From Angel to Badger

One thing is for certain, life always keeps you on your toes and humbles you.

On the last day of the 2021, I walked out of my house dressed in snow pants, a sweatshirt and my coat and snow boots ready to take on the bright snowy day. After feeding the horses, steers, and cats, I decided it wasn’t too cold to go on a walk.

After walking past the house and the area the dogs run around making lots of tracks, the landscape before me was white, unmarred, and beautiful. I stood there for a few minutes taking it all in and decided I wanted to make a snow angel.

I found the perfect spot with just enough slope I could get up hopefully without destroying what I’d made. I sat down, laid back on the snow and waved my arms and legs feeling giddy. It had been a while since I’d even made a snow angel. The day had just felt perfect for letting my joy loose.

When it felt like I’d waved more than enough, I sat up, pushed down with one hand and managed to get out with out mangling the design too much. See photo below.

My snow angel

Humming to myself, watching Harlie, our dog running joyously up and down the side of the ridge, I continued on my walk. My usual path is a dirt road alongside our hay field. On days when I feel crunched for time, I walk down to the end of the field, about 3/4 of a mile, and back. That was my plan this day.

The road isn’t flat, it wanders up and down small inclines and even tilts toward the field. As I was walking the white untouched snow covered road, I was also staring off at the ridge where a hawk sat watching me. I stepped and my foot continued downward. I caught my balance and looked down at a badger hole that I’d stepped in.

You would think when a badger hole is 8-10 inches in diameter that the snow would go into the hole and therefore make an indention in the snow. But it doesn’t. the snow is level over the holes and you can’t see them when they are covered with the white stuff.

I commented on I should mark the hole with something and continued on my walk. Once again staring up at the ridge and the bird that was soaring around. At this point, the road was at a slant. I looked up, noticing something moving on the ridge and put my foot down. This time my foot fell into a badger hole. My whole lower leg went into the hole and I fell forward.

Lucky for me, I have solid and not brittle bones. I pushed myself up and had to work my foot around to get it out of the hole. Once I had it out, I stood and decided I’d have bruises and few pulled muscles in the morning but nothing worse. However, I made another vow to mark the hole with a stick.

I finished my walk and sent this photo to my hubby.

The badger hole that I went in up to my knee.

Luckily, this was an old hole and I didn’t have a badger gnawing off my foot while I was trying to get it out. If it had been a fresh hole, I would have seen dirt around the hole and wouldn’t have walked right over the top of it.

As I said in the beginning, life keeps you on your toes and humbles you. I went from the top of the world, playing in the snow to wallowing around in the snow to get my foot dislodged from a badger hole. And that is rural life!

Slack Week between Holidays

Daughter and son-in-law packing their Christmas tree we cut down.

This week between Christmas and the new year gives time to stop and reflect and look forward. While the days seem to be lost during this time, I think it’s because we give ourselves permission to think about so much that happened over the year and think about what is to come in the new year.

Reminiscing with family and friends over the holidays is a fun way to look back and remember good times. There is sometimes sadness mixed in with the good, thinking of people who are no longer here, but there is always the brightness of knowing we have another year to look forward to.

Christmas in SE Oregon was white and cold. I loved it! There is nothing like a white Christmas to make the day feel even more festive. The week following is cold. It makes taking care of the animals a little more difficult. Water troughs freeze, the animals are cold and need extra food.

After the chores are finished, it is comfy to sit at my computer with a heater under my desk or in front of my sewing machine while I work on quilts. There is always something to do inside, if the weather outside isn’t pleasant.

I have a hard time understanding people who say they are bored. As a kid I might have uttered it a time or two but as an adult, there is never time to be bored. I can always find something to do. In fact, I never have enough time to do everything I want to do.

What do you do during this week between Christmas and New Years? Do you work, take a vacation? Maybe just spend your time when you aren’t working watching movies or working on a hobby?

Rock Formations

I love rocks. I love learning how they came to be where they are. “Nick on the Rocks” a five minute snippet that plays on our OPB station between shows is one of my favorite fill-ins. He talks mainly about rock formations in Washington state but how they are formed are actions from all over the Pacific Northwest.

I’ve always had a fascination with rocks. I love the huge black and white with flecks of shiny stuff, granite boulders where I grew up in NE Oregon. I would sit on a big one that was down by the irrigation ditch by our house. There was also a large one in the horse pasture where I would sit and watch my horse or the water running by in the ditch next to it.

While living in Central Oregon, we could see Smith Rocks. A premier sentinel of Rock that rock climbers from around the world come to crawl all over. In the morning when the sun hit them, they appeared green. As the light moved, they took on a pinkish color. They are one of the most stunning rock formations I’ve seen.

Where we live now there are lava tubes and craters ten miles from us. But the rocks that stick out on the ridge of our property are spectacular in my estimation. Different times of day and light, I see something interesting in the rocks every day.

Rock that looks like a head

We have one rock that looks like a head. At a book event in Portland, I noticed a book with a cover depicting a rock like we have on our property. I started up a conversation with Wilson Wewa, a Paiute man, whose story of traveling around with his grandmother and Northern Paiute legends were in the book. The Northern Paiute traveled around the Great Basin, which is part of where I live now. This rocks that look like heads are guarding sacred places.

There is another rock, I call Buddha. I don’t know why, I just do. One of our grandsons says it looks like a rock from Easter Island. It’s like a large head and a hand held out. There is a crack in the cliff next to it that looks as if the rock somehow popped out of there and turned. Just my imagination I’m sure, but that ‘s how I see it.

This is my Buddha rock

There is another grouping of rocks that looks to me like a monkey sitting on an elephant’s head. This could be because I just recently read two books set in India. Though there was no mention of elephants there were monkeys in the story.

And I look out my bedroom window every morning and see what looks like to me a large cat rock. It makes me smile and think that perhaps there is a reason there is such a rock. I have seen bobcat and what I believe to be lynx tracks in the dirt.

Then there is the curved ridge with spiky rock formations that I dubbed “Stegosaurus Hill” when we first looked at the property to buy. Yes, I love our property and the unique things I see in the rocks every day! I couldn’t find a photo of it easily and didn’t feel like stepping outside in the cold to take one. I’ll save that for another day.

Do you find rocks and formations interesting? Do you see the things I see in the photos?

Enjoying the Fall Weather

The weather has cooled, we’ve had a bit of rain, though not enough to make things wet. I enjoy wearing sweatshirts and snuggling in blankets while reading books and watching television.

With the cooler weather and more time to go horseback riding, I’ve been riding my horse more.

Looking from halfway up the hill

Since we’ve been riding on the hill, I purchased a breast collar to keep my saddle from sliding back on my barrel shaped horse. LOL I like that Jan, my gelding, doesn’t get fat, but that also means he doesn’t have a belly to keep the cinch from sliding backwards when we go up a hill.

On two of the rides, I had to stop after going up hill, get off, release the cinch, pull everything forward, and tighten the cinch back up.

Jan and the new breast collar hooked to the latigo rings. Too low.

On another ride, I tried the breast collar but it set too low across his chest and shoulder, buckling it to the latigo rings. My saddle is now with a friend to does leather work getting two D rings put up higher on the saddle skirt.

When I get the saddle back, I can get back to riding with my granddaughter.

It is also the time of year when we trek up to the Steens Mountain to see the aspen trees change colors. I would love to do it by horseback, but that’s not happening this year. My daughter is still struggling with finding the best horses for her and her kids. But, I’m looking forward to taking photos of Fall aspens to put on the blog.

Photos to Covers

I find the best feature on my cell phone is the camera. I usually have the phone with me every time I step outside or go on trips.

That means I always have a camera. I enjoy taking photographs of nature. A billowy cloud can have so many colors and textures in it that I want a photo. The blue of the sky can capture my attention. The way the grass is leaning in the wind. Dust swirling or hiding the hill across the valley. A lizard, snake, horse, cat, bird.

Taken at the Oregon Coast

I can find many things to photograph. Buildings, rocks, hills, fence posts. If I see something unique, I want to capture it.

When I go places to research settings for my books, I take a ton of pictures hoping one will work for a cover of the book. When I am researching, I also take along the camera featured at the beginning of the post. Using the photo I pick, my cover designer then places the added elements the story needs.

Waterfall in Maui

I used a photo I took while in Kauai, Hawaii for the cover of Abstract Casualty. We, my cover designer and I, are currently working on the cover for Capricious Demise. I’ve scanned through all my photos and have found a couple that might work and have given her some ideas of some that can be purchased.

My photo with bird added

On the Gabriel Hawke novel covers, we add the animal that is in the title of the book. And maybe take liberty of adding a trail sign that wasn’t in the photo but adds to the “story” the cover tells. This was Murder of Ravens. The cover for Mouse Trail Ends the cover designer took a photo of mouse prints in the dirt and added a backpack and mouse. Rattlesnake Brother is produced from two photos I purchased. The steps of a courthouse and a rattlesnake. My jet boat trip on the Snake River doing research for Chattering Blue Jay gave me many photos to choose from. Once I decided which one, my cover designer add a blue jay to the photo in a realistic way. And Fox Goes Hunting, the cover photo is a photo I took while in Iceland. It is of the Krysuvik boiling pools. I purchased a photo of an Arctic Fox that my cover designer inserted in the photo.

Sometimes finding the right cover art can be as much work as writing the book. Don’t be me started on coming up with a good title!

Sunday Drives

Since moving to SE Oregon, hubby and I tend to do more Sunday drives than before. Usually our Sunday drives are because it’s a holiday and we want to get away.

Mother’s Day happened to fall two days before our anniversary this year. Hubby asked me what I wanted to do for our anniversary. I said I wanted to travel a road I hadn’t been on before.

So Mother’s Day on Sunday, we packed up a picnic lunch, water for the dogs, loaded the dogs in the pickup and headed south.

Looking back the way we’d come.

Hubby had discovered a road that runs through BLM (Bureau of Land Management) which is public land from the end of the road that passes our property all the way through some hills and tail end of Steens Mountain to the road to Fields, Oregon.

We traveled that 25 miles in three and a half hours. The road was rough in places, but dry. Except where a creek crossed the road in one spot.

The first stop was to check out a canyon and bushes that were growing along it. There were cattle and Mikey decided to roll in a cow pie. We had to use up some of the wipes we had with us to clean him up in order to stand him being in the pickup.

The road continued up at a gradual climb. The juniper trees became thicker and thicker and a small creek ran alongside the road. We stopped at two springs just feet from the road to look. Hubby is fascinated by springs and wants to try and get one started on our hill where there seems to be more moisture in the ground.

Winding through the thick trees I noticed many of the trees, bigger junipers than I’ve seen before, were growing right out of what appeared to be solid rock. The hills on both sides of the road were solid rock and rock slides. Any vegetation had to find water in the cracks and crevices to survive.

One side of the rocky peaks we drove between.

Emerging from the trees there was a fair-sized meadow which we skirted and found green grass and a creek. Backtracking we went the other direction and came out along what had once been a huge lake. It was now dry with patches of grass and weeds growing in it. You could see that when the snow melted around the rim the water settled in the basin. The dirt was cracked. I couldn’t believe how large it was and that it was so high in elevation. Was it a volcanic crater at one time? How did it become a lake here, at the top of the hills?

the big dried up lake in front of us.

From the lake we headed to the top of a road that traveled down, down, down. Before heading down, we stopped and had our picnic lunch. The sun was warm, the bees were enjoying the lupines, and the dogs lay in shade of the pickup.

Harlie and Mikey .

Starting down, the sides of the road and up and down the hill were covered in wildflowers. Various yellows and first white, then yellow, and finally purple lupine. Hubby said he could smell them. I think my nose was stuffed up from the junipers…

Lupines

At the bottom we came out on the Fields road and headed to Hwy 78 and home.

Hubby laughed at me because several times as we drove toward home I said, “Best day ever!” Which it was a great day. But I remember saying the same thing when he took me up on the Steens Mountain to see the wildflowers one spring and then I believe I said it when we traveled up on the Steens for the fall colors, and when we saw some wild horses on one of our drives.

Yes, I have Best Day Ever, quite often! Do you like Sunday drives?

My Latest Trip

I’ve been home a week from a whirlwind trip to Maui. This trip hadn’t been planned when hubby and I went to Kauai in October. Nope! I returned from Kauai and my daughter said, “Want to go to Maui in March?” Her family needed to use up air miles they were going to lose.

So I booked a flight with them and saw two islands in Hawaii in 6 months!

First my daughter, her 6 kids, and I took two days to get to Oakland, CA where her husband is stationed in the Coast Guard. We drove nearly all the way across Oregon and visited the Redwoods in Northern California before ending up in Oakland.

Paul Bunyon and Babe at the Redwoods

We spent the night there and headed out on the plane early the next morning. The good news…the plane was only half full so we had plenty of room. The virus going around has stopped a lot of people from traveling. This will be my last trip for a while. I hope everything is settled down by August when I go to a conference in North Carolina.

Sand castle grandson built on the rocks at the beach where we stayed.

We arrived in Maui around noon, but by the time we picked up 2 rental cars (we wouldn’t all fit in any vehicle they had), went to Costco and Safeway for groceries for the week, it was evening. My son-in-law had taken half of the kids with him. They were all down at the beach when we arrived at the rented condo.

A grandson saw turtles while snorkeling here.

We had only 4 days from arriving on Sunday and leaving on Friday to see things. All the kids wanted to do was play at the beach, but the adults wanted to see the island. So most mornings, we’d drive to see something, then spend the afternoon or evening at the beach.

Top of Kalahaku Overlook

What my daughter and I decided, we needed two more days and have a day in the middle where we do nothing but sit and relax. If there’s a next time we’ll know. She could care less if she goes back again. It was her second time to Hawaii. She returned home sick from that time too. She and three of the kids were sick by the time we arrived back in Oregon. But it wasn’t the virus going around. They were headachy and vomiting.

Waterfalls on the way to Hana.

I had a good time but would have liked to have seen parts of the island I didn’t. Kind of like my trip to Iceland last year. I would love to go back and see the north and eastern parts of the island.

Have you been to Hawaii? Did you like it? I have to say, Maui felt less congested than Kauai did. I don’t know if it was because less people are traveling or because it is a more open island, with more than one road to get places.

Cold but so Worth it!

After having a week of really nice weather we are back down in the 30s and low 40s during the day. But we’ve had beautiful sunny days with a bit of wind.

The sunshine tugs at me even though it is cold outside. I’ve been taking walks on the hills wishing for spring flowers to poke their leaves, stems and buds out of the frozen ground.

What I’ve also been doing is riding my new horse, Jan (yaan). He is 21 years old and with just enough get up and go that I can go if I want to but we are both happy to just plod along. LOL

My daughter and two grandkids have come over a couple of times and written with me. But Jan also doesn’t mind riding off just the two of us. That was what I was looking for. A horse I was comfortable on and who didn’t throw a fit when he was ridden by himself.

I grew up on a farm and in the summer, riding was an everyday occurrence. I’d do my chores in the morning, catch my horse and ride the ridge/mountain behind our property. Some days, my younger brother and I would make a lunch and take off, riding for most of the day, coming home in time to do our afternoon chores and for me to cook dinner.

That was back when there weren’t any cell phones. Our parents were off at work and my grandparents would see us saddle up and leave. No one ever thought about anything happening. And if it did, we knew how to deal with it.

I stabbed myself three times over my childhood, making furniture and houses for my Barbie dolls out of cardboard boxes. My parents were at work, and I didn’t want to bother my grandmother. I’d go to the house, ( I was usually out in the orchard) put on a band-aid, wrap some gauze around it, and hope a band-aid would be enough when my parents arrived home.

I’m looking forward to warmer weather and being able to ride every day and not at the whim of the cold wind. Today the wind is blowing harder and while there is beautiful sunshine, the wind chill is 7.

What is something you are looking forward to doing as the weather warms?

I’m looking forward to the wildflowers!

The Hunt is Over!

The horse my husband bought for me last year wasn’t working out. He’s a sweetheart, but he has some issues that won’t work for how I like to ride.

Ever since my daughter, the horse girl, moved down the road we’ve been looking for horses. One for me, one for her, and several for her kids.

Two weeks ago we took a day trip and tried out 7 or 8 horses and ended up putting money down on one for her 13 year-old son with plans to pick it up this past weekend.

While we were trying out horses, one person didn’t have quite what we were looking for but she told us about some horses her aunt and uncle were selling and thought they might work.

This past Sunday, my daughter swung by my place at 5:30 am, we drove the 3 hours to the woman’s aunt and uncle’s place and we rode 3 horses. Well, I only rode two. While I had set my mind on the mare, Patty, before I arrived, it was the gelding, John, who I renamed Jan (Yaan), that I fell for. Jan was sturdy, stood when I got on, because these days I don’t float up into the saddle like I did ten or more years ago. He had a nice calm demeanor, walked slow, but would pick it up with a click and a slight tap to his sides. He was everything I’ve been looking for in a horse. And the last time he’d been rode was July 4th. He acted as if he’d been ridden every day since. I loved that about him.

Patty has a bit more spunk. Walks out faster, but paid attention and my granddaughter liked her. I didn’t like that she doesn’t stand when you get on. Which would mean I’d need someone to hold her while I get on, but I liked everything else about her.

Which led me to purchasing both Patty and Jan. Jan for me and Patty for grandkids and visitors to ride.

After that, we headed down the road to the place where my daughter and put money on the horse my grandson had liked. My daughter is trying to find a horse for her. One with more spunk than I or the grandkids want. While there the grandkids wrote about five different horses and my daughter rode several. My granddaughter feel in love with a palomino gelding and my daughter purchased that for her along with the mare she’d secured the two weeks before for her son.

We came home with 4 horses and a lion head rabbit. The people where I bought my horses offered the kids the rabbit and the grandson jumped at the offer.

I’m excited for some of the snow to melt so conditions aren’t so slippery and I can get to riding.

Do you have horses? Or have you ever had horses? My husband doesn’t care for them but because I love them he indulges me. 😉

Color to my World

I have a penchant for color. I like vibrant colors. Bold purples, pinks, orange, yellow, blues, and reds make me smile. Whether they are on clothing, flowers, dishes, blankets, paintings. I love color!

I know there is a place for black, brown, gray, and tan. They make great backdrops for splashes of color. Somber tones are needed to evoke certain moods.

When there are dark gray or black clouds in the sky, they inevitably spark flashes of lightning to brighten the darkness and illicit tingles of excitement, and in some, fear.

I love flowers, but, alas, I do not have a green thumb. It is a feat when I can keep a plant alive long enough for it to produce flowers. This summer I had several that exceeded my expectations, coloring my summer with joy.

When I told a friend about how I have trouble keeping plants alive he gave me a cactus. It bloomed this spring. The color was gorgeous and I hope it will grace me with blooms again next year.

I planted sunflowers in the same bathtub as I’d planted a peony from my dad’s yard. the peony had only a couple of blooms this year. I hope it will be full next year, but the sunflowers bloomed brightening the last of summer with they yellow cheer.

I try to add color to my writing without dragging the description on and on. I’ve received several reviews that comment on how I give just enough description without overdoing it. That is something that makes my heart sing as much as vibrant colors!