Sunday, October 15, 2017

Annual Apple Cider Pressing Report

In which I relay to you the events of the Spafford's 7th annual apple cider pressing :)

It is during the time of year when the crisp autumn morning carries with it a thick veil of fog; when the covering of the trees fall down to make a colorful blanket on the ground. It is the time when apples and pumpkins are the flavors of the season and spiced apple cider and chimney smoke are the scents that fill the air. 

The month is October, and you never know exactly what kind of weather you will be getting for this seasonal event of apple cider pressing. Saturday was cold and the surrounding field was blanketed in fog. 

Mom and Dad had driven up to Hood River the night before to pick up 900 pounds of apples...a bit of a reduction from last year's 1,800 pounds ;)

Inside, mom had the kitchen counters covered with 160 jars in preparation for the pitchers of cider that would be rotating inside. Outside, the production had begun: tables were set up and cutting boards laid out. A large white cooler and several crates were filled with apples.

It was 10:30 in the morning and Dad made sure to impress upon us the urgency of returning the press by 5:00 P.M. when our rental time was up.

We stopped our work only half an hour into the morning to fuel up with some hot spiced cider, egg casserole, and coffee cake.

Dad acted as the much needed manager that day, assessing our hourly progress. With that, he also took on the full responsibility as the main photographer and pest control expert.

Austin filled Jonathon's traditional position at the juicing station turning buckets of ground apples into apple juice. Kyle joined our family that day for cider pressing and was an immense help in leading the whole process along! With the extra help, we got done in record timing setting the new standard for next year ;) 

By 3:30, the last of the apples had been juiced and were ready for mom to can them.

7:30 that night, mom had a final count of approximately 30 gallons of canned apple cider ready for a cold winter :)

Eleven tired workers spent the rest of the evening relaxing and enjoying fellowship together. That night, everyone was treated to some well deserved brownies and ice cream :)

Mom, the kiddos and I have been working on a short little production for Jonathon. This is his favorite time of year when he gets to enjoy all of the fall festivities and the anticipation leading up to Christmas. Jonathon always looks forward to the first time Costco carries their Christmas decor, or when sweet potato fries and pumpkin milkshakes are in season at Burgerville. Some of his favorite traditions are building the gingerbread house with the kiddos and watching Charlie Brown movies around Thanksgiving and Christmas time. Since he is not here to be a part of all of the October festivities, we combined a list of his favorite traditions and put it to music :) 
 The season will not have officially begun for all of us till Jonathon gets home ;)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

An 11th Birthday Celebration

Birthdays in our household are a big family affair. It takes several special things to make the day official: A dinner of their choice, their favorite cake, the opening of many presents, and breakfast out with mom at a restaurant of their choice :)
Although our celebrations are usually rather elaborate with birthday decorations and multiple course meals, it does not usually mean an automatic day off school. This year was the exception. 

Ania was having an especially hard time thinking of her big brother being gone on her birthday. That alone was hard enough, but then Charae left on a two week trip to Redding to visit Grandparents five days before Ania's birthday. There was only one thing to do: the teachers needed to come together and come up with a plan to make this birthday unforgettable. 

And they did! They came up with a birthday plan that would take all day to execute...and there were far to many things to fit in to include school into the day's schedule. Mom and I entered Ania's room that morning and awoke her to the sound of Happy Birthday. A red head peeked up from underneath the covers and groggily read through the brochure she was handed. 

The morning began with the perfect fall breakfast: pumpkin pancakes and maple syrup.

There was no time to lose because soon after breakfast, we were heading off to Costco to do some grocery shopping for her birthday dinner. Then there was a necessary stop at Burgerville to sample the long awaited-for seasonal fries and pumpkin milkshakes.

There was also a little something to plan that day for Jonathon's next blog post. Of course, without giving it away, it involved a video camera and three of his favorite actors and actresses ;)

Last on the list of big events was an hour at the Skyzone Jump House, the perfect way to utilize the last little ounces of energy left in the kiddos. 

Her meal was fairly simple considering the average birthday dinner: Lasagna, Asian Salad, Blackberry Lemonade, and a double layer Ice Cream Cake to top it off :)
We ate our fill and settled in the living room to open gifts and watch a movie together.

Ania's birthday was far from over though. The next day, Cosette was bringing Ania along with her for her horseback riding lessons. Ania was going to get to ride a pony and work with the horses the entire day. I think that made it close to the top of favorite birthday events :D

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Summary of September

The house was in order, and everybody was going about with their daily routines, and yet, something didn't feel quite right. The laundry got washed everyday and dinner was always on time. Each evening, Dad came home from work around the same hour, and yet, he seemed a little less enthusiastic about his day than normal.

Something was out of place in the home: the homemaker was gone.

Mom left for Michigan on Saturday the 23rd to surprise her mom for her 80th birthday. Even though there were plenty of us to take on the extra jobs around the house, things just didn't feel the same.

...and we all agreed that the picture of Dad without Mom was a sorry sight indeed :D

That Saturday, we decided to take a trip to the Oregon Zoo. HP was holding an event for their employees and we agreed that it might be a good distraction for all of us :) 
Along with our entrance ticket to the zoo, HP provided an amazing lunch and free ice cream and elephant ears.

We kept ourselves busy the rest of the week, carrying on with our normal responsibilities and the time passed rather quickly.

Kyle organized a hike for the following weekend to Mt. Saint Helens. Six of us met at the Winco parking lot and carpooled it. We enjoyed a one hour scenic drive to the Mountain, taking in the beauty of the open country lands with country music serenading us in the background. Twenty minutes from our destination, we rode down some rather winding back roads. Although most of the passengers enjoyed the ride, there was one particular passenger that did not take such delight in it :)

We began our trek in a wooded area. Along the way, we came upon several openings in the forest that gave us a sneak peak of the view ahead.
At the end of the trail, the snow peaked mountain stood majestically before us providing a lovely spot to stop for lunch. On the adjoining hill, we spotted three white mountain goats. We climbed the hill to see how close we could get to them and were able to get relatively near.
The total length of the hike was eleven miles (or 33,000 steps) and we made it in just under five hours :)

We rewarded ourselves at the end of the hike with a dinner at Burgerville  :)

Mom finally returned from her trip that Tuesday and the house settled back to it's original state. Dad seemed unusually cheerful once again and the home stood at attention.

Mom and Dad sometimes feel the lack of time that they have to spend with the three littles, Annalise, Austin and Ania. Life is very different for the littles than it was for us when we were growing up. They have tried to right this by putting aside some weekends to take the kiddos on special outings. Before Mom left on her trip, they announced that the three littles would be spending a night at the Hilton with them. The events of that evening would include a special dinner at Jorges, swimming at the hotel, and games in the evening. 

Meanwhile, back at the house, the older kids were taking advantage of the empty home and had planned a karaoke night with a couple friends. Some people took the karaoke very seriously and had made YouTube playlists weeks in advance, practicing their songs before their big debut. Others came to the event with no songs in the planning, coming up with the titles at the moment. There was a variety of genres preformed that night, from Disney movie themes to Kpop, some traditional Japanese enka to some honky-tonk country. The fun ended a little after midnight when the group of performers lost their original enthusiasm.

The next morning, Dad called us up on his way home from the Hilton to let us know that he had decided to make a spontaneous field trip to the Cedar Creek Grist Mill that day. They were giving tours of the mill, showing visitors the inside workings of a grist mill from the 1870s.

The Cedar Creek Grist Mill was built back in 1876. Families from North Clark County brought their grain there to be ground into flour. In 1980, after many years of neglect, some locals decided to restore the historical building. Women held bazaars and raffles to help raise money for the massive restoration process as well as keeping the men at the "work parties" fed. Through the process of restoration, they used broad axes and adzes to make the rebuilding process authentic.

The project was completed on November 11, 1989 when they ground wheat in celebration of the Washington State Centennial. The Cedar Creek Grist Mill is the oldest building in the state of Washington that is still doing the job that it was built to do 126 years ago.

The mill is run by volunteers, all of whom have poured a lot of time and energy into keeping the Cedar Creek Grist Mill operating. That day, they were demonstrating the process they go through to grind grain into flour and corn into cornmeal. Fresh cornbread muffins were served on the deck.

Some would say that the drive there to the mill and back home again was their favorite part of the afternoon! It was an overcast day with bursts of sunlight appearing from behind the clouds. Earlier, it had poured bucketfuls and there was a fresh scent of rain in the air. 

That night, we brought home our bags of freshly ground flour and cornmeal and Austin and I set to work making dinner. A proper fall dinner was in order: chili, apple cider, and some pumpkin cornbread made from our fresh supply of cornmeal and flour. We set the table in the dining nook and brought out the fall candles, because this meal required that cozy touch. A little Kevin Kern music playing in the background completed the picture.

...I finally found the time to complete the Family Camp slideshow for those of you interested in seeing more pictures :)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Adventures at Steen's Mountain

Day 1
Four-forty-five in the morning may seem like a perfectly normal time for some people to rise, but such was not the case for these four girls. With eyes at half mast, they packed up their bags of clothes and food for a three day camping trip at Steens Mountain. It was their first visit to these desert lands. A good friend of the family’s had been wanting to share his love for this place with some of us kids. He had carefully planned each detail of the trip with each of us girls in mind! There would be plenty of photography opportunities for Kayleen,; Cosette was told that she might get to see some wild horses, and there would be plenty of good hikes for Leisel and me.

A necessary stop was made at the beginning of the trip for a cup of coffee. Our next stop would be in Burns Oregon where we would fuel up. We pulled up to the pump and a hillbilly man walked up to our window and inquired, “What can I do for you boss?” While the car was being filled up, we got out of the car to stretch a bit. We stepped into the convenience store and when I saw the man at the checkout open carrying, I knew that we were finally entering “cowboy country”.

We spent the next three hours of the trip enjoying the rugged beauty of acres and acres of sage brush and tansy weed. The desert scenery never changed, and yet there was an arid beauty to be enjoyed there on our drive to Steen's Mountain. The streets were so dry and dusty that you could see a billow of dust following our vehicle for a mile, obscuring the road behind us. The color of the truck was hardly distinguishable after about an hour on the road.

We arrived at the town of Frenchglen, an hour and a half from where we were headed. The town literally consists of a very old school, the mercantile, and a historic hotel. We stopped first off at the mercantile to get ice creams and introduced ourselves to some genuine farmers. They were sitting out on the porch sipping their drinks. He wore a broad rimmed straw hat and an old brown vest. 

As we got to talking, we learned that he worked for a company that owned 500,000 acres of land. It takes him four hours just to get from one end of the property to the other. They farm 2,000 mama cows and 10,000 heifers!

We finally arrived at the first campsite and decided to check it out. Fish Lake was not at all appealing to these campers who were looking for something a bit more rugged :)  It was a small campground, enclosed in an area with absolutely no view of the canyon. We then proceeded to check out our next option, Jackson campground, which proved to be equally distasteful. Mr. Bowers set before us two choices: we could drive to the last campsite on his list and check it out, or we could venture to a "middle-of-nowhere" spot overlooking a canyon that he had only seen mapped out by satellite. 

We weighed the options, and came to the unanimous agreement that the adventure of an unknown location was definitely the more appealing of the two options! With that, we set off. After driving for an hour on a dirt road, we turned off onto a rocky trail where we four-wheeled it in the 4x4 F250 truck for the next half hour. Due to the extreme conditions of the road, the truck couldn’t go faster then 10 MPH and it was a 3 ½ mile stretch to where we wanted to go. 

We found the perfect campsite at the edge of a 1,500 ft. cliff siding Blitzen Canyon. This is where we decided to set up camp...or not, as the case ended up being. When the four girls had adequately admired the beauty of their view, they came to the conclusion that there was no need for a tent. What could be better then going to sleep with the view of the stars above your head and to wake up to the sun rising from behind the hills in front of you. Our room accommodations were a couple sleeping bags on a tarp. This was the true definition of primitive camping :D
Our kitchen was a few yards away from our campsite, complete with two coolers of food, a three burner campstove and two tables.

The smell of sage permeated the air. All around us, we could hear the clicking of grasshoppers flying through the air. Fortunately, we were at too high of an altitude to share our campsite with any rattlesnakes. Our only battle was with the many wasps and balled faced hornets that surrounded us...they seemed friendly enough and left us alone for the most part.

That night, we headed up to the east rim of Steen’s Mountain to watch the sun go down. It was voted by many of the campers as being their favorite place on the trip.
We hurried back so that we wouldn't have to drive that rocky trail in the dark. The path was so overgrown with weeds and large boulders, we were pretty sure that no one had traveled down that way in many years. There would be no fear of anyone disturbing our campsite :) We held our breath each time the truck tumbled over a rock, hoping that we wouldn't be stranded in the dark, changing a popped tire. 
We made it back to our campsite. The light of the moon illuminated the area! We hit the hay early that night so that we would be energized for the next day.  

Day 2
We were awoken at 4:45 that morning by Mr. Bowers so that we could enjoy the milky way above us. The moon had gone down and we could see the full splendor of the stars. The four girls, still curled up closely in their sleeping bags, enjoyed the view for only a few minutes before they dozed off again. They re-awoke at 7:15 just in time to see the sun peaking up behind the hill. The rising of the sun brought with it the burning heat of day. Even though it was cool and pleasant first thing in the morning, as soon as the sun came up, it became intensely hot!
Breakfast was bacon and eggs, a meal so much more enjoyable when eaten in the outdoors! After cleaning up, we headed off down the familiar rocky trail. 

We got to talking about adventure and how exciting it would be to get stuck up in the hills. The idea of running into some kind of trouble had an enticing appeal to it. Little did we know that adventure was waiting just around the corner…or right over the rock as it turned out to be. We came upon a jugged rock in the road. In an attempt to drive around it, the tire scraped against the rock and POP! The tire completely deflated. There we were, in the middle of the path, a couple miles from the main road, in an area infested with bees, and we needed to change the tire of Mr. Bower's new F-250 truck. Cosette held the manual and gave step-by-step instructions while the rest of us went to work retrieving the spare tire. In an hour, we had the new tire on and the old one in back of the truck.

Mr. Bowers cautiously drove down the remaining stretch of the trail, knowing that if it happened again, we were at the the mercy of the nearest passerby. He told us that he couldn't run the risk of this happening again and he would need to ride into the nearest town to get the tire changed. The nearest place meant Burns Oregon, a two hour drive from where we were. And it was a Sunday, so trying to find a place that would be open that day might prove quite difficult.

Before he made the trip down there, we planned to visit a couple sites and then he would leave us at the Riddle Ranch to explore until he came back.

Our first stop was at the Keiger gorge, a majestic canyon, dipping 2,000 feet. Lush green trees covered the bottom of the canyon and a dusty peek stood out at the top. It was interesting to see the snow in small piles at the top of the hill followed by a trail of green running down the hill where the snow had watered the grass. 

Mr. Bowers informed us that we had to hike to the top of the Steen's summit just to say that we did it. It wasn't far, but the thinness of the air at a 9,750 ft altitude  rendered us breathless. From the peak of the mountain, we could see Nevada. The day was hot and Horse Lake sitting at the bottom of the canyon was looking sorely tempting. We filed it away that it would make for a fun hike someday in the future. The last lookout he wanted to show us was Big Indian Canyon.

After that, we headed for the Riddle Bother Ranch where we were to spend the next five hours.  It held some amazing history there that would keep us busy for some time! The land had been settled by three brothers in the early 1900s. Two of the homes were still standing, equipped with all of their household furnishings. We learned that one of the brothers had founded the school in Frenchglen and then become the judge of the town.
The land is now managed by a couple that live in an old cottage on the Riddle Brother's land. From what we saw, they lived in a very primitive way, drawing water from the creek, washing their clothes by hand, and hanging them on a line to dry.

After exploring for a bit, Kayleen and Cosette wanted to rest in the shade from the heat of the sun. Leisel a I opted to go on a short hike to further explore the 1,120 acres of land. We followed the trail that led us along the Blitzen creek. The day was so warm, one of us mentioned just wading our way back though the Creek instead of retracing the trail. Along the way, we encountered two Rattlers. They scurried away before we got a chance to get a good look at them.

Leisel and I reached the end of the trail. The path seemed to cut off into the forest and we couldn't go any further. With our packs on our backs and our shoes tied around our neck, we decided to make the journey slowly back through the stream. I think a combination of laughing at our own clumsiness and trying to find stable ground made our progress through the waters rather slow.

 We asssesed our progress after about a half hour and determined that we had only made it a few yards. At this rate, we wouldn't be back till 10 o'clock at night :) We were a little worried that Mr. Bowers might already be back at the ranch and waiting for us...little did we know ;)

Meanwhile, Mr. Bowers was beginning to realize that the one hour drive he had originally thought lay ahead of him was in reality a two hour drive to Burns. When he finally got there, he was third in line to have his tire repaired. Apparently, four other unfortunate drivers had suffered the same fate. 

Four girls were now waiting by the creek for any sign of a white truck. It was an hour and a half past the time when the gatekeepers usually close the gate to the Riddle Brother Ranch. The little Australian lady was beginning to wonder if she had been left to babysit four abandoned children. We finally felt that we could intrude on their graciousness no longer and decided to make the trek towards the gate and wait outside. We had only walked a few yards when we saw the white truck coming down the dirt road.
We all piled in and made our way back to camp, four wheeling it in the dark, praying all the way that we wouldn't run into any treacherous rocks that night.

Day 3
The next morning, Mr. Bowers expected to exit his tent and find that all four girls had taken refuge in the truck. The wind was blowing at the speed of 50 MPH all night, and by our own choice, we had no tent to cover us. Strangely enough, we had slept through it all...and there had been no casualties over the side of the cliff that night :)

We were leaving that morning, and Mr. Bowers was hoping to be out by ten. We had the gear packed and the truck loaded in a matter of two hours. Even though we were driving back that day, Mr. Bowers had several places that he wanted to see. As we pulled out of our camping spot and out onto the main road, we noticed a sign beside the trail that had fallen over. On it, we could read the words "Private Property" wonder we had had such a peaceful stay at our little camp spot :) We left behind our rustic campground, said goodbye to the beaten path, and made for the town of Diamond. There was a historic hotel, established in 1897 that had earned a reputation in the area; an 8 bedroom hotel with a grand total of 3 bathrooms :)

Mr. Bowers had promised Cosette from the beginning that at the end of the trip he would take her to the Keiger Mustang viewing site where there was a chance that she could see a herd of the legendary Keigers. We drove for an hour on this dusty trail and didn't see a thing. It was discovered later that we had taken the wrong turn anyway :)

Cosette may not have seen a  Keiger Mustang in the wild, but there was an opportunity waiting for her at the Steen's Mt. Guest Ranch. That was our next stop. We had the privilege of meeting the dear lady that ran the little lodge. We learned, much to the joy of Cosette, that they provided a program called "The Authentic Cowboy Experience". They take a group of six people out on horses and ride for four days straight doing everything a cowboy would do: rounding up cows, branding them, mending fences, and spreading salt in the fields.

After we left the Steen's Mt. Guest House, we headed off on the road. It wasn't very long before we encountered a herd of cattle crossing the road. Traffic stopped as the lazy animals sauntered across the road, curiously eyeing the strange vehicles in front of them.

Our last stop was home...little did we know then how long it would take us to make those last few hours of our trip. There were a few minor mishaps on the freeway. We pulled over once to recover an escaped bin from the highway, and the other nine times were to further tie down our load to ensure that we didn't lose anything else.

We all agreed that it was strange how time had stood still there on Steen's Mountain! Everything seemed to be moving at a slower pace; nobody was in a hurry to do anything. It was almost like stepping back in time. There were also a lot more historic buildings around the area that you don't see a lot of where we live.

We girls are immensely grateful to Mr. Bowers for organizing this three day special excursion. It was an amazing experience and left us with some life-time memories! We are also very appreciative that he willingly put up with with four giggly girls, dozens of inside jokes, hours of country music, and the many adventures that we had along the way :)