Thursday, June 4, 2015

Attila the Hen

Time for a little nostalgia, with the story of our first chicken.

When Jonnie was in first grade, a student of the fantabulous Mrs. Schroeder, the class hatched eggs in an incubator. It was an annual tradition in Mrs Schroeder's class. 
Annie was a about four at the time, and I often took her with me to help out in the classroom. We watched the eggs as they were hatching, which was fascinating for us as we had never seen it before. And then we watched the chickies every time we visited the classroom and found our favourite. It was a docile little chick and when it was a couple of weeks old we got to take it home. 
We assumed it was a girl (experience makes me amazed that it worked out that way) and called her Attila the Hen. Because Jeff jokingly called her our attack chicken, when she was really the sweetest chicken you could ever wish to meet.
We kept Tillie in the house for as long as we could. She liked to roost on the back of the couch and on our heads.

One day, not long after she came to stay with us, Annie and Tillie were outside by the front door. Suddenly, I heard Annie screaming, so I ran outside and she was crying that a cat had taken Tillie. I ran around the house looking for her and heard my neighbour out on her back porch scolding her cat. It was playing with Tillie, a prelude to the eating of her, but luckily she was rescued and handed over the back fence, traumatized but alive.

Tillie was a small bird. She had a wonderful summer, following us around as we dug in the garden...

...and going for walks and the occasional bike ride. Every time we passed a likely scratching spot she would jump off, have a good scratch in the dirt and then I would lift her back onto the handlebars and off we would go.

We didn't think she was laying eggs until one of the kids found a big pile of little brown eggs in some long grass.
I was so ignorant that I didn't know anything about the proper food or egg-laying schedules or anything else about raising chickens. I missed Google more than I knew.
She spent the winter in the garage, roosting on top of the freezer and pooping all over everything.

I had forgotten this, but the photos tell a story of taking Tillie back to school for a visit, I think it might have been a science fair. The sign says it was two years hence, but I think it was probably one.

The sign reads: Tillie is a "returning student." She was hatched 2 years ago in Mrs. Schroeder's room. At that time we called her Licorice.  She now is the loved pet of the Osborne family.

And she was.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Lower Table Rock

There are two table rocks just out of Medford. One is called Upper Table Rock and the other is Lower Table Rock. I have found no reason why one is upper and the other is lower. The area, which covers 4,864 acres, is managed jointly by the BLM and the Nature Conservancy. Over 50,000 people hike the trails to the top each year. And we were two of them.
We decided to hike the Lower Table Rock because it looked more challenging. 
Of course.
Here is a cool map that gives you an idea of the route we trod. The little zig-zaggy line that goes up the cliff is vastly underestimated.

After reading this in the car park, I decided to go back to the car and retrieve my pepper spray.

It was a perfect day and the wildflowers were in full bloom. Lucky us!

The hike is about 5.4 miles, according to some sources, which includes the walk on top of the plateau.

A row of electricity pylons guards the way, buzzing fiercely at the trespassers.

The first part of the trail was an easy slope and there were lots of trees, especially our favourite madrones.

I wasn't too keen on these little fellows.
In fact, eew.

Pretty soon the gravel trail steepened and I began to have concerns about the stability of my ankles on the way down.
No matter, traipse on!
There were many different wildflowers on the way up the trail, changing with the elevation as we ascended higher and higher. Not all of the flower photos turned out, so this is only about half of what we saw. I had forgotten how difficult it is to focus on some flower colours. Here are the best ones, mostly identified.

Indian paintbrush
Dwarf onion (allium)
Not a flower

I wish I knew the name of this, but I have been unable to find it, in spite of it being all over the area as well as out in Central Oregon. Some kind of silverpuff, I think.

Camas lily
These galls were all over the trees at the lower elevation. They can be caused by insects, mites, nematodes, bacteria, or fungi. They damage the tree, which causes the tree to produce larger amounts of growth hormone, which result in galls such as these. An attractive solution to the problem.

Desert parsley
Blue-eyed Mary
Monkey flower

Forktooth Ookow. I kid you not.
Henderson's stars
Western columbine
Tolmie's cat's-ears, AKA cat's ear lily, AKA mariposa lily
Wood rose with, I believe, poison oak

I love this twisty madrone.

Right at the top of the trail the path divides and you can catch a view from the edge of the cliff if you go left over a very rocky terrain. The view was breathtaking and you could probably go home happy after going this far, but we wanted to have the whole experience, of course.

Looking over Upper table rock

So on we went.

The plateau is a mounded prairie habitat and has a unique plant community. A thin layer of granular rock covers impermeable volcanic rock, allowing water to collect during the winter in shallow depressions and creating what is known as vernal pools. It is a rare environment and supports a threatened species of fairy shrimp and an endangered plant called dwarf woolly meadowfoam. 
This is a very hot and dry area as soon as the pools dry up, which they already had by the time we were there, and the flowers are very different from the wooded areas on the way up.

Arrow Leafed balsamroot 
Longhorn plectritis

As we walked along this very civilized path, we could see a group of people coming towards us who were moving around in a very curious manner. We wondered what they were doing.

And then we saw for ourselves. Hundreds and hundreds of little tiny frogs were crossing the path. The pools were almost completely gone, just a remnant of dampness left, so they must have been on their way to seek shelter in the trees. I wondered what happens to the fairy shrimp in the summer. Apparently, they die after laying eggs that can withstand extreme heat and arid conditions and the eggs hatch as soon as the pools fill up. Cool.

It was impossible to avoid the little critters, as they were thickly underfoot, but they seemed to avoid our big clompy feet just fine. Which is just as well, because I would have been sad to squash them.

Lizards were also in evidence, basking in the sun.

The ground was thickly covered with grasses and wildflowers.

It seemed like a long mile, especially when we kept getting distracted with things like frogs, but we finally made it to the other side. We were overlooking Kelly Slough, a unique wetland habitat that is home to many aquatic birds.

We walked over to a patch of trees and spent a nice lazy interval sitting in some welcome shade and eating snacks, then wended our way back across the plateau and down the trail, which was just as precarious as I had feared. Why I ever go hiking without my poles I do not know. About halfway down I started to get blisters on all of the toes of my right foot, and by the time we got to the car I could hardly walk on them.
No matter. After a little rest back at the house and donning a pair of sandals, I was good for the rest of the day. 

This is an awesome hike, definitely best done in the spring. In fact, I would do it again in April, as it would be cooler in temperature and the pools would still be in evidence. The wildflowers would also be different and, I suspect, more numerous, so I think we will do this again some year.