This weekend I had a lengthy list of various tasks and repairs to finish. I think a lot of people start out their weekends like this. The hardware stores and plant nurseries are certainly busier! Unfortunately, between my “I-don’t-have-a-honey-so-I-do” list and an expectedly prolonged period of goofing off, I have no paintings to show this week. As I am assuming my home projects, no matter how impressive, won’t be very entertaining, I guess I’ll tell you about the Northern Pygmy-Owl adventure (does the name give the ending away?)

I do not have “traditional” television. In the evenings I watch a combination of YouTube videos, PBS streaming, and a few movies on Tubi. (Note: I used to have Netflix, but was fascinated to learn that the last time they raised the monthly cost, I was part of trend that ultimately has cost them millions of viewers. Who knew I was trendy?) The thing I enjoy about the YouTube videos is that the ones I find appealing are so often the ones I have no interest in doing. I’ve gone through phases of watch repair (Wristwatch Revivial is excellent, no matter what your intertest), car detailing (got tired of that one), furniture repair (almost always fun), cow hoof triming (love the Hoof GP), and marble racing (who doesn’t love Jelle’s Marble Runs?) My favorite, though, is Baumgartner Restoration (I have such a crush on him… his voice is magnificent! And that vocabulary!)

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the topics of beekeeping (no) and bonsai (didn’t intend on it…). I was attracted, originally, by the videos of “Bonsai Releaf” which are beautiful and relaxing. In the way of YouTube, this viewing brought other bonsai suggestions, and soon I was watching Peter Chan at Hersons Bonsai. His appreciation of the topic got me to check out a couple of his book from the library, and lead to me decided to go out and find a couple of volunteer pine trees to get started.

So, Saturday, I headed up to the Siuslaw National Forest to drive along the logging roads, seeing if I could find a small volunteer cedar, alder, or maple. I had found a couple of volunteer shore pines around the neighborhood, but I wanted to try another other species to get a feel for the project. As I had a few extra pots and some potting soil, I thought this would be a low impact way to see if I liked it. (Note: There is a whole series of videos on Herons Bonsai about using low cost or free materials.)

It was a beautiful, foggy, misty, gray morning (my favorite) and as I drove up the Siletz, I saw a heard of elk lounging along the road.

After stopping for a few minutes, I headed up the logging road. Soon I was looking at cedar forests, alder thickets, and enough blackberries to clog any self-respecting meadow. It took a while before I found what I was looking for; an area where logging had recently cleared an area and a few younger plants had been left along the edges to fight it out. The crews hadn’t come in yet to replant and a specimen or two wouldn’t be missed.

I was finishing up my digging (5 minutes in a tire rut) to liberate a small cedar and what I hope is an ash, when I spotted a little brown bird. Up in the forests, it is POSSIBLE to see Saw-whet owls, and I had been told they were very small. About 7 inches according to the books, which is about the same size as a small robin (8 inches). So, when I saw the little brown bird I stopped to take a look. And then VERY SLOWLY went for my camera.

Northern Pygmy-Owl

“OMG!” I thought. “It’s a Saw-whet owl!”. (Note: It’s not a Saw-whet it’s a Northern Pygmy-Owl, but I didn’t know that until later.) My new little friend was on a tree beside the road, looking out over the valley below (valley shown two images up; owl is in the little deciduous tree next to the large spruce). It was completely unperturbed by me, the dog, the shovel, the camera, and even the tri-pod when I got that out. Fifteen minutes of me snapping photos did not phase it, and when I finally took off to go home, friend was inspecting the area for mice.

One of the coolest things, I noticed, was that the owl had black patches on the back of its head that gave the appearance of eyes. In fact, it took me several minutes to figure out I was looking at its back instead of its front!

Giddy with happiness, I trundled home, where I announced my find on Facebook, texted friends, and generally expressed my excitement. Then, I had a retract everything when looked up my friend’s true identity!

I then spent a great deal of the afternoon, when I could have been painting, playing with the “bonsai-to-be”.

I wasn’t surprised that it was harder than the videos made it look, but I was surprised how much manipulating the trees really made me look at their structure. I have found myself examining roadside trees for their structure ever since. Trees are really quite intricate.

While I am sorry for not getting to painting, it has been enjoyable and productive weekend. The house and yard looks good, and I’m finding myself more able to face the week ahead. There may be something to this “relaxing” thing. Like, maybe, that’s human repair?