30 May 2008

Countdown to Rocket: T minus 20 weeks

By popular demand, here are the first of Corinne's "belly shots". I had originally intended to take a photo per week, but you know how life gets.

May 15th
(T minus 22 weeks)

May 29th
(T minus 20 weeks)

We can now feel Rocket moving around, too! The doctor has asked us at each of our appointments if Corinne was able to feel any movement, but up until Memorial Day weekend she hadn't felt anything. Then on Monday night we were sitting on the couch when Corinne thought she could feel something moving. From what we've heard, typically the woman can feel movement long before it is noticeable from the outside, so I wasn't expecting to be able to feel anything. But when I put my hand on her stomach, lo and behold I felt something move!

We're halfway through the countdown, and all systems are go.

- Mike (& Corinne)

18 May 2008

We Have Arrived

Trout Lake now has everything that we could ask for.

When we first bought our place in Trout Lake, there were several important pieces that were missing. First, no high-speed internet. But after only a few months Embarq expanded their DSL offering into our area. We now have a 5Mbps connection.

The other major missing piece, though, was NPR. OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting) is probably second only to WBUR in Boston for the quality of their programming. However, the Trout Lake valley couldn't get a clear signal from any of their broadcast towers. Spending as much time in Boston as we did, it was difficult to not have the option of waking up to Morning Edition. Recently, however, OPB discovered that the antenna on one of their local towers had been broken. After they fixed the antenna, the signal is now clear! Hallelujah!

- Mike (& Corinne)

17 May 2008

Going Batty

On a recent weekend, we celebrated the coming of late-spring/early-summer by taking out the charcoal grill and cooking one of our favorite summer meals: marinated flank steak and grilled asparagus. The weather was unseasonably warm - in the 90s, unusual for May - and so we had the windows and doors open for much of the day.

On Saturday night after dinner, Corinne and I sat down to watch a movie before bed. About 20 minutes in to The Simpsons Movie, I thought I heard some unusual sounds coming from somewhere behind me. I paused the movie, turned around and discovered something flying back and forth in our Great Room. After a dozen or more laps, it settled down to perch in the rafter.

Sometime during the day, a bat had flown in to the house.

Each spring after the irrigation ditches are turned on, we anxiously await the coming of the bats to help rid the yard of bugs (particularly mosquitos). The bat house mounted on our garage seems to be occupied from July through September, but this is the earliest we've seen a bat - not to mention the first time we've had one get inside.

Corinne ran upstairs (and closed the door) to call her father for advice, while I consulted the oracle of Google for some tips on how to handle it. Most of the suggestions we found involved cajoling or convincing the bat into a box; unfortunately, our bat was perched on a beam 20'+ in the air, so that wasn't an option. (The height is also the reason that it's difficult to clean the cobwebs.) With no other ideas at hand, we decided on a "let's hope he does the right thing" strategy: we would open a door in the Great Room, open several windows and remove the screens, and go to sleep. Our hope was that sometime overnight, the bat would find his way out one of the open windows. We turned off all lights in the house to avoid attracting bugs, and just hoped that no additional wildlife would find their way inside during the night. No one wants to wake up to find a coyote sleeping on the couch.

Come Sunday morning, lo and behold, the bat was gone. We didn't have any bugs in the house (or no more than usual, anyway), so perhaps he cleaned up on his way out.

- Mike (& Corinne)

16 May 2008

126/201 = 63%, + 400 more

Last year's trees emerge
from the snow - March 31
It's been a while since our last forestry update. Part of the reason is that the trees we planted last spring have been under snow for the last 5 months! Now that the snow has finally melted, we were able to take another inventory of how our seedlings are doing. The last update was almost exactly a year ago. (Wow, it was really a year ago?) We planted 201 in March of last year, and by late April we were down to 199/201.

Well, 1 year later our quick count pegged the survivors at 126. That's a 63% survival rate.

At first glance, that sounds really bad: more than a third of the trees we planted last year didn't survive. But this isn't like gardening or landscaping. After we had scalped the grass and plopped the trees into the ground, we just walked away and didn't see them again for a year. There was absolutely no wildlife protection, irrigation, or any other niceties. These little 2 year old seedlings had to make it all on their own. The biggest seedling dangers in our area are deer (trampling), gophers (eating), and competition from weeds and grass (starving). Since the majority of our tree deaths left no evidence behind other than bare patches of dirt, the obvious conclusion is that gophers were our biggest killer.

Still, 63% actually isn't that bad. We've talked to some people in the area who lost 80% of their trees in the first year. 63% survival sounds pretty good compared with 20%.

200 was just the beginning, though. In November we applied for and received a cost-share grant through the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The grant covers various practices on our property, including thinning and pruning some of our existing stands, but the majority of the cost-share money is associated with planting out the remaining 12 acres of our meadow in Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir. The schedule that we agreed to has us planting 3600 trees (300/acre) over the next 4 years. Yes, that's a lot of trees.

Last fall we had ordered 400 trees from our local conservation district but were forced to keep them on ice while we waited for the long winter to finally end. Since the planting is now under a contract, we also were careful to follow the guidelines for each practice, particularly the 2ft radius specified for the hand scalped area around each tree. Last year our scalps were much smaller and we only planted 200, so the work went much faster and we were finished in only 2 weekends. This year, it's been over a month of weeknights and weekends, and it's only this week that we've finally finished the new plantings. Okay, so we didn't work in the field every night or all day every weekend, but it sure seemed like it. And yes, Corinne and Rocket were out there every time. Years from now we can say that Rocket helped (or perhaps hindered?) planting that section of forest.

We think about this planting as a long-term investment; it will likely be 40 years or more before these trees could be harvested. Most people have an IRA or 401k, but how many people have a FOREST? In exchange for some hard labor now, hopefully we'll have a lot of wood to sell in the future. (Anybody have wheat or ore to trade?)

This whole valley used to be a forest, so occasionally we think about the poor pioneer who cut down this section of the forest so that he could farm and feed his family. We're undoing all of his hard work! It's a cycle of life thing.

- Mike (& Corinne)

05 May 2008

Giant Window Replaced

One of the giant windows in our Great Room lost its seal sometime last fall. Since then, it has gradually started to fog up. We tried to schedule a replacement back in October, but the glass company we called never called us back to schedule an appointment. Once the snow started to dump, we had no choice but to wait until the spring thaw.

Well, spring is here and our window is fixed! It took them 2.5 hours to get the old window out, and I snapped this one while they were still working - and starting to get a little frustrated. (The cracks in the glass were a result of their removal efforts, not existing damage.)

When they were finally finished with the installation, it was suddenly very apparent how dirty the rest of our windows were. Dang.

- Mike (& Corinne)

03 May 2008

Maternity Clothes & Coyote Chase!

Corinne is now in the middle of her second trimester with Rocket, and as I mentioned last time clothes have started to become a problem. While it is easy to buy a wetsuit, snowboarding clothes or biking gear in Hood River, finding a place to buy maternity clothes is virtually impossible. Donna and her friend Pam came down to visit recently, bringing with them stacks of maternity clothing options for Corinne to try on. After about an hour-long fashion show, Corinne had selected a dozen or so outfits - including some pants, which have traditionally been difficult items - to fill out her closets for the next few months. Hurray!

The weather was lovely that weekend, and Max spent a good portion of time outside. On Saturday late afternoon, Max was outside and we were all in the Great Room when Corinne noticed an animal outside, fairly close to the house. Her first assumption was that it was a deer, but upon second look she realized what it was and yelled "Coyote!". He was walking from north to south towards the house when he seemed to see something along the side of the house and changed his pace to intercept it. Before Corinne had yelled "where's Max?" I was already opening the front door, getting ready to run outside and grab a scalping tool from the front steps. As I opened the door, I saw Max come racing around the corner on the same side of the house and head straight in the front door!

Corinne continued to watch the coyote from inside; once Max had made it inside, apparently the coyote retraced his steps along the side of the house, sniffing the ground as he went, then eventually head off into the woods to the east. The whole event happened so quickly that we didn't get any photos.

We can't be sure, but we're fairly convinced that the coyote was chasing Max. I guess we have a pretty good idea how he got up that tree now. We kept Max inside for the next few days, just to be on the safe side.

- Mike (& Corinne)

01 May 2008

Codename: Rocket

Yes, that's right. Corinne is "with child", "in a family way", has "a bun in the oven", and any other pregnancy-related euphemism you can think of. She is due somewhere between October 14-16, though we've heard that first pregnancies can go as much as 10 days longer. We've had two ultrasounds and a number of blood tests (well, I guess technically Corinne has), both at her local doctor and at OHSU in Portland, and everything has come back completely normal. Given the results of all of the other tests, we opted to skip the amniocentesis, since the risk associated with the test is much higher than the likelihood of discovering any problems. So we don't yet know the gender.

Hold on a sec. Rocket?

Here's the story. Before we had told even our families, we had our first ultrasound back in early March, which was at about 10 weeks. The fetus at that point didn't have a whole lot of shape, but when we looked at the three photos they gave us to take home, Corinne thought they looked like a tadpole, a peanut, and a rocket (below, traveling from right to left).

Since most of the miscarriage risk had passed by this point, we decided to share the news with our families. Of course, we couldn't just tell them outright; we had to have a little fun with it. So we sent them an email and asked them to checkout the photos of our newest member at ilvedson.com/puppy. Just about everyone fell for it, and we enjoyed their responses. My brother Drew, in particular, was very excited. We shared with him Corinne's first impressions of those first ultrasounds, and he in turn generated some alternatives:


We of course didn't know the gender of the baby yet, and we weren't even close to thinking about names. But you have to call it something, right? I don't recall which of us suggested Rocket, but we both immediately liked it; it's gender-neutral, wasn't too cutesy, and just seemed to fit. And so, Codename: Rocket was born (so to speak).

(As a side note, the two ultrasounds above - the real ones, I mean - are only separated by 17 days, yet they are remarkably different. Amazing, huh?)

So far we've been pretty lucky; Corinne has had no "morning sickness" other than a requirement that she have something to eat in the morning before engaging in any serious activity, and in fact we haven't changed our diets much at all. We have made several minor culinary adjustments, though: we cook our eggs and meats a little more than we used to; we've both stopped drinking soda; Corinne's weekend lattes are now vanilla steamers; and soft cheeses and cold cuts have been given the boot. (We've never been big alcohol drinkers, so that isn't really a change.) I'm hoping that Rocket will enjoy spicy foods, since Thai and Mexican foods have frequently been on the menu.

Throughout the first trimester it seemed Corinne had lost all of her energy; we'd come home at night and she would inevitably fall asleep on the couch after dinner. As it turns out, this is fairly normal, and in fact has mostly passed now that we're in the second trimester. Her growing belly has made it more difficult to dress for work in the morning, though, and she has been forced to go clothes shopping (not one of her favorite activities). Thankfully her mom, bless her soul, has volunteered to go shopping for her and bring her the selections that she only has to try on and say yes/no. Anything rejected would be returned to the store, and anything kept would be reimbursed. As a result she now has a reasonable set of clothes that hopefully will last through the summer.

When my Aunt Anita visited in late March, she brought with her a gift that we particularly like. Several years ago my mom (her sister) gave her a craft book with patterns and instructions for making Sock Monsters. As the name suggests, they are similar to sock monkeys but quirkier. I received a sock monster that Christmas, and Corinne got one the following year. On her latest visit, she brought one for Rocket as well. They are the only stuffed animals that I will allow on the bed.

Since we're mostly still in the "denial" phase and haven't really started thinking about daycare, baby shower, furniture and other baby stuff, preparing the house, etc., I'll end this post now.

- Mike (& Corinne + Rocket)