Tag Archives: spring

Happy Rain Day

The Pacific Northwest is infamous for its wet, for its rain.

This is largely a deserved reputation.

Sure, during the summer it can be dangerously dry and baking hot, and most areas get a decent amount of snow in the winter, too, but we are defined, especially in the popular imagination, by rain.

We are people who thrive on cool and damp, here, like mushrooms, wild but ultimately predictable, staining outlandish colors and unpleasantly sticky, weirdly dry, or dusty with spores ready to spread our clones through the understory.

Actually, that last bit may only apply to literal mushrooms.

But the point is, rain.  Rain people, that’s us.

And also salmon people.  And forest people.  And hunters.  And farmers.  And ranchers.  And fruit-pickers.  And brewmasters.  And professional webcomic artists.  And cat sweater knitters.  And vegan cookie couriers.

Both vegans that are couriers of cookies AND couriers who carry vegan cookies, that is.  Probably vegan couriers of vegan cookies, too.  On bikes, of course.


We are in the middle of a good, solid soak right now.  I look my weather app and the sidebar ads are for plans to build an Ark.

The great blue heron that lives in the creek on the edge of our backyard is probably pretty psyched about this.  My small children are delighted, and muddy.  My chickens are distinctly bedraggled.  I am accepting the mud with as much grace as I can muster, but the rain?

The rain…

I love it.

I love the smell of it, the humidity in the air before it starts and the overwhelming scent of water during the fall and the earthy, confusingly-clean smell of soil bacteria doing its thing afterward.

I love the way it sounds on the roof or blown hard against the walls of the house.

I love the way it feels as individual, ponderous drops soak through my clothing, or as it softly splatters against my bare skin, or as icy splashes lick the fingertips I dip out of a barely-open car window.

I love the way tiny raindrops embroider cedar fronds, and big drips accumulate on maple leaf tips, and a steady mist seems to sow moss wherever it falls.

So basically, I’m living my best life right now, in the late spring Gorge.  If I didn’t have to spend so much of my time scrubbing mud out of some people’s clothing and hair, it would be idyllic.

But perhaps my favorite part of the rain is that when it rains outside, it changes everything inside, too.

By which I mean mud.  Everywhere.  Mud.  So much mud.  Yes.

But also also, a little damp chill in the air making people want to snuggle more.

Soup weather.

Wet clothes steaming in front of a fireplace.  Hot mugs for frozen fingers to cup.

Midday sun through windows reduced to a kind of sepia-toned amorphous glow.

Beautiful watery patterns tracing down glass, constantly changing.

Warm baths, warm beds, warm socks.

Rainy spring days are kind of like a vacation from the preparations and hustle of renewal, like even the earth is taking a mental health day.

Sometimes, being humans, we need to resist that clarion call to snuggle up and Do Things Instead Because Expectations.

But I think it’s important, especially during these weeks when the rain never seems to slacken, to declare some Rain Days for ourselves, too.

I’m taking one.  You should, too.

Drink deep.  Soak it up.  You’ll need it later.

In Which They Grow Fast

I intended to post about our new chicks when they were, um, new, right before Easter.  But then the world was full of sadness and anger and the trees started trying to have sex with my lungs, and here we are, five weeks later.

Our new girls:

Smallburrow the Welsummer, tiny.

Whitfoot the California Gray, tinier still.

Smallburrow again, looking like a smallish hen rather than a ball of ridiculous fluff.

Whitfoot again, 80% totally reasonable young pullet, 20% ball of ridiculous fluff.

They are doing well.  They came off the heating lamp this week, and next week they will probably meet the older hens for the first time.  In the meantime, they have been having some field trips out to the backyard under a laundry basket to practice that very important scratching and pecking.

WIP Wednesday

IMG_3824start date: 13 May 2016
time elapsed: 5 days
completeness: 30%

Spring in Oregon is usually overcast.

Most of the time I like to tell my out-of-state friends that actually, Oregon is mostly desert.  That the majority land use is ranching.  That there are gulches and canyons and lava beds dominating the southeastern third of the state.

But you know, something about this stretch between March and June always makes me feel like that’s untruthful.

It’s gray.  And cool.  And rainy.  And misty.  Fog covers the highways at night, and the stretch from Corbett to Cascade Locks is perpetually underwater.  Tree frogs sing in the downs, and ospreys stand a stoic, drenched vigil over their nests along the river.  Streams swell, rivers rise, and waterfalls roar and thunder.


So of course, in my hands this week I have a little patch of still water or maybe even sunny sky to balance all that out.


It’s the skirt of a dress, toddler-size, that I’m more or less making up as I go along with a pattern for inspiration.

I was a little sad about the yarn when I first saw it in person– I do most of my yarn shopping online, and I was expecting a deeper, richer set of blues.  What was described as just “blue” and looked like it might be royal, cobalt, and marine turned out to be robin’s egg, turquoise, and pool.


But I’m warming up to it.  Especially, I think, because of the season around me.

The yarn is Araucania Rinihue, the pattern I’m borrowing from is Picot Dress from Special Knits by Debbie Bliss.


Welcome, Spring!

Happy spring and renewal of life to all of you!


picture taken by Númenor
picture taken by Númenor
picture taken by Ithilien
picture taken by Ithilien


We used our backyard chickens’ eggs (these browns from our orpington, australorp, and SLW and a pale cerulean green from our ameraucana) and dyed them in glob paints pomegranate red, plum purple, berry blue, and basil green.  To make the dye bath, I poured each paint packet into a half-pint jar, added a tablespoon of vinegar to each (and then a teaspoon of baking soda to the blue jar because I forgot it’s mostly red cabbage), and added enough water to cover two eggs.  We let them sit for one or two 35-minute stretches.


It starts subtly:

A flash in my peripheral vision,

and then a distant growl.

The air pressure slowly builds, and I become more and more sure that the intermittent flashes and the far-away rumbles are lightning and thunder.

Finally I admit defeat, and the smalls and I turn off all the devices in the house, clear walking paths through the morning’s play mess, grab flashlights and snuggle up under a blanket to watch the storm roll up the river.

Lightning stabs the mountains, Oregon and Washington side alike, the border meaningless.

We count, breathlessly, in anticipation of the rumble and roar of the thunder through the clouds– ten seconds means about two miles away, about as far away as Robert’s office.  A new flash of light, and we count again– eight seconds, about as far away as the first park we discovered when we moved here.  Then a long pause.  Stillness.  A drizzling rain.

I take some food scraps out to the chicken yard and do some quick weeding on the way– a handful of stray grass and a big curly dock plant from the skullcap bed– the chickens love weeds, and the clumps of soil clinging to their roots often hide woodlice and centipedes and other protein-filled treats.

And then, another flash of light over the river.  I count silently to myself as I take off my yard shoes and open the bathroom door– five seconds, about a mile away.

Ithilien is scared of the “monster sounds” of the thunder.  He stands close to me and puts his arms around my legs, shivering in a way that is mostly theatrical– he’s genuinely frightened, but the trembling is a voluntary affectation to communicate to me how scared he his.

We sit in the corner of the library and I hold him.  I tell him that thunder is just a sound the air makes when lightning moves through it, and he is very safe from lightning inside the house.  Númenor says that people build houses to keep their babies safe, an oversimplified version of a fact we’ve discussed before.

The lightning flashes.  We count again, but I’m still saying the word “four” when the thunder rolls and crashes like a turbulent sea above our heads.  Now we’re all under the blanket again, and Númenor whispers quietly, “Four means less than one mile– like maybe zero miles.”  Ithilien buries his head in my shoulder, and says, in a small voice, “Zero means none, Mommy.”

Suddenly the sky opens, and rain pours down, with a rattling, chasing sound that– for once– actually might be approximated by rice falling through a maze of nails inside a hollow tube.  I can see the chickens through the window, huddled in the door of the henhouse, this downpour too much even for them.  They twist their heads up occasionally to catch and drink the drops of rainwater collecting at their rooftop eaves.

The rain changes to hail, buckshot-sized and coming down so thick and so fast that for a moment I think it might be snow.  Another flash of light, and this time the bullwhip in the heavens cracks immediately after, before we can even start to count, rattling the windows and shaking the trees.  The hail intensifies until I can’t see the back fence through it.  Another flash and crash, directly overhead.  The chickens wait patiently, their heads ducked inside the henhouse now.  Ithilien whimpers quietly in my lap, and Númenor asks if the hail will kill our carrot seedlings.  I tell him that I don’t know.

And then, just as quickly as it began, the hail is over.  A few straggling stones send up miniature showers of their older siblings as they crash into the layer of ice droplets on the back deck.  We open the back door to pick up a few hailstones with a spoon and look at them.

As the rain tapers off and we hear one final peal of thunder rolling away to the east, Ithilien is the first to pull on shoes and dance in the wild-scattered whiteness.  He squeals with laughter as he slips and skids across the usually-unremarkable wooden slats of the back deck.

ithilien dancing in the hailstones left behind on our deck

I peek into the containers of carrot plants, and am relieved to see their ashy-green fronds, beleaguered but mostly unbroken, among the sprinkles of already-melting frozen cloud.  The chickens gobble up the scattered ice pellets with apparent delight.  Númenor collects a bare handful of hailstones and gives a surprised yelp– “They’re so cold!”– as he casts them away.

hailstones in númenor's hand

The smalls hurry into jackets and hats and unseasonable mittens and race out into the yard, climbing to the top terrace to survey the damaged dandelion “wishes,” giggling at the greedily-pecking chickens, shaking the lowest branches of the trees to create their own tiny stormlets of concentrated raindrops and melting ice.

And thunderous laughter.

And flashing life.