! They are Groot’s antagonists, too fast for him and then they make a stand in the branches and gleefully yell at him, calling him names no doubt in squirrelease;) Groot has decided the black squirrels, although fun to chase, are perhaps bigger than he thought they were and simply puts on a show, Gamora is still hell-bent on capturing one, good thing neither have come too close, the leash usually pulls them up quickly;)

The days are getting shorter, the sun doesn’t linger as long over the pines and the night sky has started to pop once again as the humidity drops. Time to get the tripod out and point it at the Southern sky and Milky Way…or at a racoon;)

This little girl has been sifting through our recycling and rummaging around for left over bird seed, I caught her trying to do a high wire act as well as I sat and drank my coffee yesterday morning and watched her antics. Cuteness overload, the cats watched from the trailer window and later on the leash from a distance. Gamora was going to go right up and Ms. Racoon was having none of that, our big brave Groot, well, I had to carry him by to go back to the trailer…sometimes it’s good to have a human around;) Being brave is not always wise says Groot;) no photos he pleaded..he doesn’t want his fans to know;)

This is a magical spot. We ended yesterday with fabulous pizzas from Regan and Sheila’s wood fired portable pizza oven with friends and enjoyed a stunning sunset as a bonus. Today with the rain and gloom, temperatures haven’t gotten above 55° on the flintstone scale, about 12° celcius. I welcome the change but I think Summer is not quite done with us, forecast for the weekend we are back in the 80’s so this is just a subtle reminder of the changes of the seasons, a reminder that nothing is static, all things change, something we should not be afraid of, but perhaps welcome into our lives.

Saludos amigos, you can remind me about this if I start to whine about the cold;)

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Where did the Summer go?

It seems just yesterday it was the first of July, where did the Summer go? The kids are back at school and the temperatures hovering near 32°today it is hard to believe we are into the first week of September. A cool spell is coming! Yeah! The Perth Fair has come and gone, we had a lovely day through torrential rain showers and shine helping Kristyn and her family with the return of the Family Fun Show. I was thrilled to be the photographer:)

It reminded me of our days running the Hunter Show over a decade ago. Long hours but lots of prize money and goodies from the many sponsors. Hoping for more local barn participation in the future so we’ll get the word out there next year! The kids were troopers as were the adults in the many classes, especially in the pouring rain!

The egg race is always a challenge when it is dry, but in a downpour! Kristyn was kind and hard boiled them…hahahaha! From musical cones, to the cup race and relays there were many smiles to be had! A bit of scrambling in the mud but when the sun did come back it was glorious!

There were Western and English classes, Equitation (judging the rider) and Flat classes (judging the horse). Alison and her mother Wendy did a wonderful job judging and announcing. We had a wonderful home cooked lunch of pulled pork, thanks Tommy and Trish!

Something for everyone! Wonderful way to spend the day watching these people and the horses they love and cherish.

Looking forward to next year and perhaps we’ll try to put in a word with the weatherman for sunny skies! At least the rain was warm! I’ll leave you with the future fair competitors and participants, the lead line class:)

Saludos amigos and welcome to September!

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“Are we ready to go?”

Life beside the lake

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This is the place we stop and recharge. Continuous travel can be exhausting and while we said we would always slow down, sometimes getting from point A to point B means long distances, especially when your roots are in one country and the home your trying to sell in another, actually separated by another country and you just really want to be there! Over 7000 kilometers from Baja to Perth, Ontario. That’s quite a hike! Google maps tells me 7392 km and a 79 hour drive. We took from mid May to the first week of July-I would rather have taken 6 months but we were on a mission, always seems like that! One day we will be property free, more or less;) Ranch for sale in Baja in case anyone out there is looking!

We are fortunate to be able to follow our dream of travel and sharing the telescope views, if the clouds now would just go away;) In the mean time my bird feeders are up and it is wonderful to hear the whir of hummingbird wings again! The Grackle family, 5 chicks in all have flocked to the feeders and push out the smaller Chickadees and Nuthatches, both Red and White Breasted. They manage to sneak in and out quite quickly though as the grackles are trying to figure out the feeders, squirrel proof, sort of, they wait below for what the smaller birds pull out searching for the perfect seed it seems.

I was excited to see the first male Ruby Throated Hummingbird of the season here. The females and a few juveniles come and go but I rarely get graced with the presence of the Mr and his colourful throat. He looked a bit ragged, molting perhaps;) I seem to have quite a few more this year than last-Always makes me happy!

Down at the lake shore the Merganser Family is back patrolling the shoreline late in the day as well as a pair of Northern Water Snakes. They are large non-venomous creatures, beautifully patterned. They hunt among the rocks for frogs, small fish, worms and even small mammals and birds…Groot was taking no chances when he first encountered the larger one, since then he has become a bit braver, peeking among the reeds for movement but quick to jump back at anything big! Frogs are fine to pounce on but not that big snake thing! They can have quite a painful bite I’ve read. Odd swimming with them as they lift their heads to look at you, then dive, or swim along the surface.

Back in the forest the three species of Woodpeckers have all made their appearances. From the small Downy, to the Hairy and the majestic Pileated. The Pileated has been around with a juvenile as well, always late in the day, trying to talk her into gracing me with her presence in good light! She always seems to show up when I don’t have my camera! Only recently a juvenile male Hairy Woodpecker showed as well. Mother’s teaching them the ropes it seems! I can hear the Pileated Drumming on the pine trees around the trailer, my cue to run out, OK, creep slowly out as not to scare it away;)

The cats get their walks twice a day-Groot will hang about with Mike fishing and sitting on the boat but Gamora has been kept on the leash after she made a dash one day into the forest. They sit and wait each day when they know it’s time, perhaps sitting isn’t the right word, frantically twirling about our feet as that time approaches is more appropriate, Gamora’s nickname is “whippy tail” as she whacks you with it when she wants something;)

Hard to believe the old Burmese Beezil is doing so well, almost 19 now and he still tears around like a kitten with Gamora, then flakes out for hours, and has a occaisonal jaunt outside to chase a chipmunk. We have a zero death rate on the chipmunks this year thankfully:) Several caught and released though;) Not the smartest of the furry guys here;)

They manage to clean up the old bread, tortillas and a lot of bird seed and provide great Cat TV for the furballs looking out the windows. It’s been a hot and steamy Summer. We didn’t use the AC at all last year but have had to resort to it a few afternoons to make things bearable, even in the shade under the pines. Great time for swimming and cooling off in the lake. There have been some spectacular clouds and thunderstorms but not much in the way of lightning, hoping for some shots but not yet!

..and you are reading this now as we have finally arranged internet! Wahoo! Bell put us on hold for three weeks but came through in the end with DSL to the cottage. The other providers Storm,”You need a 70′ tower” Xplornet “you need our extremely expensive and limited satellite internet, or pay a $149 site evaluation to tell us we need a 70′ tower as well, pooey to you;) we now are online;) So far the Google-Fi phone service here has been a bust here as well. Next year we will back to Verizon more than likely…it was worth a try but has not had sufficient coverage in Canada to make it worth our while. So we are back online and hopefully I can catch up on the blogs. I’m leaving it here today, time for a swim and to think about dinner! Saludos amigos and stay tuned for the barn racoons and our large 4 footed friends!

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Rocky Racoon-ready to raid the cat food;)

Get ready to be blown away…literally;) Cape Blanco-Oregon

It was a short jump, only 66 miles to Cape Blanco State Park from Brookings. It was named in 1603 by the Spanish explorer Martin D’Aguilar because of the chalky appearance of the headland. This prominent headland is the Westernmost  point of Oregon and extends further west than any point of land in the contiguous United States (lower 48 states) that is:) At the tip of the cape is a U. S. Coast Guard lighthouse reservation including an 1870 lighthouse. The headland is 245 feet above the sea and the light is visible for 22 miles at sea. Because of many past shipwrecks at this point, a powerful radio beacon for navigators was placed at Cape Blanco. It is the southern most lighthouse in Oregon and it is windy…very windy. They have their own “wind forecast” how awesome is that!

 

The campground is first come first serve so we thought it might be full over the Memorial Day weekend so we held off until Monday to arrive, although the camp hosts said only Saturday had been completely booked. It is located a good 5 miles West of the US 101 so no traffic noise at all! It is very tree covered, we circled the 52 sites, many were free, once to check for the sunniest spot but even that was 90% shady-great separation from other sites though and beautiful moss-covered trees everywhere, great cat walking spots! Some partial sea views through dense trees on the Western side but incredibly dark. We opted for the Eastern side and backed in with a small view back to the horse camping area. We walked over to the self registration area then down a small paved road to the beach a fair way below.

 

A much-needed leg stretch, after my scramble down the coastline at Natural Bridges those legs were stiff;) then we needed to take the fur kids for a walk, they were very approving of the heavy cover and grasses as well as climbing trees close to the trailer:) There were berries everywhere. Some bushes were just blooming and there were these incredible orange raspberry-like ones called Salmon berries (rubus spectabilis) not particularly good to eat we read but such amazing colour!

 

We ventured out to the lighthouse but it is closed Monday and Tuesday so hiked around for it for a while instead being blown about was a better description! At least back at the campground under the trees there was some protection! Beautiful crashing waves and surf though!

Back at the park I took a walk in the late day looking for a path down to the beach on the Northern side. I wanted to try some long exposures but with the wind howling wasn’t sure if the tripod would even hold. Beautiful path down, walking on wildflowers and grass.

 

The roads in the park are sprinkled with wild azaleas as well as the mountains of berry bushes and so many other delicate small wildflowers. There was a bush that resembled a manzanita as well! Out on the grasslands I caught sight of a Savannah Sparrow being blown around by the wind. It was amazing it could even fly from flower to flower as I was having a hard time even holding the camera against the wind!

 

I followed the narrow path down to the beach, as small creek trickled beside it. It was overcast when I started photographing the waves breaking on the rocks, tripod anchored in the sand, sitting on a large piece of driftwood, but slowly the clouds parted and gave way to a beautiful blue sky.

 

This beautiful beach is covered in driftwood and rocks full of fossils. I sat there using my ND filter and trying some long exposures. The tripod was wiggling in the strong wind but it was a fun challenge none the less:) When the sun started to emerge it was even more beautiful.