Thursday, May 29, 2008

We Feed the Fish

Monday we were able to feed the fish! We live at a fish hatchery and this week we were able to do some work directly related to the fish. Gnat Creek has nearly 900 thousand fingerling spring Chinook salmon in six tanks. Fingerlings are fish that are about 3 inches long.

When we first arrived, the fish were being fed 3 or 4 times a day. Each week they are weighed—a sampling of one small net full of fish is weighed—to compute how many fish there are per pound. From this, the amount of food they receive daily is computed.

Now they are being fed once a day, with the proper amount of food for each pond or tank being spread on the water surface. On Memorial Day we were able to feed the fish. What a joy to spread the fine grains of fish food on the water surface and watch many, many small silver fish jump and compete for the food! The ruffling of the water you see in this photo is caused by all the fish coming to the surface to eat. There are about 150,000 fish in each tank, so you really see them schooling and jumping for the food.

Next week, the fish will be marked. In Oregon, fishermen cannot keep a wild salmon, only hatchery raised salmon. How do they know the difference? Hatchery fish have the anipose fin removed. That is what workers will do next week to mark the fish here. This small fin on the fish back near the tail is not necessary for the fish's ability to navigate in the water and it doesn't hurt when it is cut.

Wednesday we put together four net pens that will be used to gather the fish together for marking. We had to assemble the nets and look for any holes or tears. I had a new appreciation for Jesus' early disciples. They were fisherman who often had to repair their nets.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Gas Prices and Our Life-style

Yesterday when we filled the gas tank on our 2008 Chevrolet 2500HD Duramax diesel the price at Safeway was $4.82 per gallon. Yikes! That is outrageous. On the other hand, when we figured the mileage, we did 19.3 miles per gallon. That is the best ever in a truck. We hadn't been towing the RV for that tank—it's been almost a month since we parked at Gnat Creek. And, because we had spent over $100 in the past month at Safeway, we only paid $4.72—a 10 cent per gallon discount. That means we only paid 24.5 cents per mile. Two years ago in Canada we were paying $4.38 a gallon for regular and getting 8 miles to the gallon towing—which was almost every day. That cost us 54.8 cents per mile with the old gas truck. I guess the cost of the diesel will pay off in the long run.

All of this explains why this summer we are spending a lot of our time volunteering, parked in one spot for two months. When we leave Gnat Creek Fish Hatchery, we have lined up a two-month volunteer assignment at the White River Wildlife Area in eastern Oregon. We will get to explore another part of this beautiful state without much driving and without paying for an RV space.

Last year, at the end of seven months, which included three and one-half months working as volunteers, plus lots of time in Corps of Engineer parks and US Forest Service campgrounds, we averaged only $9 per night for an RV space. This year, from March 21 through August 31, we will average $7.30 per night. Our overall average will increase as we travel and pay for lodging from September into November, but it will still be reasonable.

This is how we keep our expenses reasonable and still live the life we enjoy, exploring God's creation and the lives and places that other people live. It is such an adventure and we learn so much and really enjoy our time on the road as 5th wheel wanderers.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cats and Answered Prayers

After moving into our house in 1992, we went to the local humane society and adopted PC (Presiding Cat), a gray tabby. Because we both worked full-time, a year later we adopted another cat from there, a white one with tabby spots. We named him Partner, because we wanted him to be PC's partner. From this photo, you can see they really are friends—at least most of the time.

Tuesday evening Partner began having a great deal of abdominal distress. About midnight we discovered he had vomited twice and was still miserable. We thought he might have a bowel obstruction. I slept on the couch so I could watch him overnight. In the morning we left early to arrive at the animal hospital in Astoria by the time they opened at 7:30. We drove west across the Young's Bay Bridge to their office. They checked him in and asked how they could reach us later in the day. Since the fish hatchery is more than 20 miles from the vet, we decided to wait in Astoria for a call on our cell phone.

So what to do in this small town in the rain? First we drove to Fred Meyer's, a store much like Wal-Mart, with a large grocery section, clothing, hardware and all sorts of other general merchandise. At the in-store Starbucks, we bought coffee and a scone. Next we drove back east on the Young's Bay Bridge into downtown Astoria and visited the tourism office for information on Portland, where we plan to visit next weekend.

Back west on the Young's Bay Bridge to the Chevy dealer to have two bolts replaced where our new transmission is connected to the truck frame. Next, we went to the Visitor Center at the Lewis and Clark National Park. We didn't stay long, but picked up a brochure so we can plan a quality visit when we aren't so worried about our sick cat.

At ll:30 we went back east on the Young's Bay Bridge, joking we had better not stop and take pictures or Homeland Security would be wanting to talk to us. We had lunch and the Pig 'n Pancake. Then back west over the same bridge to pick up a few items at Fred Meyer. We received a call from the animal hospital, asking us to come in to meet with the vet at 2:30. We didn't know if that was good or bad news, but it didn't sound good. We decided to drive a few miles south along the coast to the tourist town of Seaside, which has some shopping. We looked around for about an hour, and then it was time to return to the vet.

We left there very worried. Partner might be in kidney failure and he might have lymphoma—a cancer often found in older cats. Our two cats are really part of our family and we were very discouraged. We left him with the vet for another 24 hours so they could give him fluids and antibiotic treatment. When we arrived back at the RV we faced the second major problem of the day—our furnace didn't work! Since it has been raining and only in the 40s and 50s, our one small space heater really won't keep us warm enough, except when we are sleeping.

Thursday morning we went to work—to make up for spending Wednesday in Astoria. At least we had work to do to keep our minds busy till we were to call the vet at 12:30. We also made an appointment in Longview, Washington, for Tuesday afternoon to have the furnace repaired. That means we drive our home and our cats there and fill the time till it is repaired. We will do a major grocery shopping while we wait.

When we did call the vet, we were told Partner was doing much better and they wanted to schedule a pick up time. That was one prayer answered. We were due there at 2:30, so I quickly made a grocery list to carry us till Tuesday, drove to Astoria, over the Young's Bay Bridge to the Fred Meyer and then to the vet.

Hurray! Partner doesn't seem to have kidney failure, he was just severely dehydrated. He probably does have lymphoma, but those symptoms can be controlled for some time—maybe a month, maybe a year. On the way back to the RV, we stopped at a hardware store and bought an additional space heater. When we returned to the trailer, it warmed up nicely and quickly with both heaters running. A second prayer answered!

But remember the two cats cuddled up together? Forget it for now. Partner has never spent a night at the vet's before. PC has. And when we bring him home, Partner will hiss at him. PC never does that. But he is obviously very put off by the strange smells Partner picked up at the vet's. He won't eat when Partner is around, he won't let Partner get near. So much for their close friendship—at least until Partner again smells like Partner.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Living in the Northwest

It's not so much traveling that we enjoy, but living in different places and learning what life is like there. These two Coloradoans are learning how to cope with drizzle and rain for days on end. We bought rain jackets, and a week later rain pants. The jackets are really useful. They are great wind-breakers and help keep us warm when it is damp and maybe a few raindrops fall every few minutes. We have found that 50 degrees is much colder when it is cloudy and humid than when it is sunny and dry.

People who live in the Pacific Northwest, and probably along the northern Atlantic coast, learn to live in this. As I wrote before, when we were in Klamath, California, and on a rainy day told a woman where we were headed, she said, "You'd better get used to this." We are used to staying inside when it rains. If we do that here, we will never be outside. I remember a friend in Granby telling me that when they lived in Seattle, their kids played soccer in rain and snow. In Colorado, little league soccer games are canceled in that kind of weather. I'm not sure about pee wee football. Our sons never played that.

After a week or more of cool, rainy weather, the sun came out Wednesday afternoon. And by Friday Oregon was in the midst of the high heat wave gripping all of the West Coast. We have been able to watch the folks who live here celebrate the sun and warmth with shorts and outdoor activities. We even saw an Astoria police officer wearing shorts, just like two of the workers here at the hatchery. We understand how they feel. Life is just better, no matter what you are doing, when the sun comes out. And you need to wear clothes that celebrate that. Yesterday the high temperature was 93 and we turned on the air conditioner. Both the warmer temperatures and air conditioning help dry up some of the humidity in the RV.

In the volunteer jobs we have had over the past four years, we have learned about people who work in state parks and about the National Park Service, and now we are learning about fish hatcheries. We also are hearing and learning about the US Coast Guard.

From what we have read and heard, the Columbia River bar—where the river meets the ocean—is the roughest there is. We visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, where we learned more about the US Coast Guard, as well as about river and bar pilots, fishing along the Oregon coast. We also went aboard the US Columbia, a retired lighthouse boat.

Yesterday we visited Fort Stevens State Park. The fort was built during the Civil War and served as a US Army base until the end of World War II. In 1942 a Japanese submarine launched several rockets at the fort. The wreckage of the Peter Iredale, an English sailing ship, still lies on the Pacific Coast in the park. The ship ran aground during 1906 while headed for the Columbia River.

We rode our bikes for over seven miles on the wonderful paved bike trails in the state park. In places both sides of the trail are lined with blooming Scotch Broom bushes

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mole Hills

Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill. I have heard that expression all my life. But since I have never seen a mole, or evidence of a mole, it didn't mean a whole lot. Now it does.

Here in Oregon there are lots of moles, I guess. Or at least one very busy mole here at the hatchery. Anywhere we see green grass, we find these hills of brown dirt. I wonder if the moles are digging out so much dirt that their tunnels will cave in after a big rain.

I still haven't seen a mole. But I can see where they have been.

What we do see each day are these two ducks. They live here at the hatchery and one of our responsibilities is to feed them each morning. John usually is the one who goes down there with the feed and they quack and quack and waddle around, excited about breakfast coming over the fence. Here they are, wondering why he is pointing that black box at them instead of giving them their food.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Mother That Wouldn't Give Up

This is the storage shed we told you about here at the host site at Gnat Creek Fish Hatchery. We have found we have to be a little more careful than we had been with what we put in the shed.

A mother field mouse wants to use the shed as her nursery! Early last week we found a mouse nest—about 7 inches in diameter—on the outdoor rugs we had unrolled on the floor of the shed. We put them there to dry out and planned to use them next to the RV when it stops raining. Mother Mouse liked our rugs. But we picked her and the nest up on a large shovel and moved it outside. We also moved out everything made of cloth so she couldn't chew up a blanket we use to wrap the king-pin stabilizer in when we travel and some towels the cats ride on in the truck.

Two days later she built a second nest, this one in a flower tray that had been left in the shed. We moved that out back.

Well, our persistent mother built a third nest, in the corner behind a plastic basket. This time we decided to leave Mama alone so she could have her babies and raise them. We do wonder how many baby mice we will have building nests in a couple of months.

Happy Mother's Day!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Gnat Creek

We've arrived! Gnat Creek Fish Hatchery has been our destination since we left Colorado. We are signed up to volunteer here for two months. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has 30 hatcheries around the state where volunteers can park their RVs for the duration and help out in any way they can. We know nothing about fish hatcheries, but at Gnat Creek hosts mainly help maintain the grounds while the full-time staff takes care of the fish.

Gnat Creek is 19.2 miles (our Garmin mapping GPS is very exact) east of Astoria on US Hwy 30. We are in Oregon's temperate rain forest, so everything is very green. It is amazing how rich the soil and how fast things grow. We have spent most of our first three days of work cutting grass, pulling weeds and marveling at the rich, loamy soil.--nothing hard and rocky like we experience in Colorado.

Our site is great—wide, level concrete, with 50 amp electric, good water that has good pressure. We also have a storage shed! That is something we have not had before. We can store some of the things that would usually fill up the RV basement, plus keep our bikes out of the rain. And it does rain a lot here. That is why everything is so green. Our site overlooks the hatchery tanks.

Yesterday they vaccinated the young Coho salmon. Yes, they vaccinated fish that look to be about three inches long. To do that, they lower the water level in one tank, use screens to herd the fish to a small area of the tank, then dip about 20 pounds of fish at a time out with a net, immerse them in medicated water for 30 seconds, then release them into the larger end of the tank. It is hard work and took three staff members over five hours to complete. Two at a time were standing in knee deep water for long periods. The water is cold; the air temperature was below 50. We were glad our job was to clean flower beds.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Oregon Coast

So far we have spent 8 days on the Oregon coast. It is cold and wet, but certainly beautiful. We have learned a new phrase—sunny breaks. That is when the sun shines for a short time between clouds and rain. Wednesday morning we took advantage of a sunny break to run 3 miles. Tuesday evening we took advantage of a sunny break to walk on the coast at Nehalem Bay State Park.

The Oregon state parks we have stayed in are great—good sites, well maintained, and in lovely locations. The nightly rate is very reasonable for a hook-up site--$16—and there is no day use fee on top of that. In April, the winter rates are still in effect and we have seen very few campers.

The coast has several lighthouses. We saw the Cape Arago one while hiking the Pacific Coast Trail out of Sunset Bay SP. And we visited the Cape Mears Lighthouse while staying at Nehalem Bay. There were many nesting birds on the rocks near this lighthouse—many we had never seen before.

Another interesting place to visit while at Nahalem Bay was the Tillamook Cheese Factory. The dairy farmers of Tillamook Country have been using their milk to make cheese, ice cream and milk for many years. Because of the demand for milk and cheese, there are

dairy farms all over the county. It sometimes smells like a feed lot. I have seen Tillamook cheese in the stores in Colorado and it was really interesting to see how it was made. The tour is free—but the gift shop and cheese sales shop get enough to pay for the tour. We

bought cheese for ourselves and gifts for our grandchildren and the son who takes care of our house as we travel.

One night at Nehalem Bay there was a group of about 20 tent campers from a local school. The next day, in the rain, we saw them riding the Pacific Coast Bike Trail. More power to them, but I wouldn't want to bike in that weather.

Since we left Klamath in California the truck—which just had a new transmission installed—has been making strange noises. So in Tillamook, we drove to a Chevy dealer to have it looked at. We really felt God was with us that day. The service department was fully booked, but a mechanic was sitting in the service office, waiting for a late appointment. When John described the problem, he came over and said, "Do you want to take a ride?" John said yes. All it took was drive around the parking lot and he said, let me put it up on the lift. He discovered the shop in Northridge had neglected to install two bolts that secured the transmission to the truck frame. The two bolts corrected the problem and now the truck sounds like it should. Hurray!

Between Sunset Bay and Nehalem Bay, we drove 200 miles. We saw great views of the ocean and drove through local farm communities. In one place we passed a huge field of daffodils. They must have been raising them for sale or something; we have never seen so many in one place. It was beautiful.

We may be at sea level, but it is early spring here, just like it is in Colorado in late April and early may. The crabapple trees are blooming and the other trees have the soft light green color of new foliage. We are excited to see what it will look like when everything fully leafs out.