11/10/12: It has been a LOOOOOOONNNNNNG time since my last entry.  Lots of excuses but the primary one is my web editing software somehow got corrupted and I did not have the "keys" to get it reinstalled - finally broke down and purchased a new version.  "Keys" have been archived for future use!

Also have been very busy working around the house.  Even though we have had other people (renters and house sitters) living here for thirteen years things were in pretty good condition.  We (read that "Len") wanted to make a few improvements.  

First was the patio enclosure noted below.  Took about two months to finish it and you can see the results in the short video here.  We have now added some "real" furniture and a TV so makes for a nice addition.

From the patio it was on to the yard.  We totally rebuilt two old flower beds (removed and replaced the dirt) and built three new ones.   Now the house is completely surrounded by flower beds.  Here are a few photos.

During the same period we were having a new furnace/heat pump installed.  Sure was nice to having a cool house this summer without the noisy window air conditioner running all the time!

From the flower beds it was on to my shop/barn.  Finished years ago on the "cheap" it needed replaced or significantly improved.  All of the old posts (4x4s) were beginning to rot in the ground so enhanced them with new 6x6 posts and installed new beams in the overhead that allowed me to eliminate several of the 4x4s altogether.  Now a more open design with two 20x40 foot bays.  We have had problems with critters (rock chucks - a ground hog like animal) digging under the previous shop that had a wood floor.  Eliminated that problem by pouring a perimeter concrete stub wall about three feet tall.  Don't think they can dig through that!  Have the floor of one of the 20x40 bays poured with four plus inches of concrete and plan to do the other half in the spring when the weather warms up again.

Even managed to get my first wood working project completed - a headboard for our bed.  Photo here.

We had a very low spot in our ten acre pasture that nearly always held stagnat water.  All the dirt from the flower beds plus all the rocks that we laying around got moved to the low spot and this week our neighbor gave us about 300 yards (27 dump truck loads) of fill.  It has a lot of sandstone and hardpan clumps but it will fill the hole.  I bought a new tractor earlier and it sure has come in handy with all the dirt!

Even with all the work noted above we managed to get a few weeks at Magone Lake in June.  I (Len) went up for three weeks and Sylvia came up the last week.  Lots of fish and good company as usual.  Have made three trips to Medford area for visit with daughter and her family as well as trips to Washington to visit our son who is working on a wind farm north of Biggs Junction, Oregon.  

The best part of the summer was a visit from Sylvia's aunt and cousins from England.  After picking them up at SeaTac airport we made our way back to Madras with a visit to Mt. St. Helens visitor center on the west side of the mountain.  Amazing how much destruction is still plainly visible.  Where mankind has replanted everything is looking lush and green but those areas that have been left to nature remain looking like the surface of the moon!

We only spent one day in Madras and then loaded up the fifth wheel and headed south for an overnight stop at Fall River south of Bend and then on to Medford for a visit with daughter and family.   Then it was on to Winchester Bay on the Oregon Coast for five days.  Crabbing was great with limits or near limits every day meant lots of crab picking!  From Winchester Bay we made day trips north as far as Newport for a visit to the aquarium and south to Coos Bay and a visit to Shore Acres State Park  Botanical Garden.

From the coast we headed back to Madras with a weekend stopover in Lebanon to see our son's family and other friends living there.  We then spent the remainder of their visit making day trips in and around Central Oregon.  On the return to SeaTac we visited our son on the wind farm for a quick tour of the farm and then on up the east side of Mt. St. Helens.  The road to the Windy Ridge overlook was closed but we were able to get within a few miles and again saw the massive destruction.  While it is beginning to look green again, it is still a far cry from the lush forest it once was.  Here a couple of photos.

The last thing we did prior to taking them to the airport was a visit to the Pike Street Market in downtown Seattle.  Quite a market!

3/24/12:  We arrived home in Madras on February 20th.  Weather has been cool for the most part but this week saw about six inches of snow.  It only lasted a couple of days and provided some much needed moisture.

We took a weekend trip to Medford to visit with daughter and her family on the 8th.  Great seeing them all.  The following weekend we took a trip to the Columbia River at Biggs, OR for a visit with our son.  Got to take a tour of the wind farm he works on.  Those things are huge when you are up close to them.  Even got to go inside one to the towers.  

Even with the cold weather I have managed to get the last section of pasture fence replaced and two new gates installed.  Much easier to deal with the cows now (even if they are not ours).  The cows have started to have their calves and we are expecting a total of eleven in the next few weeks.

Started working on another project to enclose our patio.  Found some dual pane windows on Craig's list that will make it very nice.  I will be busy for the next few weeks!

2/18/12:  Left Hill AFB yesterday and made it to Glenns Ferry, ID - tomorrow it will be on to Burns, OR and then home on Monday or Tuesday.

Got the old wind up phonograph out today and did a little more research on it (and played it a little).   Looks like it is an Edison Chalet model B19 made around 1918-20 period.  It plays and sounds good (at least for my tin ear).  Here is a photo and a short video of the sound it makes (click for a largert view or to play the video):

Edison Chalet Model B19


2/15/12:  From Haskell we continued north to a small county park along US 83 just north of Wellington, TX.  The campground is on the bank of the Salt Fork of the Red River.  This is the place Bonnie and Clyde encountered a washed out bridge back in 1933.  They plunged into the river and then "borrowed" the local sheriff's car (and the sheriff) and made their getaway (read more here if interested: http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2011-09-29/span-above-site-1933-crashby-bonnie-clyde-faces-demolition).  From their it was westward into New Mexico with stops at Tucumcari, Tijeras and Farmington.  Then it was into (briefly) Colorado and Utah stopping in Green River and currently Hill AFB near Ogden.  Weather has been cold - low 20s at night and only into the 40s during the day (on a good day).  We had planned to go through Page but could not find a reasonably priced campground and it is too cold for dry camping so decided to make a run for home.

2/2/12:  From Kinder we headed on west into Texas hitting a MAJOR rain storm near Beaumont the lasted for close to 100 miles.  That was the day they had over six inches near Dallas.  Sure gave the truck and camper a good rinse!  We made it to Somerville Lake northwest of Houston.  This is one of about half a dozen fresh water lakes in Texas that are stocked with redfish.  Unfortunately, the water level was so low it was not worth even trying.   Nearly all of the lakes in east Texas are way down this year.  

From Somerville we continued on to Hondo.  We had decided to sell the lot so had to either upgrade our storage shed or dispose of it.  Elected to haul it to the dump instead of spending money on it.  Enjoyed seeing all of our friends there once again.   We departed Hondo Sunday the 29th headed north.

Our first stop was in the little town of Brady where Len's cousin from Sisters, OR now lives.  Had a great visit with them.  First time we had seen them in nearly 25 years!  The town of Brady has a nice RV park within their city park that charges a nominal fee of only $10 per night - can't beat that!  From Brady it was on north through Abilene and on to Haskell, TX.  Again a small city park for nominal fee of free for one night and then $12 per night.  Again, hard to beat.

During our stay in Brady and Haskell we have toured around the area and found it quite interesting.  Primary business around Brady is sand mining.  They have unique type of sand that is used in the oil exploration and extraction all over the Midwest and into Canada - something about it's crystalline structure that makes in special.  

Today we made a big loop (square actually) down to Anson then east to Albany, north to Throckmorton and then back to Haskell.  In total about 140 miles.  Hit a few antique shops and then stopped at the historic Fort Griffin north of Albany.  The remains of several rock structures are still standing that date back to the 1860's.  Adjacent to the fort is an old ranch located on what was once the frontier village of Fort Griffin.  The owners of the ranch have reconstructed some of the original town site structures based on old maps.  Very interesting project.

Interesting stories include the local sheriff Larn who was actually the leader of the local vigilantes.  He was considered a killer and a cattle thief but the locals were all afraid of him.  He hired some Irish stone masons to build a wall for his pasture and when it was time for payment the stone masons disappeared - it was reported they had been shot and thrown in the river!  Larn was arrested as a cattle thief in 1878 and later died at the hands of the very vigilantes he had led - they figured he would name them and they would be arrested too!

The Butterfield Stage ran through this town on it's way from St. Louis, MO to San Francisco.  It took 25 days to make the journey!  Guess that is about what it takes us in our travels today as well!  Maybe things haven't changed as much as we thought!

One of the interesting things about the Midwest is the placement of the county courthouses right in the heart of town with all the local merchants around the square.  Unfortunately, many of the small towns are falling on hard times and the town square has many vacant storefronts.

Here are a few photos taken between Mason, TX and Haskell, TX:

The Courthouses




Fort Griffin

Administration Building

Bakery (200 loaves a day!)

The Ovens

Frontier Town Replica

Frontier Town Replica

Frontier Town Replica

Sutler's Store

Frontier Jail

Other Stuff

Fort Mason Officer Quarters

Fort Mason Officer Quarters

Fort Mason Officer Quarters

Fort Mason Officer Quarters

Seaquist Home in Mason, TX

Old Gulf Gas Station in Albany, TX

1/8/12:  We departed Grand Isle yesterday and traveled to the Coushatta Casino near Kinder, LA.  Made our annual donations to the casino last night so we are good to go now.  Will head on to Texas tomorrow.