Painting progress

This morning about seven I sneaked down to the pond hoping to see some ducklings. My husband has seen them, but I have not. Even though I was very quiet, I got about halfway down the last path and the mama duck took off from the pond. I sat on the bench hoping she would return, but she did not, so I went back up and watered my garden.

Here is my garden with tomato and eggplant supports and a bean tower just visible in the back.

My neighbor told me last week that I could plant salad greens around my cabbages and so maximize the space. So, last week I bought some seed for a lettuce and a spring mix and I planted them around the cabbages. The package says to sow the seeds every two weeks. In just a few weeks, we should have salad greens!

I spent some time last week putting up tomato and eggplant supports and a bean ladder. So far, though, there is no sign of my beans, and I am beginning to wonder if all four of my bean seeds failed. Everything else is doing well. We took a gamble that the deer don’t know about the garden yet and planted everything without putting a fence up. We did this mostly because of an argument about the type of fencing needed. My husband is gung ho to move some of our chain link fencing up from the wolf pen (but not gung ho enough to actually work on it). I don’t think anything that permanent is needed. I  just want to put up some stakes and chicken wire as a visual barrier against the deer. The fact that the beds are raised and have a short fence as part of them will keep the rabbits out. There is also the question, should I just go ahead and buy some fencing, of whether to fence in the little patio. That seems unfriendly to me, but the beds are abutting right up against the paving stones in the front, so it doesn’t seem like there will be an easy way to put the fencing in the front. If we had thought to move the bed back an inch there wouldn’t be a problem.

In any case, I hadn’t seen a deer on our property for about a year, when last night my husband and I stepped out onto the deck to see if we could spot the ducks in the pond. On the slope below our house was a young deer in the grass, which unfortunately at this time is about two or three feet high. We still haven’t figured out a permanent solution for keeping it cut down, as the slope is too steep for the lawn mower and even for us to weed whack it. I was sorry that we scared the deer away. I would have liked her to eat more of the grass. I immediately went over to the garden to see if deer were up there, but they were not. It was odd to see a lone deer. Usually the doe has them in pairs. There were four sisters that were running around last year, and she had two more this spring. My guess is that the one we saw was from the pair born last year.

Here is one corner of the newly painted guest room. The furniture was my mom’s before she died.

Actually, we are starting to talk goats to take care of our grass problem. Our tenants used to have goats, and he kept the property very neat by just herding them around, tapping them with a stick when they tried to eat something that they didn’t want them to. I told my husband that if he got the wolf pen back in some shape to receive them, we could have both goats and chickens in that enclosure. Right now just the entrance is down, but our intention is to move the pen over to the right so that it doesn’t impinge on our view from the deck everywhere you look. Of course, I can’t see either of us herding goats around the property like Randy did, but maybe we can get some movable fencing or something.

Here is another corner of the room, near the sliding door that goes outside.

As for my painting, I have finished the guest room, and it looks very nice. It is a bright spring green, just as I planned, and it makes me feel cheerful just to look at it. Although I made some mistakes, the painting job isn’t too bad for an amateur. It took me some time to reinstall all of the socket and light switch covers. I counted, and there are 15 of them in that room! Not only that, but it’s difficult to remember which switches turn on which lights, because the switches are located with absolutely no regard to where the light is. You can go around the room trying to find the switch for a particular light and it will be clear across the room from the light. In only one case does a switch actually work the light that is nearest to it.

I also started the bathroom yesterday by taping the two walls I’m going to paint and putting on the first coat. If I have time today, what with our hike, I will put the last coat on. Then all we have to do is install the tiles that I bought to finish the wall above the sink. It’s a good thing I’m almost done, because my friend arrives the Monday after next.

Last week, we had a fun hike. My sister invited my niece and her family, and we went an hour later than usual because my niece home-schools the kids on the mornings that they don’t go to school. We went back to the Tarbell Trail and took it toward a camp ground. It was quite steep in places and all the way down at one point, which of course meant I had to walk all the way back uphill. However, I didn’t do too badly. Elevation is still something I have trouble handling. On the way, we did a lot of plant identification, as my great-niece has been having lessons in it every week, my niece is knowledgeable about native plants, and so is my neighbor. Even my four-year-old great-nephew knew some of the plants. The most ignorant person on the hike was me! My problem is someone tells me the name of the plant and the next time I see it, I have no idea what it is.

I keep thinking I am going to finish my painting in art class. I have gotten to the point where I am tired of it, but my teacher keeps finding little things to touch up. I can’t really tell whether I am finished or not. My teacher dismayed me this week by telling me I would be done in one or two weeks! I thought I was going to be done this week!

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Critters and paint

My husband went to bed early the other evening, so around eight I went down to the pond. I walked down very quietly so as not to disturb any wildlife that may be down there. Over the past few days, we’ve noticed a pair of woodpeckers who have their nest in a hole up high in the dead tree near our bench. One day when we were down there, they were taking turns popping in and out of the hole. The next day, though, they wouldn’t trade places while we were there, so we left them to it and went back up to the house.

I had barely sat down on the bench that evening when I heard a sound. I couldn’t tell if it was munching or drinking. It sounded like it was just over to my right, so I stood up with the idea of walking down the path closer to the pond to see what it was. As soon as I stood up, I could see a sizable animal at the place where the path meets the pond eating ferns and other greenery. He was concentrating so hard on his eating that he never noticed me, even though I watched him for about ten minutes. He was in full view, and it made me wish I had my phone with me, although a picture probably would have looked like a brown blob in a green blob.

I didn’t have a picture for you today, so here’s a picture from the Canadian Encyclopedia of a beaver. I haven’t actually seen ours head on, just in profile or in the water swimming far out in the pond.

What I was trying to do was see whether he was a beaver or a muskrat, but I couldn’t see his tail for the longest time, until he slipped back into the water and started to swim away. Then I crept down the rest of the path and was able to see his wide tail. A beaver! He swam away to the left side of the pond giving no indication of whether he knew I was there or not.

Most of this week I have been working on painting the bedroom. I have one more wall to go and then part of the bathroom. Each day I have either taped the next wall or touched up the last wall and painted the next wall. I’m slow, I know, but there have been some days I haven’t had time to work on it.

One of those days was last Sunday when I thought it would be a nice break to help my husband stain the railings for the outside steps that were put up last year. We have three sets of steps: one from the main house level up to the ridge above our house, one from the main house level down to the lower drive behind the house at basement level, and one from that level down to the bottom of the orchard and the pond. We decided to start with the lowest set of steps, which is also the longest.

We had a little spat before we started. We had driven in to town that morning to buy sand paper and stain. We got home around 11. It was supposed to be a hot day, in the high 80’s, but at 11 it was still only in the 70’s. My husband decided to eat lunch then, even though he usually doesn’t eat it until 1 or 2. An hour and a half later, I had been waiting for him for an hour while it got hotter and hotter outside, and he was still sitting there doing a crossword puzzle. I told him I was going to go down and get started but I wasn’t going to sand because I hate sanding. He got upset and started lecturing me about my “work standards” (which, by the way, I was known for when I was working, my good ones, not my poor ones). I told him it wasn’t that I didn’t want to do the work right, just that I wanted to do it before it got to be 100 degrees outside. So, we got the stain and went down.

This was a different type of activity than painting walls, to be sure, but I hadn’t reckoned with how much bending there would be. I have never been diagnosed with a back problem, but I have a very stiff lower back and neck. I think this is because my family has a big problem with rounded backs and dowager humps (my dad’s spine looked almost like an S), and I have been conscious of my posture as a result. My neck is fastened to my spine at an angle, so I already know I have a tendency toward it, and I have been forcing myself to stand up straight my whole life. As a result, as I am older, my back hurts after certain activities, and apparently bending over to paint railings is one of them. After I had only finished one railing section, my back was hurting.

My husband sanded the rails in about 10 minutes and then he began staining higher up the steps ahead of me, I guess with the idea that when I got to where he started, we would be done. However, of nine sections of railing, he gave me five to do. Then he began staining at an incredible speed. I had barely finished two of my sections and he was almost done. I couldn’t figure out how he could go so fast, except that I was occasionally stopping to rest my back (but not that often!). I still had more than two sections to do when he announced he was finished and left! Remember, I was helping him. I was upset about this, but I decided I was going to finish my sections and then go lay down and rest my back. After I had finished the third section, my husband came back down through the orchard, moved up past me and started on the last section. So I only had to do one more.

The mystery of his quick work was solved, though, later in the day after the stain dried. I walked down the steps and saw that he had completely missed large patches of his part of the rail, including half of the back side of one section. That’s how he got done so quickly. He has not yet gone down and fixed those patches, and I’m beginning to think that after I finish painting my room, I will have to do it, because he’ll forget. My part of the railing was covered completely. So much for work standards.

On the walking front, my sister and I had an eventful outing, although we didn’t get much walking done last week. She had an idea of where we could walk in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. So, we drove out there looking for a trail head she thought she knew of. We never found the trail head, and we drove and drove through the forest and eventually ended up on state land. All around the national forest are large patches of state land. I’m not sure which one we were in. Finally we found a trail head for the Tarbell trail. At that point, she acted as if that was what she had been looking for, but later she showed me a trail on a map that turned out to be for off-road vehicles. She has misread the map and thought it was a hiking trail. We got out a couple of times and did a little hiking, but only about 20 minutes each time because we had done so much driving. Finally, we decided to go back to the Tarbell trail this week.

After that, we drove up to Chelatchie, where there is a ranger station for Mt. St. Helens, with the intention of getting hiking maps. We ended up with some maps, but we found that neither of them was very good for hiking. One of them was strictly for vehicle use, although it was very detailed, and the other showed the hiking trails but hardly any of the trail heads. My sister knows there is a better hiking map available because she used to have one. We may have to go to the ranger station in Stevenson to find it.

Last week, my niece gave me some starts for squash, cherry tomatoes, and an artichoke. The next day, I went out and found an eggplant and two tomato starts and then I planted all the rest of my plants, including some pole beans from seed. Everything is doing well. My peas are now about four or five inches tall. One of the tomatoes already needs a tomato ladder, so I put one up. I expect I’ll be putting up the other tomato support and the eggplant support next week. The beans haven’t peeked out yet, but it hasn’t even been a week since they were planted.

My niece and sister have invited us on a family outing in late June to the San Juan Islands. Of course, my husband has refused the invitation, but I am going to go. I have always wanted to see the San Juan Islands. After the kids go back, my sister and I are going to dawdle around on the Olympic Peninsula for a bit.

A quiet place

We had tenants in this house for four years after we bought it, until I was able to retire and move from Austin. One of the things our tenant suggested once we moved here was that we install a bench down next to the pond. I frankly didn’t pay much attention, because I have spent very little time down by the pond, most of my time last year being taken up with the contractors but also because I felt so unsteady walking down there. I used to go around and weed whack a bit, but we have so little flat land that I often felt like I was going to fall down. However, my weight loss and walking have combined to make me feel stronger and more steady, and we have also put in safer steps to all the places downhill.

So, last week my husband and I lugged the parts for a new bench down to the pond and started putting it together. It was so hot we didn’t get very far. Then we had a series of rainy, cold days, and we just left the extension cord down there but did nothing. However, starting late last week, we had a long series of cool, sunny days. So, over the weekend, we finished the bench.

Our bench by the edge of the pond. The pond looks very small in this picture, but it goes off toward the left for some way. It has a creek running into it from the left and running out of it on the right. Right now on the way down are wildflowers, bleeding hearts and little yellow star-shaped flowers that might be cowslips or Texas yellow stars. And we have found lots of budding flowers that look like they could be wild strawberries.

And it has surprised me how much time we have already spent down there, several hours every day. It is indeed peaceful and quiet. There is a pair of nesting mallards down there (whom unfortunately we’ve scared off twice by talking just as they arrived to land), and I have seen the head of some furry animal swimming around, either a beaver or a muskrat; I could not see his tail. Birds are everywhere, and fish jump every few minutes. We assume we also have turtles and frogs, but we haven’t seen or heard any. Each day we go down when it is shady (all morning and late afternoon), either alone or together, and we sit there and be quiet, sometimes with our binoculars.

In fact, it is becoming very beautiful around our house, although it is shaggier looking outside than it was last year. Our tenant had goats and used to herd them around the property eating down everything that wasn’t supposed to be there, so it looked more groomed than it does with us. We are also talking about getting goats, since there are places on our property that are very difficult for us to keep looking nice. I was fretting about all the volunteer alders that have decided to root themselves in our landscaped ridge in front of the house on Sunday. (Alders are like weeds around here.) My niece and her husband came over to look at the colors I was evaluating for the guest room, and he ran up the ridge and started pulling the little trees out by their roots. I got the clippers for the bigger ones, and in half an hour, he made it look so much better. He said he wanted to come back and take out some more plants and trim some of our others. I will probably start the trimming the plants I can reach sometime later, but there are others I cannot. While my niece’s husband was pulling out the volunteers, his kids dressed themselves up like trees with the ones he had pulled out. They really looked cute.

Here are the azaleas next to our water feature. We need to pump the water out of the bottom of this and clear it out, then put new water in. But we know it runs, because we had it going last year. We don’t have it working yet because of procrastination.

Anyway, the ridge looks much better, and the azaleas are in full bloom on one side with the rhododendrons coming out on the other. It looks really nice right now except for some shaping I need to do.

On Monday, I slowly started painting the guest room. It was one of the few rooms we didn’t have the painters repaint, and I’ve been sorry I didn’t. We originally didn’t plan to paint any of the rooms downstairs, but after the staircase was rebuilt, they had to paint part of the big room by the stairs. Then, the more I looked at the guest room, the more I regretted not painting it, particularly because it seems to me that some former occupant used to walk around with a cup of coffee or tea in his or her hand and spill it down the walls and doors. Almost every door had a spill down it (I spent lots of time washing those off), but I occasionally find marks on the walls that weren’t painted that look like someone threw a cup of coffee at it. The guest room is no exception.

Here’s the bedroom with part of one wall painted. The color of the paint looks brighter and lighter when you are in the room than it does in this picture, but it is still a distinctive color.

I wanted to paint the wall a bright spring green because even though it gets a lot of light for a basement room (it has a large window and a sliding glass door, but on the other hand the deck is overhead), it is still darkish. I picked among four colors, and on Monday I started taping the ceilings and woodwork on one wall. Then on Tuesday, I painted the first two sections of the wall. (Every wall in that room has either multiple doors and windows in it or a bend or both.) I am taking it easy because it is unaccustomed work, but so far I think I am doing a good job. Since today is the day for my walk, I am not sure whether I will have time to work on it. The walk takes a couple of hours and then we usually go out for lunch, so that takes up most of the day. The next step is to tape the next section.

My niece said not to worry about separating my peas, which, by the way, are about two inches tall now.

Last week for our walk we returned to Lewis River park and took the circle around the park. It goes fairly steeply uphill for a little while and then circles around next to the river. For some reason, we always lose the path in this park, I think because part of the time you have to walk through parking lots. We did that again for the final part of walk, taking a side route instead of the main circle back up to the parking area. This walk is about three miles long.

Today, it looks like I will be walking with my sister instead of my neighbor. My sister has come along one other time. Yesterday she told me she wanted to come, then my neighbor let me know she has a cold, so she probably won’t be going.

 

 

Peas, mushy and otherwise

This morning I went out to water my garden and saw that my peas are coming up. Yippee! However, I think I made a mistake with the peas as well as with the large vegetables. The packet said to plant them in a row and then thin the plants to two inches. Instructions on the internet said to plant them at two inches apart. I had a bunch of peas in the packet and not much space, so I went ahead and followed the instructions on the packet, just made a little trough at a half inch deep and rolled them all in. I thought that instead of throwing out the thinned plants, I could give them to my niece and sister to plant in their much larger garden. (Theirs takes up probably close to an acre.)

Those little green things behind the onions are my pea sprouts.

However, my sister tells me peas can’t be easily transplanted. I think I would have done better to plant them spaced two inches apart and keep the rest of the peas in their packet for next year. I’m doing this sort of blind, I guess. I had gardens years ago in Michigan, but all I ever planted were tomatoes and beans from seed. One year I tried zucchini and eggplant but my zuccini rolled right over my eggplant. In any case, I had lots of yummy beans and tomatoes out of that garden, but it wasn’t diverse or hard to take care of.

Our last day of nice weather was Thursday last week, a day that got very hot. I had been inside and was not aware of how hot it was, so I suggested to my husband that we put together the bench kit that he bought to go next to the pond. We loaded the parts and tools into the car, and I drove down to the orchard and backed in there next to the pond while my husband strung electrical cord down to the pond. However, once there, I realized just how hot it was. It was almost 90! We were working in an area with no shade, and once we carted all the pieces down to the pond and I helped him get started, I realized I was going to have to go back into the house. He said he could do the rest himself, but he must have been too hot, too, because he didn’t finish. Everything is still down there partially put together. But after several days of cold, dark weather with rain expected but not much materializing, we are back today to cool and sunny days, so I expect he’ll finish putting the bench together soon, and I can help him.

Another of his projects didn’t go so well, though. He took down all the things on one side of the garage, and a week or so ago, he put up aluminum shelves with a wooden top, waist high to be a work table. His intention is to hang pegboard along the wall for his tools and to hang a light. It all looked very nice.

The last few days he’s been working on the light, which perhaps he should have done first. I say this because yesterday I heard a terrific crash out there and went out to see what had happened. He had been using his new shelving to stand on the edge and work on the light. He moved his foot over from the corner, and the aluminum couldn’t support his weight. He crashed through, ruining one of his shelving units. Luckily, he wasn’t injured. He got hurt much worse by the pond by getting into some stinging nettle. He didn’t say anything about it at the time, and I was gone that evening, so he told me about it when I got back. He had tried to treat it with antibiotics instead of washing it off and smearing it with a paste made from baking soda and water. I did that and it helped, but it would have helped a lot more if he’d told me about it right after he did it.

Last week, my hike with my neighbor was a comedy of errors. I don’t know what I was thinking. I had thought before we left that if we decided to return to Battle Ground Lake and hike the outer trail, I would remind Maja that she bought an annual pass to the park last time we went. We did decide to go there, but I forgot about the pass, so we ended up having to pay for a day pass. That was $10 when the annual pass was $30, ridiculous! To compare, the pass for the National Wildlife Refuge that we went to the week before was $3.

To make it worse, once out of our neighborhood, I started to drive the wrong way and had to turn around. Then, when we got to the park, I drove right past it and had to turn around again! When I passed it, we discussed going to Lewis River Park again, but we were right next to Battle Ground Lake, so we didn’t. My head must have been in the clouds that day.

The All Trails app said the outer trail loop was about three miles, but my Fitbit said it was 1.7 miles, one of our shortest hikes but more than half of which was uphill. I think the longer distance must be in hiking both the inner and outer loop, but we could see no explanation of that anywhere on the trails app, and by the time we finished with the outer loop, we were ready to stop. We have started going to lunch afterwards, and that makes our expedition take up a good portion of the day. My neighbor said she had gotten so that she didn’t do anything after she got home. That’s about right for me, too.

Our friend Ray is coming for a visit in June from Denver and we talked a little more about what we were going to do during his trip. We ended up making some hotel reservations on the beach for a couple of days, and we will do day trips from there. I don’t know if my husband will decide to come or not. Right now, he seems mildly interested in the idea of taking the Oregon Coast Pacific Railway, which is one of the things we want to do. But who knows what he’ll decide to do when the time comes. If I knew for sure he was going to cop out, I might think about inviting my sister to come along. The problem is knowing what he’ll decide to do. Oh well, Ray and I have done plenty of travelling by ourselves over the years. We also talked about doing the Tillamook cheese factory tour. If it was their ice cream factory, my husband would be more likely to come.

In art class, I have painted all of the background to my picture and the sea, and the foliage in the foreground. I spent most of this week’s class doing waves. All that is left is to paint the trees in the foreground and perhaps do some more touches to the foliage. A woman and her daughter in the class told me they don’t want me to paint the trees, because they like my picture the way it is. Unfortunately, there are some aspects to the picture that aren’t quite right that the teacher and I didn’t worry about because the trees were going to block them out. In particular, the sea is slanting in just a little bit, so that it looks like a tidal wave is about to wash away the town of Cannon Beach. That won’t be as obvious when the tree is in the way.

Finally, on Friday during the cold and gloomy weather, I took the train into Portland to attend the Oregon Potters Association Ceramic Show for the second year in a row. We decided to go on Friday because we thought it might not be as crowded, but we were wrong. It was even more crowded than it was last year. I like looking at the pottery, but once too many people get in one place, I start to feel uncomfortable. We saw all the pottery, and I bought a few pieces for gifts, but we didn’t stay long, only about an hour and a half.

Then we went to eat at the food carts, particularly to the Frying Scotsman to try their fish and chips, or in my case, fish and mushy peas. Very good. My husband is always in search of good fish and chips, so I will have to try to get him down there. He will not like, however, the fact that there is no place to sit to eat. In Austin, food carts are very popular as well, but almost all of them have a group of picnic tables to sit at. The ones in downtown Portland do not. I think that most people take their food back to their offices, but the food carts are popular with tourists, too. We found a low wall to sit on a block or so away. I saw lots of people buying food but not many people standing around eating it, so I’m not sure what they do.

It was a shorter than usual day. After lunch, we bopped around town a little bit, saw some things in Chinatown. But then I took the train back and got home around three. Usually after these expeditions I don’t get home until about six. The sky looked very foreboding as I was leaving, but it didn’t rain.

 

 

Sunshine! Plants and burnt sugar

We have had a week of the most gorgeous weather, sunshiny and cool most days, even getting hot yesterday. For the first time I was able to have my windows open during the day, and it was cool and breezy all day inside. In fact, it was so cool in the house yesterday afternoon that I overdressed for my art class when I could have been wearing a t-shirt. However, it was cold in the room, so that was just as well.

Last Wednesday, my neighbor and I planned to go to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge to do our hike. However, when we got there, we discovered that the hiking trail was closed until May 1 because of breeding birds. They had another hiking trail up through town that we could have gone to, but we saw that they had a one-hour driving tour through the refuge, so we decided to take that instead.

We must have seen thousands of birds, mostly water birds. We really regretted not having our binoculars or bird books with us. We saw Canada Geese, and a subspecies called Dusky Geese, lots of different kinds of ducks, an egret (we think—it was far away), lots of red-winged blackbirds, swallows, and so many other birds we couldn’t identify. A large rodent came out of a pond right next to our car. my neighbor thought he was a muskrat, but after listening to our audio CD about the refuge, we decided he was a nutria. We had nutria in the river in Austin, but all you ever saw was their heads, poking out of the water far away as they swum. This guy was big, and he stood there right next to the car! He couldn’t be bothered.

The Great Blue Heron checking out the grass

A little further on, we encountered a great blue heron, who was walking along the road, apparently hunting for something in the grass. We followed him quietly down the road with our car for quite some time. He never paid any attention to us until we decided to try to slowly pass him. Then he flew away.

The Canada geese with their chicks. I don’t know if you can tell, but on the other side of the water are hundreds of birds.

Later on we came to a point where the road ran between two huge flocks of Canada geese. On the left were the regular Canada geese, and on the right were the Dusky Canada geese, a smaller and darker subspecies. With the Canada geese on the left, we were able to see some chicks! I’m sure there were a lot more there, but most of the geese were hiding their chicks away on the side of an embankment.

(I’m afraid I might have zoomed in too far on both these pictures, but I only had my phone.)

We decided we were going to come back again with our binoculars and our bird books. It’s only an issue of when.

On Friday night, my nine-year-old great niece had a talent show at her school. This talent show has history for our family, because of how it is run. Last year, my niece didn’t think to invite us to the competition, and they were all very upset when they came home. I have never actually heard of a school talent show that has prizes, but apparently this one does. The audience votes for the winner, and as many of the families in the area are very large, what happens is that the children from the large families win the prizes. My niece said that several of the kids who were actually talented did not win anything, including my great niece, who has a very good voice for her age and bravely sang Leonard Cohen’s difficult song “Hallelujah” to no reward. My niece said it was painfully embarrassing, because so many of the parents were shocked that my great niece didn’t win anything and came up and said so, or just stared at them. The little girl who won first prize last year stuttered out a few bars of her song and then quit. My niece said that one girl playing a cello, who sounded almost professional, also didn’t win anything.

When my niece explained to me how the show was run, I was shocked that it would be handled that way. It turns out the show is organized and run by the high school students. I think they need some suggestions from the teachers.

My great niece with her trophy after the performance. We are at a restaurant buying her a piece of cake to celebrate. The elbows belong to her parents.

This year, they set up the voting a little differently. Instead of giving the audience three votes and the judges only one, they did it the other way around. Also, I think the judges waited to see who the audience voted for before picking their winners, so that the prizes could be spread around more fairly. My niece also made sure that we were there, as well as both grandmothers, and an uncle. We’re not sure exactly which of those tactics worked, but my great niece won the audience choice award. She was so happy! My niece said that she was the only one of the talented kids from last year that actually came back and performed again. My niece sung “Rise Up” by Andra Day, which is a difficult song. I may be biased, but I think for her age group that she was one of the most talented performers.

My husband said the whole thing was excruciating, and he would not go again. He was nice enough to stay for the whole thing, though. Both grandmothers and the uncle left during intermission, after the younger kids had performed and they could vote. My niece also commented that far fewer people were there this year than last year, which was the first year of the talent show. I’m sure that there were lots of hard feelings after last year.

On talking with my sister and my niece, I found out that I could actually plant some starts at this time, ones for plants that are more cold hardy. So, on Saturday, I went out and bought starts for the cold-resistant veggies, and on Sunday I planted them. I think I made a beginner’s mistake, though, because I have a small garden, and I devoted too much space to large vegetables that only produce one plant, that is cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower. Although I only planted a few apiece, I have very little space left for beans, eggplant, and tomatoes and peppers, which produce more veggies. Luckily, they grow upward, so I will squeeze them in. I planted some herbs, green and red cabbages, peas and snap peas, brussel sprouts, Walla Walla onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. I may have planted the spinach too soon.

In a few weeks, I’ll plant tomatoes, beans, and peppers, and my niece said she had a zuccini plant I’ll have to try to squeeze in. She is also starting me an artichoke. That will take up a lot of space, but I have saved some for it, and I love artichokes.

On Saturday, we also had a little incident. I had started cooking some sugar water for hummingbirds on the stove when my husband came in and we decided to (finally) plant the plum tree. I got so excited that I forgot about the sugar water. We must have been outside for about a half hour or forty-five minutes, and we were on our way back in when I heard a funny noise that sounded like it was coming from the neighbor’s house. Suddenly, I realized it was a smoke detector, and it was coming from our house! Yes, my sugar water had gone up in smoke. I don’t know if you have ever seen a lot of burnt sugar, but it is not a pretty sight. It sort of makes a black, shiny structure in the middle of the pan, which of course was ruined. (It was an old pan I should have thrown away long ago anyway.) However, this was the final straw for the smoke detector.

The geniuses that installed our smoke detectors put one at the very top of our very high ceilings. My husband had the contractors install all new smoke detectors last year, but he made the mistake, he said, of not changing out the factory batteries for new ones. The smoke detectors are wired into the electricity of the house, but apparently they are required to have batteries, too, in case of a power failure. Well, that top smoke detector decided it needed a new battery, and it beeped all night long. My husband is somewhat deaf, so after we closed our bedroom door and he put on his C-PAP device, it didn’t bother him, but it kept me awake all night long.

We have a 12-foot ladder, which isn’t tall enough to get up there. Our niece’s husband, Ares, said that his stepfather, who was our tenant before we moved here, used to lean an extension ladder up against the ceiling, which must have been very dangerous. My husband had already called about renting a 16-foot ladder but then realized that it wouldn’t fit in our car. Ares came over to help, because my husband thought we might be able to get the battery out using his grabber and the 12-foot ladder, but Ares couldn’t get a grip on the battery with the grabber. Finally, Ares got up on the stepladder with the grabber and a powerful magnet and was able to get the old battery out and put the new one in. What a relief!

 

A soggy week

It has been cold and rainy all week, but I think we might get a break. The forecast on my phone (which is the only reliable one, since our weather on TV is for Portland, not only an hour away but down in the valley) says that today, for once, there will be no rain and the next three days will be sunny. I hope to be able to get out and finally plant our plum tree, which I bought last month.

I am itching to get started on my garden, but we can’t plant our starts (I say we because my niece and sister will be starting their garden, too) until there is no chance of frost. I have been making a list of all the vegetables I want to try to grow, plus tomatoes and rhubarb.

My raised beds with their attached patio and the shelfless garden shed in the background. We’re planning on putting a walkway around the side with the extra patio bricks we have lying around, and a compost pile back behind it. This is all right next to the side of the driveway.

My husband was working for a few days on a plastic garden shed for my tools. It is up next to the little patio by my garden, but I think he intended it more for a place to put his cans of gasoline (he won’t put them in the garage like everyone else I know does), because he hasn’t put any shelves into it. I have to wait for shelves before I can put my garden tools and gloves in it.

Last week, we finally went out to a movie. We saw A Quiet Place, and it was very scary. Excellent acting, too, although ridiculously fake sign language. My husband said the setup had serious logical flaws. He didn’t believe the aliens could have eaten almost everyone in the world because the army would have figured out their weakness before being wiped out. Actually, it was sort of ridiculous to believe the army couldn’t have wiped them out without knowing their weakness, but I don’t worry about things like that. I just enjoy the moment.

My neighbor and I went back to Moulton Falls State Park for our walk last week because it was wet and the park has a nice paved path. It is also very quiet and beautiful. We went 3.6 miles according to my Fitbit. Afterwards, we went out for Mexican food.

On Friday night, my great-niece attended another belt testing for tae kwon do, where she moved up from yellow belt to green stripe belt. It’s funny to see the boys when the students are all waiting for their belts. The girls, for the most part, are standing there quietly waiting for their turn or waiting to be dismissed if they already got their belts. They are supposed to be standing in a respectful position. The boys (and one girl) are twisting and turning, rocking back and forth, whispering to their neighbors. You can tell that some of them cannot stand still. I have to hand it to my great-niece. She stood perfectly still, and she makes a point to always bow when entering or leaving the mat and to sit on the floor waiting in the position he tells them to assume, while the others are wiggling around and giggling. She takes this stuff very seriously. I took her to her first class as a green stripe belt on Saturday morning, where she volunteered to demonstrate a move to the yellow and yellow stripe belts.

At Weight Watchers for only the second time I gained a little weight. I thought I might go over the 20-pound weight loss line but instead gained. I guess that’s not surprising given the dissipated weekend I had in Ashland!

In art class I have finished the background to my landscape and now I am finally working on the foreground. I am thinking of changing classes to later because the number of children in our class forces the teacher to spent a much larger proportion of her time with them. They are all fairly young except for one teenage girl, and there are two little girls who are very young, one of whom speaks mostly Russian. The other little girl wants Alina’s constant attention. Alina will give her something to do and she will do it in a few minutes and then go back over to her and tell her she is finished. In addition, there are now three squirmy little boys about the same age. Last week, they sat together next to me and they were very disruptive, even though one of them is very serious about working on his art. This week, the most disruptive one sat on the other side of class, which was much better. We are down to only two adults in our class! Before we had four, but one older woman quit and another one took a break.

If I change to the later class, though, I won’t get home until nine o’clock at night , and it’s a long drive in the dark across all those country roads. My sister is talking about rejoining the class, in which case I will most likely have to change again to be in the same class as her, so for now, I am waiting to see if she rejoins and what her new work schedule will be like.

The play’s the thing

After a week of cancellations, there was a big one on Friday. As I reported last week, first my husband said he wanted to go to Portland on Saturday, then he wanted to go to Harbor Freight instead. Then he wanted to go to Portland on Sunday, then he didn’t. Then he wanted to go to the movies on Tuesday, then he didn’t. Well, this was the pattern all week until we got to Friday.

Unfortunately, Friday was the day we planned to leave for Ashland, Oregon, to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. My friend Deb and I have had tickets since January or February. I was initially surprised when my husband said he would go with us and visit his friend from Air Force days in Medford while we went to the plays. I should have known something was up on Thursday because he was mopey all day and at one point he asked me if we had already paid for the tickets. (Of course I had, and they were very expensive.) But I did not pay attention.

So, I got up on Friday and started to get ready to go, and he told me he wasn’t coming. I had some choice thoughts about that, as you can imagine, but I just packed up and left. In fact, I was able to leave early and tell my niece she didn’t need to worry about feeding Hillary. We didn’t get off to a good start. There was my husband’s cancellation and the rainy, dreary morning, and then we got a half hour away from Deb’s house when I realized my purse was sitting in her living room, so we had to go back. Thank goodness I realized then, though, rather than later, and after that things went fine.

We stopped for lunch on the way down and ate at a place called Addy’s Diner in Springfield. I was trying to behave myself for Weight Watchers and found we had picked a place where that was almost impossible. At one point we saw a guy receive a pancake that was served on a platter-sized plate, yet was too big to fit it without being folded in half. My guess is that the pancake was a good two feet in diameter! Deb said I should take a picture of the pancake, but I didn’t have the nerve to walk over and take a picture of his food.

We passed a huge accident on the north side of the freeway just outside Grant’s Pass. First, we saw the wreck. Then we both remembered, after the initial backup, a gap. But then we suddenly saw cars everywhere, parked all over the exits, parking up the freeway, and people getting out and walking around. The cars stretched back for miles and miles. We learned later that the traffic was stuck there for at least four hours.

We arrived in Ashland at about 4 PM and checked into our motel. It was the Bard’s Inn, an old-fashioned roadside motel that has been remodeled and is comfortable, clean, and quiet. Not fancy at all, but it was just fine for us. The Bard’s Inn has other, fancier accommodations, and we looked at a lot of B&B’s when we were trying to decide where to stay, but many of them were already booked, and most were expensive. Because we thought my husband would have the car, we were looking for something right near town, and this place was just a few blocks from the theaters.

The first thing we did was go to the box office to pick up our tickets. We had bought tickets for two plays on Saturday, Sense and Sensibility in the afternoon and Henry V at night. Deb suggested we see if there were any tickets left for Othello that night. Now, if you read my review of Othello, you’ll know it isn’t one of my favorite plays, because I don’t like the main character. However, we asked, and they had the last two seats together for $34 apiece (cheap), so we bought them.

The Elizabethan Theater on the hill behind Lithia Park

Then we had time to look around town and have something to eat. Ashland is a small town tucked into the side of foothills, with a mountain nearby. It isn’t super picturesque, but it is a nice town. It has a lovely park right next to the river downtown, with the Elizabethan theater on a hill behind it. The park offers lots of woodland walks, and is beautifully landscaped. It was a little rainy on Friday afternoon and evening, but most of the time we had perfect weather.

The pastry case at Mix. A little problematic for someone on a diet

We ate dinner at a nice restaurant called Greenleaf and then made our greatest culinary discovery of the trip—Mix, a bake and coffee shop. We split a lemon meringue tart, and it was delicious! We returned there several times during the course of the trip, buying bread, coffee, lunch, and delicious pastries.

In the evening we went to Othello. The town has three theaters devoted to the Shakespeare Festival, during which they perform all kinds of plays and musicals. Othello was in the middle-sized theater, which seats about 600 people. The play was performed in modern dress with most of the men in military uniforms, but it was otherwise done fairly traditionally. However, doing it in modern times provided some opportunities to use media. For example, instead of having servants deliver messages, the characters got calls on their cell phones, which raised a laugh.

I have to tell you, Othello was terrific! It was really dramatic at times, funnier than I thought it was when reading it, just a revelation. I was really glad I went. I have often had it demonstrated to me that theater so much depends on who is doing it and how they do it. I have had occasion to see the same play be, when done by one company, depressing, and by another company, hilarious, for example.

The Elizabethan Theater from the inside during our tour. That’s our guide’s hand on the left. The Elizabethan theater, which is an open-air reconstruction of a theater in England, is not open until June and only for evening performances.

In the morning we went on the backstage tour, which was very interesting. I heartily recommend it. Our guide was enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He took us all through all three of the theaters, backstage and underneath, talked about the history of the festival, told us funny stories. It was a great tour. I told Deb that if I lived within an hour of Ashland, I’d be volunteering to work there.

Ashland on the way to downtown from our motel. Of course, it would have been nice if I’d found a shot without so many streetlights in it. I was trying to get the mountain, which is just barely visible in the middle of the picture. That hump with the clouds over it.

The play I was looking forward to the most was Sense and Sensibility, being a major Jane Austen fan. I had very mixed feelings about it, though. It was performed in the middle-sized theater again. The set and costumes were of the period, but they did the play as a farce! Now, if you like Austen, like I do, because she is funny while being very delicate, as reflects her culture, this is not the play for you. I think  that some viewers were shocked by it. I had to admit it made very good theater, though. The audience shouted when it was over. But was it Jane Austen? It was not. They just used her story. Still, I had a good time, so the whole issue was very complicated for me.

Our last play was Henry V, performed in the smaller theater, which was configured in a horseshoe. This theater seats 300 people. It was very intimate, and they tried a lot of symbolism in the performance, not all of which worked. For example, the play started with players turning this huge wall around and around for quite some time. It must have symbolized something, but we didn’t know what. The only scenery for this play was that wall and a bunch of boxes. For the fighting, since Henry V is mostly about a war with France, they had red undershirts that they flapped vigorously or wrapped around themselves to signify wounds. Hmm. The acting seemed a little less practiced than in the other plays, and Henry was uneven. Of course, he has all the best speeches. Still, we enjoyed the play very much, but we both decided that Othello was our favorite. In fact, after the first play, we were already talking about when we would come back and saying that we would like to see a play in the Elizabethan Theater.

After breakfast in the morning, we skipped down to Mix to buy bread to take home with us, and that bread was yummy. If you ever get to Ashland, do not miss going to Mix!

The carousel in Albany

On the way home, just as a topper to our great weekend, we stopped for lunch in Albany, Oregon. The lunch was fine, but on the way back out of town, we happened to notice a building with the word “Carousel” on it. That made us both remember that we had seen an article and program about a historic carousel that had been thought lost but had been discovered in pieces stored away. The town had raised money to restore it, and this was it! Needless to say, we had to stop and look at the carousel. I’m sorry I didn’t get good enough pictures to show you that the animals are very imaginative. Instead of just being colorfully painted, they have crazy touches. One horse has a mermaid tail, making it a seahorse. Another animal might have a monkey crawling on its neck or fish on its side. It is all beautifully done and restored.

So, that was the highlight of my week, and I’m champing at the bit to go back. We are already planning a trip back next June, and my friend from Denver said he would like to go with us. My sister has also expressed an interest and my husband says he’d like to go to the Elizabethan theater (I’ll believe that when I see it), so if we all go, we may have to caravan next year!

In other news, my neighbor and I found a beautiful trail last week. It’s in Whipple Creek Park, which is right jammed up next to Vancouver. It is very close to where I go for my art class. We didn’t expect much from it, but in fact found ourselves in a lovely oak forest. The trail had ups and downs and was mostly in very good condition. It is a park used by horses, and although we did not see any horses, we saw lots of things to walk around, if you get my drift, and lots of hoof prints. I got very tired in the 3.1 miles, because of all the ups and downs, but I’ll improve.

P. S. After I published this post the first time, Deb sent me the attached link to an article about the carousel with much better pictures than the one I posted.