Lions and tigers and bears, oh my

… But mostly this is a story about bears.

For the past few weeks, we’ve watched the cherries in our orchard continue to ripen as the time for harvest approached. We also watched a couple of black bear cubs– who we’ve named Shawn and Gus– visit the orchard. On at least four occasions, we’d be coming up the driveway and see the two of them scrambling to get out of the orchard, like kids caught sneaking cookies. We’re sure they’re the same mischievous cubs Kyra and I spotted climbing our tree.

I didn’t mind that they nibbled on a few cherries here and there. After all, we have 92 trees, and they were looking good. I didn’t mind, that is, until yesterday. That’s when we took a walk around the orchard in preparation to have it picked, so we could sell our cherries and make back the money we’ve spent managing the orchard all year (pruning, watering, spraying, mowing).

We discovered that the bears had pretty much picked the entire orchard clean. As in, many of the trees didn’t have a single cherry left. There were a lot of instances of this:

Notice all the cherry stems without cherries. This particular tree had literally this single cherry on it. Several trees had broken branches, because bear cubs climbing to get the high cherries can be heavy:

Although I would love to see a bear cub in a cherry tree fall down when the branch under him breaks, it was pretty clear that these guys had systematically eaten through our orchard. The only trees with any berries at all were near the driveway, and I suspect it’s simply because the bears hadn’t had time to get to them yet. Give them another day or two, and those trees would’ve been empty as well.

So, this morning we went out and picked everything we had left. It was actually kind of fun.

Here’s Pepper picking the sun! Just kidding– it was an accident but kind of a fun shot.

There were a few cases where there were a bunch of cherries still on the branch:

Of course this should’ve been the case for nearly all of the trees, not just two or three of them.

While we were walking through the orchard looking for any remaining fruit, we had to avoid stepping in the bear scat that was littered throughout.

Yes, that’s right, I have a photo of actual bear poop on my blog. Notice all the cherry pits in that one. Sigh.

After an hour, we’d picked the orchard clean. We ended up with three half-buckets of fruit:

According to some friends in the business, in an average year our orchard should easily produce around $5,000 in fruit (of which we’d get roughly half; the other half would go to the pickers). Today we ended up with $0.

On the bright side, I spent the afternoon driving to various friends’ houses, giving all of them a couple pounds of cherries. They all loved it. And we have a few pounds left for ourselves, which I’m sure will get eaten soon. They’re delicious.

So, yeah, we learned a few lessons for next year…

More stars

I’m really digging the astrophotography options around here. Last night the stars were brilliant, with the Milky Way stretching from one horizon to the other. Here’s the party house beneath Cassiopeia:

Looking north toward Woods Bay and the distant lights of Kalispell… check out Ursa Major above the trees!

Tubbin’ at night

There’s something magic about sitting in the hot tub on a cool summer evening, watching the incredible stars above. Last night Alex and his friends retired there and spent about an hour chatting. I snuck a picture.

Relaxing on the water

Today was a beautiful sunny day, and we finished all of our chores, so we decided to head out to the lake. I grabbed my paddleboard, and Pepper and Kyra took the jet skis out in search of boat wakes to jump. It was nice to stand, sit, and even lie down on the board while the waves gently rocked it.

Definitely a great spot for a nap! I watched the beautiful azure sky above.

After a while, Kyra found me and we traded. I rode the jet ski for a while, trying to learn some new tricks, while she laid on the board. She had a brilliant idea: tether the board to a weather station out in the lake, so she wouldn’t drift with the current!

After jumping wakes and working on tricks, we decided to head in. Kyra was feeling a little lazy and didn’t want to paddle back to shore, so I towed her. Nice!

Raking the driveway

“Raking the driveway” isn’t a household chore you hear about very often. But that’s exactly what I did today.

Our half-mile-long switchbacked driveway gets terrible ruts from running water after storms. It makes it tricky to drive in places, and isn’t kind to the jet ski trailer.

I decided to smooth out some of the ruts by raking rocks and dirt into them. We could really use some more erosion preventers, but that’s a project for another day. Good times.

It’s full of stars!

Last night, just before heading to bed, I stepped outside and looked up at the night sky. It was absolutely amazing. I went back inside, grabbed my camera and a tripod, and spent ten minutes taking some pictures of the stars overhead.

I still have this?

I cleaned out my wallet today, and sandwiched between my REI card and my Safeway card, I found this ancient gem:

The back of the (laminated!) card says it was issued in Rolla, Missouri. That was my college town– I got the card in fall 1990. Yes, thirty years ago. And that means it’s been in my wallet that long. I never thought of myself as a hoarder, but sheesh.

One memory about this card: in 1995 I traveled to Toronto for a physics conference, where I presented a paper about the optical properties of atomic energy transitions. I got to the conference without any problems, but when I was returning home I was stopped at the airport customs desk by a large, gruff woman. She asked me for a passport (which I didn’t have) and then said it would be okay to present a valid U.S. driver’s license (which I also didn’t have). I protested that I’d been allowed into Canada without any issues or ID, but she said sternly “Well, this isn’t Canada. We don’t let just anyone into the United States.”

I dug through my wallet and pulled out my Selective Service card. Surely that would prove I’m a U.S. citizen, since they’re only issued to citizens? Nope. Finally, in a bit of desperation, I showed her my Blockbuster Video card from Rolla, Missouri. If that didn’t prove I was an American, I was out of ideas and apparently doomed to live out my days in Canada.

Fortunately she let me through, and I was able to return to the United States. Whew! Thanks, Blockbuster!

The Astley Paradox

Seen on the internet:

If you ask Rick Astley for his copy of the movie Up, he cannot give it to you as he will never give you up. However, in doing so he lets you down. Thus creating the Astley Paradox.

Solving the big problems

I have a lot of ebooks. 329 of them, to be exact. And when I open the ebook app on my tablet to settle down for a good read, I’m bothered (more than I probably should be) that some of my books are listed with an author of Alastair Reynolds while others by him are under Reynolds, Alastair. There are many instances of that, where the same author is listed two ways. It’s maddening.

Yes, it’s a First World problem. Yes, there are more important things I could concern myself with. But hey, it’s a problem I can fix.

So this afternoon I sat down and read the documentation about the epub format. It’s not so much a “standard” as a “recommendation”, which means all of those pesky epub files are formatted slightly differently. But with some research and experimentation, I was able to find the appropriate places to modify the files and update the authors’ names. While I was at it, I tinkered with the book titles, too.

Now my ebook app shows all of Alastair’s books together, in a well-formatted list, and I’m a happy guy.