Thursday, June 27, 2013

Alpaca love

What I want to know is, have you ever seen anything as adorable as an alpaca?
And did you know that Oregon has its very own Premiere Alpaca Destination?
It is located just a few miles from our Other House. 
Don't panic, it's just me trying out suitable names for Vista House. I still haven't found the moniker that screams "Pick me! Pick me!"
Whenever people come to visit and drive the back way from Sisters, I tell them to be sure to visit the alpaca farm. So far, Bethany is the only one who has complied.

Alpacas were first raised by the Incas for their fleece, which was reserved exclusively for the nobility.

Crescent Moon Ranch is a breeding farm and has about 500 alpacas. They birth about a baby a day. A good sire will set you back $25,000 or more. The owners are crazy people who work long days, every day of the year. The wife will give you a little tour if you happen to see her. She knows every alpaca by name. 

Alpacas were first brought into the US in 1984 and now number around 20,000.

I want to take this baby home. When Jeff and I were young and optimistic, we dreamed of owning ten acres in the country and an alpaca or two were on the required list of resident livestock. Nowadays, we realise how lazy we are and how it would never have worked, but it was nice to dream.

Alpaca fleece is warmer and softer than sheep's wool and lacks lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. The fleece is also flame-resistant and water-resistant, as well as moisture-wicking. It comes in 16 official tones, which can be mixed together to create even more hues, thus minimizing the need for dyes.

Oh baby.
I love the crimpy woolly coat. It reminds me of my Uncle Eddy's hair.

There are two kinds of alpaca. The suri has long fibre that forms silky dreadlocks. The huacaya has a woolly, dense, crimped fleece. About 90% of North American alpacas are huacayas. 

I believe this is called a "snaggle-tooth".

Alpacas and llamas can be cross-bred. Their offspring are called huarizo and are prized for their longer fleece.

The farm is immaculate and I marvel at the energy of the owners, who are at least our age and perhaps older.

Alpacas hum
Just like me.
They hum when they are curious, content, worried, bored, fearful, distressed, or cautious.
Just like me.

No wonder I feel such an affinity for them. 

Alpaca meat is considered a delicacy in some countries.
I will try to forget that tidbit of information, and I think you should too.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Feeling the blue

When I was in my thirties, I wore shades of aqua blue all the time. I've always thought it suited my colouring and, besides, I love it.
Then, as I got older and put on weight, I started wearing black all the time, because it's slimming (or so they say), it's easy to mix and match pieces, and it looks professional when I am working. I quit wearing my favourite shade of blue for a couple of decades and a small part of me was sad.

On the way out to the Ranch a couple of weekends ago with Lori and Lige, we stopped in Sisters to peruse the stores. I found a shop that caters to women and men of a certain age and makes all of their clothes here in the USA. It is called Drawstrings of Malibu, and is only open in Sisters in the summer; the rest of the year they are in Mesa, Arizona. All of the clothes are crinkly cotton, which I adore (especially for traveling) and I found a few items that made me happy. The website doesn't show anywhere near all of their clothes, for some reason. The two tops are the same shade of aqua and the skirt is cream. I was thinking about our upcoming trip to Hawaii in September, but dang, I love these clothes, and wear them whenever they are out of the laundry basket! They aren't cheap, but I am way past caring more about price than about looks and comfort. That attitude was for my poorer, skinnier self!

Funnily enough, my current yarn projects both use the same shade of blue. I picked up some Martha Stewart alpaca blend and wool blend yarn at Fred Meyer on clearance, so it was hardly planned, but here they are. 
A knitted, wave-patterned afghan, that I can already tell will need more yarn or it won't be big enough.

And a crocheted baby blanket for our wee Victoria. The blue is softer and I love the colour combination, even though it isn't very traditional.


Our garden out at the Ranch has been full of surprises this spring and summer. The best of all are these poppies that have apparently re-seeded from last year. I did some research and I am pretty sure they are opium poppies. Conventional internet wisdom says that as long as you're not growing them commercially, you're probably safe from the DEA.
Unless they come to visit and find little slits in the stems below the seed pods.
And then you're doomed.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Unintentional nostalgia

Bethany was over today with all five of her offspring. 
Piano lessons were on the agenda, but, as usual, we got sidetracked by eating and scootering and raspberry-picking and running-around-generally-causing-large-amounts-of-mess-and-chaos.

They are full of vim and vinegar, excited about their impending trip to Texas to visit the other side of the family, getting on each other's nerves already and summer holidays only started a week ago.
Madelyn got up to the table in an unsupervised moment and raided the raspberry bowl. Her clothes were a mess, so Bethany found a dress for her in the spare room.

We sat her on the old rocking chair so that she could rock herself, and it occurred to me as I watched that here was Bethany's baby, wearing a dress that had been smocked for her (Bethany) by one of my aunties, leaning against the same sheepskin that she slept on for the first few months of her life, and rocking on the chair that was used to rock her to sleep.  

And in this photo, she looks remarkably like her mom.

Bethany was born nine months and six days after we married. 
She was, by the reckoning of the midwife, a little late.
Jeff and I lived in a small, upstairs, one-bedroom apartment in Orange County, California, with no air conditioning. We all left our windows open most of the time. The guy next door was nice and friendly, but had some kind of brain trauma and would often drink himself into a stupor and leave his eight-track tape player going all. night. long. Every time I hear Johnny Mathis, it takes me back to those hot nights when I couldn't sleep and his greatest hits played over.
And over.
And over.

Oh, hey, let's have a blast from the past, shall we?


We were as poor as church mice, as I have mentioned before. Jeff had several low-paying jobs that year and his VA benefits were slow in coming through. After he lost his first job and the second didn't bring in any income for six weeks, we squandered precious gas money driving to the VA and tried to find out why, after seven months, we still hadn't seen any money. They were very unhelpful and I was so tired and nauseous and pregnant and emotional and I finally just burst into tears. Suddenly, people took notice and they promised us that they would fast-track it. They sent us to the Red Cross, a few floors down, to get some things for the baby. We went home no richer, except for a pink-and-white crocheted blanket that I still have, and some little baby kimonos, but we were more hopeful.
Within a short time, we received all of our back pay, about $1,700, and we felt as rich as Croesus.

Jeff's old room-mate, Tom, had recently married and we were still friends with him and his wife, Kathy. They invited us to dinner one night and Tom showed me the brand new rocking chair that was in the living room. 
He invited me to sit on it and try it out.
Oh, no thanks Tom, I don't really like rocking chairs, they are usually very uncomfortable.
He begged and cajoled, but I stood firm. To this day, I don't know why I made such a big deal out of it. He eventually admitted that they had bought it for us so that we could rock the baby.
Crikey, talk about feeling small! I was mortified.
And it was, as it turned out, a very comfortable rocking chair, and we have enjoyed it for over thirty years.

I sometimes try to find Tom on the world wide web, just to relive the story with him and tell him how stupid I feel about it, but no luck so far.
So, if you read this, and know a Tom Zabriskie who used to live in Orange County and is a generous and kind fellow, tell him Jeff and Sue are looking for him.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Odds and ends from the cutting floor

My dad was ever fond of roses. I remember when we first moved to New Zealand and he was working on the gardens at Church College, he would give Mum a big bunch of roses for Mother's Day and her birthday. No florist ever saw his face. He picked them from the famous rose gardens that graced the front of the school, along Tuhikaramea Road. I must have absorbed the concept, because I still prefer a bouquet that is freshly picked from the garden to any showy display from a florist.
Sorry to any florists that might be reading this!
Dad particularly loved the Peace rose. I remember him telling me the story of how it was named, but had forgotten it until Wikipedia reminded me just now. It's a cool tale.

The cultivar was developed by a Frenchman, Francis Meilland, in the years 1935 to 1939. He saw the writing on the wall and mailed cuttings to friends all over the world, right before the German invasion. Legend has it that it was sent to America on the last available plane before the invasion and propagated by a company here. The rose was given different names in each country, as communication was not possible. 
In 1945, Meilland wrote to Field-Marshall Allan Brooke, to thank him for his master strategy that helped to win the Second World War, and to ask if he could give his name to the rose. Brooke declined, saying that his name would soon be forgotten, and a much better name would be "Peace".
And so it was.

Serendipitously, my rain-soaked and black-spotty Rosa Peace bush had one perfect bloom on it this morning, so I picked it and brought it into the house, where it sat on the table and amazed grandchildren with its perfume, and made me think about my dad even more than usual.

Some favourite friends visited us at the Ranch last weekend, so here are some pics of our adventures.

I never tire of the view of Smith Rock.
I know, you've seen this before.
Well, here it is again.

This little songbird serenaded us as we overlooked the magnificent rocks.
I think it's some kind of wren, maybe a rock wren.
Feel free to enlighten me if you know better.

We took a short walk to the head of the Metolius River. It wasn't very awe-inspiring, as far as views go, but it was interesting.

Right here is where the water bubbles out of the base of Black Butte, a cinder cone butte. The locals at the Ranch say that when the snow buffalo is gone from Black Butte, it's okay to plant your vegetable garden.

Looking the other way along the river.

Cheeky chipmunk.

We re-visited the McKenzie River and its lovely waterfalls, as Lori hadn't seen it, and did the same hike that we walked last year.
It was just as breath-taking as before. I do believe this is my favourite river ever.

Waterfall rainbows shimmer in the mist and the sun.

We stopped on a mossy bank and Lige and I quickly removed our socks and shoes and soaked our footsies in the frigid water. It was very refreshing and we agreed that we should do it more often.

Lige was rocking the bridge and Lori was saying, No, no, stop it! and he just laughed and kept on doing it.

And, in an awkward segue, a photo of my poppy seed head.
My smart-aleck brother-in-law said it looks like a pink tarantula eating a Kiwi laying on a bed of brown rice.

And, our girls had a dance recital a couple of weeks ago. 
Kenzie assisted in a class and she danced with them, as well as several other tap numbers.
And guess who no longer chews her tongue when she dances?

I thought these turned out rather well, considering I was pretty far away from the stage and didn't use a flash.
Miss Natalie was quite the dancer too.
Admit it. These photos are stinkin' adorable.

And that was my week.
Hope yours was great.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Twiddles with the kiddles

Thomy and Jeff both have birthdays in May.
Just like Anne and me.
So, rather than add to their overflowing accumulation of toys, Papa and I took them for a birthday outing somewhere in the middle of the month. We visited the Portland Aquarium and then hit Polar Bear Yogurt on the way home. It was a splendiferous day.

Short aside: I had bought coupons from Sharing Spree, a company that supposedly donates part of each purchase to charity. As I was checking on redemption protocols, I discovered that the owner had not being paying the merchants or the charities, and had declared bankruptcy. Luckily, the aquarium was still honouring coupons. Then I found out that the owners of the aquarium had been in trouble with the law for illegal harvesting of marine animals.
Awesome planning on my part.

In spite of it all, I was impressed with the facility and staff and will return.
And we bought some stingray food and mementos to make up for the free admission.
Feeding the stingrays was thrilling.

Thomy, eye to eye with a large fish.

You know I love jellyfish.

The diver was rather creepy and the boys were leery.

Thomy, tickling a ray.

Enjoying a frozen yogurt.


On Memorial Day, Bethany and family were out at the Ranch with us. Monday was rainy, so Natalie was the only brave soul to accompany me to the service.

Don't let those big blue eyes fool you; the girl is full of vinegar!

Sunday, however, was sunny and bright, so after church we went down into the canyon and visited the lake. The kids chased ducks and fed them crackers.

The pond (very small lake) is populated by a multitude of yellow-headed blackbirds, which Jeff and I find very fascinating.

We like to sit and watch them flitting around, perching on the tippy-tops of the cat-tails, and feeding their chicks in their nests in the surrounding trees. 

Back at the house, Daniel loves to weed, and there is lots of it to do.


The kids were over for dinner on Mothers' Day, and afterwards we went down the road to some open ground so that everyone (including Wrangler) could run around. 
Madelyn loves a little freedom.

So does Wrangler, and he plumb wore himself out. I walked him home before everyone else so that he could get a drink of water.
This is what Thirsty Wrangler looks like.

And this is Tired Wrangler.


And, lastly, a look at the wee one, who is gaining weight rapidly and will soon be almost as big as my newborns.