Lots of dirt

As of this week, we have had 412 people test positive for the virus in our county and 25 deaths. At least the deaths are slowing way down. There have only been about one a week for a few weeks. Now, they have tested 7,613 people, which still seems inadequate. I just looked and our county population is just a bit less than 500,000, so they have tested just over 10% of us! I don’t know how they are going to know what’s going on that way. Our map information is still confusing, showing 0-40 people with the virus in our zip code but then in the chart version of the map, showing N/A for our zip code. I think someone just accidentally colored our zip code on the map and hasn’t noticed the mistake, although usually these maps are generated from the data, not manually.

On Wednesday afternoon, the truck came with our dirt in it, and we spent the next couple of hours shoveling. We managed to fill one of the three planters with dirt. On Thursday, we took a break from it, because it rained all day long. In any case, I had a regular six-month appointment that day with my doctor. On the way back, I stopped by Christine’s to give her a present. I saw  a program about a Portland company that offers a unique product. You can put together a seven-picture slide of your own photos for a ViewMaster slide, and then buy the ViewMaster and slide from them. Since I discovered this, a couple of years ago, I have been sending them to friends and family if I have enough pictures that apply to them. I could just barely get one together for Christine. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a picture together, probably because I hate having my picture taken. I had already had slides made for the rest of my family, who have their own ViewMasters.

On Friday, Wayne and I resumed our dirt moving and managed to fill both of our last two planters by the end of the day. Wayne did a lot more work than I did, because my arm muscles aren’t used to that kind of activity, but I did plenty of shoveling. I just had to fall out every once in a while and he continued by himself.

My anchor plants for the three boxes are a baby blue spruce, a lilac bush, and a Japanese maple. Besides those plants, I bought a kaleidoscope abelia, two blueberries, a dwarf Sitka spruce, a , carpet rose bush, and two begonias.

On Tuesday, I made plans with my sister to go to the nursery. She brought Ares’s car and trailer so that we could buy large plants and trees if we found any, and I drove behind in my car. As it turned out, I couldn’t afford really large trees. I ended up with quite a haul, maybe not the best choices in the long run, but I don’t know what I’m doing. It turned out that because I paid more attention to how tall the plants would become, I ended up buying quite a few things that are going to get wide. I included a photo of my haul. I also intend to plant bulbs, perennials, and annuals. I was going to buy the bulbs locally, but I looked online and decided it was quite possible everyone would be out of bulbs, so I found a spot that still had some ranunculus, peonies, poppies, and some other flowers. I am a little alarmed, though, because I made the order yesterday and have not yet received an acknowledgment of it, which is usually automatic. Since hardly anyone had any bulbs left, I am worried that something happened to my order. It may just be, since I placed my order after their closing time, that they don’t acknowledge it until they are sure they have the plants. However, that was yesterday, and they haven’t even answered my follow-up email, asking if they got my order. I didn’t see anything on their website about being closed because of the virus. I guess I will wait another day and then place another order.

Here’s my tiny tomato.

Placing my tomatoes on the back deck seems to be working out wonderfully well. I already have an inch-big tomato coming in, something that has never happened before at this time of year. I have usually had to wait until the end of the summer before I got anything resembling a tomato.

There has been a big breakthrough with Luke. It has long been our practice, except occasionally or for special events, to eat dinner in front of the TV. (I know, what a bad habit.) Since he was small, we have been telling Luke to go on his place during dinner, and if he does so without too much fuss, he gets a little bit of what we’ve been eating. It’s almost always a struggle, though. Sometimes he’s had to retire to his crate, and most times, I have to walk him right up to his place and turn back around to make sure he has all his paws up on it. (At Enzo’s, he was known for having at least one paw hanging off place at all times.) Just the last two nights, though, as I started serving up the food in the kitchen, he went to his place all by himself, without even being told, and got on it. What a sweet dog!

This week I have finished another story for my novel and started working on the last one. I am not sure whether I will have to write more stories or not. My book will not be a very long one, I don’t think, but then short stories often aren’t long volumes. I don’t have any more ideas for stories, but my latest idea was a pretty good one, I think. I also worked again on the story I was least happy with, but I decided it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

On Monday, Wayne did my grocery run with me so that he could stop in Vancouver clinic and get a lab test done. I think I’m not going to continue trying to place a weekly grocery order, because it is now a lot easier to make a reservation. My last order was very light. I will keep a running shopping cart and place my order when it becomes more substantial or we need something right away.

I found a disturbing thing on the house this week. I noticed that the glass of one window for the upstairs guest room has a smashed circle, as if something round hit it. It is not broken through, but it is pushed in. I know it was not like that when we bought the house or when we were doing all the work on it. I was trying to think if I hit the windows when I was first learning how to throw the ball for Luke with the chucker. I did hit the house once, but I don’t remember hitting the window. If I did, I suppose I might have made that spot, which is about the right size. Of course, Wayne thinks those kids did it. It is not a bullet hole. I had a couple of those in my windows in Austin.

Pretty much all week it has been rainy and dreary. Friday was the exception, and we spent almost all of it outside working on the garden. This morning it is very wet out, but it looks like it could turn nice.


A spoofing attempt

As of today, our county had had a total of 393 cases of the virus and 24 people have died. Only 6,286 people have been tested. I guess I should be happy that the number of people tested finally seems to be going up by about 1000 a week. The map showing our zip code now says that we have up to 40 people in our area with the virus, but the corresponding chart says N/A for our zip code, so that’s confusing, as if they have no data. If they have no cases, I’m not sure why the zip code isn’t shown in white like it used to be.

I reported that my best friend in Illinois thought she had the virus. She seems to have it, because she gets recurring fevers and headaches, but it also seems to be a mild case. I’m hoping that soon she’ll stop getting sick just when she thinks she is well.

This week, Christine came over to our house for social-distanced dog activities. My original plan was to have coffee at either end of our outdoor table so that she wouldn’t have to come inside, but she was worried that Duchess, who is very small, might slip under the deck rails and fall to the ground. The deck is one floor up, so we didn’t want that, plus the slope is right under it, so a falling dog could fall quite far. So, we had coffee inside, which might have been a bit risky, but then we took the dogs down to the wolf pen so they could run around and chase each other, and took them for a walk on opposite sides of our road. It was a nice time for her to come, as several of our trees were flowering. The azaleas had also just started to come out but aren’t fully bloomed yet.

On Friday, I caravaned with my sister and her family out to a road we have hiked before, north of Cougar. It is a seven-mile walk along an old logging road that runs next to Yale Lake. However, this time we took some side trips and discovered a couple of nice, unoccupied beaches. Since the state had opened its parks, we wanted somewhere that wouldn’t be full of people, and on this walk, we only met two other people. The first trail off the path led down through bright green forest to a narrow green ledge next to the Lewis River, just before it goes into the lake. It had a large rock next to it where the kids enjoyed playing.

Here are Luke, my sister, and my niece relaxing on the green beach by the Lewis River. Luke has forgotten his social distancing.

We returned to the road and took the next right, which led us down to a broad sandy beach. The kids hadn’t wanted to leave the green beach, but they were delighted with the sandy beach. We saw another couple there, who came up in a kayak and landed but then got back into their kayak immediately and went on. It was a bright, windy day, and at one point we got blasted with sand. The kids and Luke were especially having fun.

It was a very nice day. The only other outing I have made this week was my usual Monday morning grocery pickup and stop by the coffee booth. This time the owner was not there, so she finally managed to hire a helper. Just before this all happened, she was telling me how difficult it was to find someone reliable.

Luke inspecting my beautiful boxes on our skimpy front lawn. They are just pine, but after Ares researched the matter, he said that the newer cedar doesn’t last much more than a year longer than pine.

On Saturday, Ares, my niece’s husband, came over with wood and built my planters, which he told me he would build three years ago. Because all of our land has rocks underneath it, it being artificially formed after they dug into a hill to build the house, I have had nowhere to plant ornamental plants except for a few things I put into the orchard. In Texas, despite my difficulty keeping things going in the heat, I used to plant annuals every year at minimum. The original plan was to have two 4 x 6 x 3 beds, but when he finished the first one, he suggested that it was too tall. I had not wanted to do much bending, which was why I asked for three feet high, but I could see it didn’t look right. So, he nicely took it apart and told me he had wood to do three 4 x 6 x 2 beds. So, that’s what he did! Now I am waiting for my garden soil to arrive, which is supposed to happen this afternoon. Then much dirt moving will ensue. And finally, the fun part, going to the nursery.

I had assumed we would make the boxes out of cedar, but Ares researched this topic and found that only the old-growth cedar, which is no longer available, lasts much longer than pine. He said my pine boxes might last one year less than cedar but would cost a lot less. He also put them together with screws so that it would be easy to pop out a rotting board and replace it.

Today and yesterday were cold and rainy, but leading up to them we had some hot days. Just last week I stopped wearing the two shirts I began wearing every winter since I got here. Then suddenly, I needed a short sleeve t-shirt for a couple of days, and now I’m back to two shirts.

If you are wondering about my title, I have also been receiving attempted spoofing messages this last week. I got a message purportedly from a seller on Amazon about the toaster I bought a few months ago. I had given this toaster a bad review, because two months after I bought it, I put the lever down to toast a piece of bread, and it broke right off! Although Wayne says the break looks like metal fatigue, to me it looks like the part, which feels and looks like metal from the exterior, is just plastic. We had been using the toaster for two months, so I just gave it the bad review, thinking we wouldn’t be able to return it.

Anyway, I received this message offering me a gift card if I would remove the review and telling me how to do it. This message also had buttons at the bottom that said “Yes, I Agree,” or “No, I Don’t Agree.” The message looked really fishy to me. First, the description of the product I bought was in Spanish, while the actual product description on Amazon was not. The links to my purchase were clearly Amazon links and they were to my purchase, but the email addressed itself to my great niece, who is only 11. Finally, there was no company name on the emails, just a person’s name. I ignored the first message but I kept getting them, and each time they offered me more money.

I thought it could not be from the seller, because they would only have the information I used for the sale. There was no way they would know my great niece’s name. At one point, I was ready to push the button, because I couldn’t see what anyone would gain by asking me to remove a review, but of course, it was the buttons they wanted me to push. I did not and finally reported this to Amazon, and they are assigning it to their fraud team. However, I am concerned, because these people must at least have gotten into my buying history and my address book, and I’m not sure I conveyed that very clearly to Amazon.

I have been mentioning our ducks now and then, but I don’t think I mentioned that one time Wayne said they were too big for ducks, they were geese. However, the next time I got a look at them, I looked them up in my bird book and they were mallards. (Keep in mind that I see them from the house, which is far up above the pond.) Then, on Friday on their way over to caravan for the hike, my niece and sister reported that they had seen two Canada geese and three goslings coming from our pond. So, I thought, gee, how could I have mistaken geese for ducks? Well, just yesterday while Wayne and I were sitting on a bench by the pond, a female duck landed in it, so apparently we have both a duck and a goose couple staying in our pond this spring. In fact, if we hadn’t gotten the spoofing messages, which I thought was more interesting, I would have named this post “Duck duck goose.”

Lately, too, we have seen a lot of the rabbits and the chipmunks in our front yard, the chipmunks usually under the bird feeder. They are driving Luke nuts!

Finally, a discovery from the depths of the basement. Quite a few years ago, I put together a small collection of turn-of-the-century (20th) boys’ books by W. H. G. Kingston. I had only read one of them and was meaning to read the rest but never got around to it. Then during the move they were misplaced. Wayne finally found them in the bottom of a box of his unpacked books. I read one, and it wasn’t as good as I remembered, but it’s nice to have found them.

And that is about it for this week! I hope everyone is well.



A new normal week

This week the county reports we have had 368 positive cases of the virus, 22 deaths, and almost 5000 people tested. Things seem to be slowing down here, except for the pitiful number of people tested, which tells me we don’t know. Also, our county map showing where the cases are has always shown no known cases in our zip code, but just this week it shows 1 to 30 cases. That’s not many, but it means the virus is just making it into our part of the county. All this opening up that’s going on in the rest of the country is making me very nervous. I can’t help but think that we’re headed for a resurgence.

Here on the home front we have made three trips out this week. On Friday, Wayne suggested we go get an ice cream cone, so we drove up to Amboy to a mom and pop coffee/ice cream stand and got a cone at the drive through. Not very Weight Watchery, but supporting our local business.

On Monday, I did my usual pickup at the grocery store and by the way made sure to buy a cup of coffee at my favorite drive-up stand. I used to stop there frequently before all this started, but now I’m not out as much, so when I am, I try always to stop there. The owner is almost always there these days, and she has had to cut her hours.

On Tuesday, we went to Costco for the first time since all this started. They have things organized pretty nicely there, but I was shocked by how many people paid absolutely no attention to how close they were to other people. At one point, I was walked down an aisle, and their aisles are plenty wide enough. Another cart was passing me on the other side, and we were far enough apart, but then a woman shot right between us, right past me, about a foot away from my arm. At another point, I was picking up a package of toilet paper, and a woman came up right next to me to get hers instead of waiting until there was space. Even though the store was relatively uncrowded, there was more of this kind of behavior the later it got. We went in for what we understood were the senior hours, but I think they’d been going for a while when we got there, because we thought we were early, but people were already leaving. I looked at Costco’s site beforehand, but their hours information was confusing.  On the way back, we went to the farm store to buy dog food and bird seed, and I picked up some asparagus roots. Five of the eight I planted last year are coming up, but five asparagus spears does not make a meal, and my sister says you can’t pick them all. Next year, I am going to devote an entire square of my little garden to asparagus.

Here’s my tomato unit in all its glory.

That was it this week for going out. However, my garden wagon arrived, so after Wayne put it together, I got my rolling tomato unit up and going. I haven’t actually moved them back to the front of the house since then. They’ve been on the back deck. But there, they are already getting a couple more hours of sunshine than they usually get in the garden. I think they might do a lot better this year. We’ll see.

Also on the garden front, my bed of mixed greens has progressed so well that last night I made salads from it. A nice change from the old iceberg lettuce, which Wayne has been buying like crazy lately.

The weather has been warm then cold then warm. Today it is supposed to be cool and rainy, and tomorrow it is supposed to get up in the 70’s. We had several very nice days toward the end of the week, so I mowed the orchard for the first time this year. It’s quite a job, about an acre and on about a 30-degree slant. I wish Wayne would mow it with his riding mower, but he won’t. All he mows with that blasted thing is the wolf pen, which is flat, and our pitifully small front yard, which I can do with the regular mower in about 15 minutes. He says he always feels like he is going to fall off the mower in the orchard, which leaves me to walk up and down it with the regular mower, an effort that usually takes me two days. The one time he did it with the riding mower, it took about 20 minutes. About once a summer, Ares comes over on his riding mower and does it for us. I suppose I should learn to use the riding mower, but I can hardly get up into it, although he had me do that a few days ago when he charged the battery, and I got up into it easier than I had before.

And speaking of Ares, he put in an order for some wood for projects for himself and also for my landscaping boxes. I am finally going to have boxes to plant ornamental trees, flowers, and bushes. He said he would do them for me our first winter here, but he obviously forgot. When I asked him if he might have time for them now, his work finally having slowed down a bit, he said he was just about to order wood and would put in an order for us, too. I saw him (from a distance) on Monday when I went by to drop off the check, and he said he was letting the wood sit until it was supposedly virus free and would be over to our house this weekend to build them. I’m so excited!

My exercise this week has been solely devoted to walks with Luke. On Tuesday, I took some cheese along so that I could bribe him to go in the direction of Katrina’s house, since he usually refuses to go that way. We popped up there to see if anyone was in the orchard. My sister was, and she gave me a tour of the garden. Then Katrina and Mischa came out of the house, and we all had a talk in the driveway. Mischa said it was really exciting to see someone else for a change. Søren was also out, but he was obsessed by not being touched by Luke for fear of getting the virus. We kept telling him that it would only be a problem if he petted Luke, but he mostly stayed away from us. I tried to get him to give Luke a command so that he would feel more in control, but he wouldn’t do it. However, Mischa told Luke to go down, and Luke did, and he stayed down until I let him up. Everyone was impressed, but Katrina joked that it only took us two years to get him to do that. (Actually, he could do that a year and a half ago.)

I worked a bit with a story that I wasn’t happy with, and then I got an idea for another story, or at least one friend suggested something to help with a problem with the story I was working with. So, I started that one, and I’m not happy with it either, but I figured out yesterday how to fix it.

On Friday my Literary Wives blogging group had a Jitsi meeting. I didn’t think Jitsi worked as well as Zoom, but maybe everything is just more overloaded now than last time we used Zoom. One person’s audio kept falling out, and I was unable to see myself in the video, just a static picture, so I wasn’t sure how well the others could see me. The last time Literary Wives did this was so long ago that only two of us were there at the time. It was nice to see and visit with everyone, and we are going to schedule another one after we do our posts. Our next posts are June 1, and we’re discussing The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.

And that’s about it for this week.

Continuing with the new (ab)normal

Today, our county has 343 known cases of Covid-19 and 21 deaths. They have tested nearly 4,000 people, which still seems ridiculously low. There has been more talk of loosening restrictions, but it seems early. We don’t exactly need another breakout. I am getting sick of Trump’s wildly inconsistent messages on this subject. But then, when has he ever been consistent? I find it interesting that in our county at least, there have been nearly twice as many cases in women as men, but three times as many men have died.

The spring continues to spring. My cherry trees are both blooming, and I have noticed some trees on my property with small red flowers that I didn’t realize were ornamental before. My azaleas are just starting to come out. By next week, I should be able to take a pretty picture. And my rhodies have huge buds on them. It looks like my magnolia tree, which I planted last year, might get two flowers on it this year. It’s still only about 5 feet high. No sign of blooming for my lilacs, though. Christine has told me sometimes it takes many years for them to bloom.

I’ve been going around my property taking pictures of a few flowering trees to see if I can find out what they are. Here’s the most interesting one of them. It’s the red-flowered tree I mentioned above, totally nondescript and  kind of wispy-looking most of the year, and it’s being overshadowed by a grove of alders, and I just noticed last spring that it had these small red flowers. They have opened up a lot since two days ago, when I first noticed them, and now instead of being bright red, they’re a more purply pinky shade.

I have no idea what this tree is. It’s about 12 or 14 feet high with a long thin trunk and branches. I see my picture is a bit out of focus.

I haven’t seen the female duck in ages, but there are still the two males hanging out together. So odd. I kept seeing a male, and I wasn’t sure if I was seeing just one or two separately, but the other day, they were both together. I also spotted the beaver twice this week. Last spring, I saw a lot of him, but this year, I have only glimpsed him the two times. I was beginning to wonder if he had moved on to my neighbor’s two ponds.

Since last Wednesday, I have only had two outings. On Friday, Wayne, Luke, and I drove to a small country butcher shop where I buy my marrow bones for Luke. To see him go absolutely bonkers, you just have to say, “Would you like something better than a treat?” He bounds all over the place and then runs to the freezer, and I give him another bone. I usually try to save these treats for dismal, rainy days, when neither one of us wants to go out much.

This Monday, I made my trip to the grocery store. When I was talking to my Texas friends, they said that their app for the store pickup system allows them to state for each item whether it can be substituted. I wish the Fred Meyer app did that, because there are some things I don’t want substituted. For example, we keep trying to get orange vanilla fizzy water, and they always substitute tangerine lemonade, which I don’t like. This week, they tried to give me another carton, but I sent it back. Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer, has awful-tasting tomato juice, but a couple of weeks ago, that’s what I got instead of Campbell’s. At least I got eggs this time. Now I have a plethora of them. As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t get any and had been out of them for a week already. Now, I have several dozen in my fridge. I’m beginning to understand how people start hoarding.

It sounds like the system HEB uses that my friends told me about has more downsides than ours, though. Not the first week, but ever since, I have been able to make as many changes as I want to my order. So, I put my order in with just a few things on the day I’m picking my last one up so that I can reserve a spot, and then I add things to it through the week. Apparently, the number of times you can do this on the HEB system is limited, so I guess the substitutions thing is something I can live with.

After my grocery outing, I dropped in to see Christine, keeping careful about touching things and getting close. This time I took her some slices of buttermilk lemon Bundt cake that I made the day before. It’s not very Weight Watchery, but I’ve found myself doing a lot more baking. Well, I had hardly done any baking at all since I went on Weight Watchers, just made a few pies during peach and berry season.

Christine and I talked last week about her bringing Duchess here, so that we could walk the dogs on the opposite sides of my road (it’s more difficult to walk on the city streets in her neighborhood and keep a distance), let the dogs play in the wolf pen, and sit on opposite ends of my eight-foot-long outdoor table. However, the weather did not cooperate. The weather has been a little better since then. Most days have been rainy, but Sunday and yesterday were very nice, warm and sunny. I think it got up to 70 on Tuesday.

Last week, Wayne finally burned the burn pile, which was mostly the blackberry bramble we had cut down a few months ago and the blackberry vines we had been pulling up for months. I saw he had it going really good, in fact it was almost out, when I asked him if he’d brought down all the bags of yard waste. He said no, so I went back up to the house and got the wheelbarrow and hauled them all out of the garage. It’s a good thing I did, because there were eight of those big paper yard waste bags. There were a bunch more, actually, but they seemed to be full of wood chips. I had a fun time getting all eight bags down the steep driveway, across the orchard, and into the wolf pen, where we were burning the pile. The orchard is sloped fairly steeply, so as soon as I started across that, two of the bags kept falling out of the wheelbarrow. I finally left them there, delivered the other bags, and went back and got them.

The only thing bad about using the wolf pen was that now there is a dark charred spot in the area where we were going to bring the dogs to play if Christine can come over again. Wayne has covered it with dirt and put grass seed on it, which tells me that he’s going to be cross if the dogs run through it, and they’re going to get dirty. But Christine’s dog is used to a fenced yard, so she can’t run free at our place. I remember one time when we were first walking dogs, Duchess’s leash unsnapped, and she ran around and around us in circles. We were at the side of the high school right near the street, and Christine was really frightened that Duchess would run out into the street. She wasn’t responding to commands at all, she was so happy to be loose. Finally, she ran up near me, and I was able to grab her fur. She yelped, but at least she didn’t get squashed by a car.

Luke and I have taken several walks down our road, although when we get to where it comes to a T, he is happy to go down to Maja’s, but I have to bribe him to get him to go the other way. I’m not sure what’s up with that, because he and I used to walk that way with his leash most of the time. We have also gone the other direction up the road several times so he can cavort for a while with Rosie. He doesn’t like to stay there long, though. I think after he gets flipped over a couple of times, he’s ready to leave. She is a lot bigger than him and plays rough. Reportedly, he is a rather reserved player who, when he is at Puppy Play (which obviously he hasn’t been in six weeks) watches the other dogs for a while and then picks out a dog to play with.

And speaking of exercise, not that I’ve had much recently, my Fitbit broke on Monday. I just started flickering like crazy, starting Sunday night, and then it stopped working. I tried charging it and resetting it, but no luck, and it is no longer reporting to its app, because I did way more than 1000 steps on Monday! That’s frustrating, because I think I’ve had this fancy dan model of Fitbit only a year, whereas the cheapy ones I had before that lasted several years each. I got this one because I realized the others weren’t waterproof, and I’d been washing dishes with them on, taking showers, and swimming. And yet they lasted longer than the fancy waterproof one. I ordered another one, but unfortunately, it’s the same model as the one I had.

I have finished an eighth story for my novel, but I don’t think I’m happy with it. I figured it would be better to pound it out and then go back and try to fix it. I made a change to the narration that I thought would be more effective, but then it made it much harder to convey some things, so I might rethink that. Then, today, I returned to a story that I started last year, which is going to be the last story, no matter how many others I might add. I have a clear idea of the arc of the story, but I’m having trouble getting there.

Other than those things and some more blackberry vine pulling and bush trimming and gardening, I managed to finish another jigsaw puzzle. It appears to be the only other picture I have for you this week. This is Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland. Everyone keep well!

A duck ménage?

Today our county has 296 positive Covid-19 cases and 16 deaths. The number of people tested has gone up by more than 1000, but they’ll have to do better than that. A map of the county shows that our zip code has no cases, so that’s good news, but Battle Ground, where we have to go to do our errands, is one of the county hot spots. I noticed posts on Facebook today about people in Yacolt protesting the shut-down orders and apparently trying to work through the mayor to have them removed in Yacolt. However, the people pushing for that don’t seem to realize that just because we have no known cases doesn’t mean we don’t have any cases.

Over the last week, I have continued to work on my novel of short stories. I have added more links between the stories, and now I am working on a seventh story. As the novel moves further back into the past, I feel less confident of my stories, particularly as there is not much information online about the places and people I am writing about. I have had to decide to write it up and do more research after I can get around to some historical societies when this is all over.

On Friday, I got worried about finding vegetable starts, which I had been fruitlessly looking for online, so Wayne and I drove down to the farm store, with Luke in the back. The store had vegetable starts, but compared to previous years, they had almost no inventory. So, I am not going to be able to try growing Siberian tomatoes this year. Maybe next year early in the season I will order them. I did find a couple of early tomatoes, one called Glacier and the other something else suggesting the frigid.

I have a plan for my tomatoes this year. The problem with my garden is that even though I put it in the spot up by the house that gets the most sunshine, it still only gets a few hours a day. The sun comes over the trees in that area about noon or maybe a little before, and then it is down behind the trees on the other side by mid-afternoon. The trees have gotten higher, of course, so that we get even less sunlight than when we planted the first year. And, my husband and niece didn’t put it where I wanted it, exactly in the middle of that space so that it could get the most sunlight possible. That was for two reasons. One was that there was already a sort of patio-like area of somewhat wobbly cement blocks that they decided to put it on, and that area was positioned more to the west than the center of this little yard. The other was that my husband had the propane company put his stupid big propane tank right where I wanted my garden. He could have put it anywhere in that yard, including right next to the driveway, but no. My husband was fully aware of where I wanted to put my garden, since we had discussed it several times, but the propane tank is now literally right where I intended it to go. I should have known not to be away from home when Wayne has a service person coming out, because other things like that have happened. (I also guess I’m not the first woman who thinks her husband never listens to a thing she says.)

Two years ago, I had a huge bunch of tomatoes appear right when it started frosting, so they all got frozen when they were green. Last year to get around that, I planted my tomatoes in big pots, but then right when I was finally getting some ripe ones, a bunny came and chewed big chunks out of each one.

So, my plan is for mobile tomatoes. I have ordered a garden wagon, and I am planting my tomatoes in big pots, the size for small trees, and planning to roll them around to the deck in the morning, where they will get a good six hours of sunlight before the sun goes to the other side of the house, and then I will roll them to the back yard. Even if I keep them on the deck most of the time, they’ll get more sunlight than they do now. We’ll see if that makes a difference. My niece has lots more sunlight than I do, and she has had to put in a greenhouse in order to grow tomatoes. Since I think fresh tomatoes are about the best thing there is, I have been disappointed with my harvest so far. In Austin, they were about the only thing I could grow because of the heat.

I was going to repot them Monday, when it was very nice, but the forecast for Tuesday was also very nice, so I procrastinated and worked on my latest short story instead. Then, in one day, the forecast changed from lots of sun for the next few days to rain, cold, and clouds. I have been debating how much I want to go out in the drizzle and pot my tomatoes. After all, if it’s raining, they’ll do better in their small pots than they would in the sun. And my wagon won’t arrive until next week, so I won’t be able to move them.

My garden this year is sparsely planted. Sugar snap peas are along the back. Cabbages are the plants planted in the middle of the bare spaces except for one bush bean plant. (I haven’t done well with beans, but I keep trying.) The section on the right side that is already coming on fairly well is salad greens that I planted from seed several weeks ago. On the front left is my artichoke plant, which I planted last year, and some rosemary. Obviously, I need to weed whack the aisle.

I did go ahead and plant all the rest of my starts while the weather was nice. I decided to stick with plants that have worked well for me even if they take up a lot of room, so besides the lettuce and some beans, I planted the sugar snap peas again and cabbages. Supposedly my asparagus should come up from last year, although I am worried that it is dead, because I thought it should already be coming up. When I added dirt to the garden this year, the old asparagus plants looked dead. So, maybe I’ve killed my asparagus and will have to start all over next year.

Lukey and I have continued to take walks without a leash, which is very freeing. We can just decide to go for one without any planning. Many times I have been out with him in the orchard and decided a walk would be nice but was too lazy to go back and get his leash. I may have to start carrying cheese with me for a while again, though, because on Monday I wanted to walk down to Katrina’s house and pick up some big pots, but Luke still refuses to walk down the road in that direction, once we’re at the intersection of our three roads. He will go down towards Maja’s house, the opposite way, but not towards Katrina’s. In fact, going toward Maja’s was what we were doing this weekend when we encountered Maja and the little girl who is living in Maja’s barn apartment with her parents. It has been nice for Maja that they moved in, because now that we are all isolated, she has a ready-made family. Even before the isolation, they were all eating meals together and the little girl spent time playing in her house. Maja has tended to give that apartment out to people in exchange for work around her house, but it was not until these people moved in that anyone actually did much work around her house, at least not since I’ve been here. Mostly, the previous tenant just used up her firewood.

Anyway, we took a walk with Maja and the little girl (also named Maja) up to the mailboxes and back. It was nice to see her. When I encountered her before, she said she would text me if she was going again, but she has not, so I assume she usually goes with her little family.

That makes me think how sorry I feel now for people who live entirely alone. That was one reason I bopped by Christine’s house briefly last week, but I haven’t done that often because I don’t want to take any chances with her health.

And speaking of that, another single friend from Houston, Mary Elaine, arranged a Zoom meeting for a bunch of us on Sunday afternoon. I was reflecting that, although I had seen almost all of them more recently—the most recently Mary Elaine, who came out to visit us the year before last—we had not all been together for about 20 years, when we all went on a weekend trip together to Port Aransas during a bird-watching weekend. On that trip, Rosanne and Bob went to a bird-watching festival while the rest of us took a cruise out to look at whooping cranes. It was a fun weekend.

Everyone who took part in the Zoom meeting lives in Texas but us, and I met all of the women while working at the same company. I worked with Mary Elaine and Rosanne in Houston, and then that company transferred me to Austin, where I worked with K. C.

Anyway, everyone is well, although some are suffering from a fair amount of boredom. I have not been bored yet. In fact, I was wondering today whether I should actually paint a picture like I’ve been planning to, or just concentrate on my novel.

Speaking of friends, though, I am very worried about my best friend, Claire, whom I have known since college. She lives in Springfield, Illinois, and she thinks she has the virus. If she does, it is a mild case so far, and I hope it stays that way, although it is also hard to tell if it is the virus or the flu. She spoke to a nurse on Monday, who told her to keep doing what she is doing and she’ll check back with her in a few days. She says she has only been out of the house three times since this all started, so let’s hope she doesn’t have it. I have been out of the house far more times than that.

Wayne, by the way, decided a long time ago that he was well, but I heard him tell a family member that he thinks he had a mild case a few weeks ago. Oh, brother!

The cherry tree that is furthest along in bloom

I took some pictures to show that spring is finally arriving here. All we have had up until now is some daffodils and crocuses, but my cherry trees are finally in bloom, and my apple trees shouldn’t be very far behind. I took a picture of the tree that is farthest along, but somehow it always looks more impressive in person than it does in a photo.

If you have still retained the title of this post in your memory, you might be wondering about it. Well, I have been keeping an eye on the ducks. I have actually seen them a lot more often than I have seen ducks in our pond in previous years. I thought I saw ducklings a few weeks ago, but when you realize that I am usually looking at them from the kitchen, down a hill to a brown pond with brown ducks, you will understand that I wasn’t sure. I just thought that I twice saw little brown things in the water next to the parents. But here is the odd thing. The other day, I distinctly saw two males and a female swimming around in the pond in apparent amity. A few weeks ago, I saw what looked like some ducks chasing other ducks away, fully five ducks flew up in the air at that point. But the male wasn’t chasing this male away. I know that eagle pairs will sometimes have a year-old eaglet still with them when they migrate down to Texas for the winter, but I wasn’t aware of any such situation with a duck. So, that is what I am wondering about with my title. Could this other male duck be their progeny from last year? What other situation would end up with two males and a female hanging out together? It’s true that since that day I haven’t seen the second male again, just the male and female pair, but since our pond is surrounded by trees, I can only see them well when they come right out into the open.

And speaking of wildlife, the other day for the very first time I saw chipmunks in our garden. I know that they live in this area, and I have seen them other places, but not at our house. I like that, because we had chipmunks in Michigan but not in Texas, so it’s a long time since I saw the little guys running around by my house.

Wayne is in a rodent war with at least one very fat squirrel. He’s not trying to keep him out of the bird feeder of our three feeders that he can get into, the one with no safeguards. He instead is trying to keep him from raiding the suet holder and removing the entire suet block from it, then running off with it. Just last week, he announced to me that he had wired it so that the squirrel couldn’t possibly get in (and neither could I, so the suet feeder in front has devolved to being his responsibility). However, the squirrel is apparently more deft than I am, because the other day I saw him sitting on the ground with that big block of suet eating it, and then he picked it up and ran off into the woods with it. That squirrel is really fat, which certainly is explained if he has been eating all our suet blocks by himself for months. The squirrels don’t bother our suet blocks or feeders in the back of the house, for some reason, probably because these ones are such easy pickings!

Hope everyone out there is well and staying safe!

A little variety to my week

Today in my county there are 250 positive cases of Covid-19 and 15 deaths. The number of people tested so far is 1616, which, if you remember last week, is the exact same number. In other words, not one more test has returned since last week. Since the county is updating these numbers daily during the week, that’s pretty pathetic. You know they have tested more people in a week, the tests just haven’t come back.

My week was highlighted by some nice, but careful, outings. Last Wednesday on a beautiful sunny day, Luke and I followed my sister’s car containing her and my niece’s family out to a location farther north that I’m not going to identify (you’ll see why) and met SIL Nancy for a hike. Nancy managed to find a spot to hike that was on private property belonging to a corporation, so technically, we probably were trespassing, but it was clear that people came there to hike.

Here is part of my family next to the lake. Not a soul was on the lake, since boating and fishing are not allowed right now.

There were four or five parking places outside a locked gate. We went over the gate and walked down a logging road to a nice meadow where Katrina, Ares, and the kids had lunch. Since there was nowhere to sit that I felt I could get up from, I just stood around at a distance. Nancy went off exploring one way, and Sue and Mischa went another. They said there was a waterfall nearby, but it sounded difficult to get to, and since I had Luke on a leash, I didn’t want him pulling me down. Sue and Nancy found a smaller path that led down to a nearby lake, and they all went down there and threw stones in the water for a while. I walked down to look at the lake but didn’t go down the last steep slope to get to it. All our family groups kept a distance, with Nancy way up ahead and me behind everyone.

It was a beautiful day and a nice walk of about three miles. When I left, they were going to go back to the meadow to look at the waterfall. It was nice to see everyone and get some sunshine. I promised everyone I wouldn’t blog about the hike on my hiking blog, because it is so difficult to find somewhere to go these days that is still open and isn’t crowded with people.

The next day, I happened to take Luke down to the orchard when Sue came walking by on her way to the mailboxes. I decided to walk with her even though I didn’t have Luke’s leash with me. This was my great experiment, because I’ve been wanting to be able to just go on a walk and take Luke without all the paraphernalia. Luke was very good. He stuck fairly close to us, although he went on ahead about 20 feet. Even when we came to Rosie’s house, and Rosie was out, he wouldn’t go up to play with her when I told him he could. Instead, he stuck with us up to the mailboxes, where we waited for Sue to get her family’s mail. Then we went back down the road, stopped to play with Rosie for a few minutes, and then walked Sue home.

Luke and I repeated the experiment two more times during the week, and it worked well, except for yesterday, when Luke refused to go down the road to Katrina’s house because a dog was playing with two girls in the yard at the corner. I tried to coax him down the road, especially because the dog wasn’t paying any attention to him, but he wouldn’t go, so we walked down the other road toward Maja’s house instead. He is very good. He comes when he is called and is used to coming and sitting next to me when a car comes by. He got so excited yesterday when he knew we were going for a walk that he bounced off me a couple of times, a practice I’ve been trying to discourage with little success. So, he’s obviously having more fun on our walks now, too.

Also on Thursday, I began working on a project that is new in a way. Over the past few years I have been thinking of an idea for a novel made up of short stories. I had started one story thinking it would be the first one, and then decided it would actually be the last, but I hadn’t finished it. Then I had written about a paragraph of a story I thought would be first. But on Thursday, I had an idea for a whole different dimension for the first story, and I sat down and wrote the whole thing in a couple of hours.

The next day, I had an idea for what I thought would be the second story, so I sat down and wrote it up. I was very happy with both stories and sent them off to a few people to read them. All of them said they were good.

On Saturday, I had an idea for another story that would turn out to be the actual second story, so I sat down and wrote that one. It more closely relates to what is now the third story and perhaps makes the third story more poignant.

On Sunday, I wrote the fourth story. I’m not as happy with that one, but when I looked at it again on Monday, I thought it was better than I remembered. I worked on it more on Monday.

Yesterday I wrote the fifth story. It’s not quite done yet. I need to write a bunch more stories, because what I have written so far would make a very short book. I only have two more in mind, but that will be my next task, to think of other situations for the other stories. It’s quite likely that my fifth story will appear later in the book, because I am going backwards in time.

With all this writing, I forgot about working on John’s book. He gave me a little nudge yesterday, so I finished another chapter of his book. This is what always happens to me when I get into writing. When I was still single and writing, I would come home from work every evening that I wasn’t teaching and work on my book. I would work on it during the weekends if I wasn’t doing something with my friends or correcting papers.

Back in those days, I still managed to keep my apartment, which was much smaller, clean. The house cleaning is pretty much going out the window this week, except for keeping the kitchen clean and doing the laundry. I meant to work on my floors this week, but haven’t had the time or the inclination.

Yesterday, I went out to pick up my grocery order. My theory that I would be more likely to get everything I ordered early in the week was borne out. Only two things got substituted instead of half the things in my last order, a week ago Saturday. However, they had no eggs at all, and I had been out of eggs for more than a week.

I stopped by Christine’s after the grocery store. We had planned it out beforehand. Usually she gives me coffee when I go there, but this time I brought my own, put on a rubber glove to let myself in through her back gate, and sat across the garden from her. It was really nice to see her. I made sure to only touch things, including Duchess, with my gloved hand. She is doing well, but she must be lonely, since she and Duchess live alone. Her older daughter has done drive-by waves, but her youngest daughter is too afraid of infecting her to even do that. I was very careful, because I’d hate to give her anything.

I have noticed that lots of people in the area have bushes of these flowers with the black centers in their yards. I hadn’t seen them before, but I think they are anemones. Here they are in my grandma’s jug on my cookbook bookshelf in the kitchen.

My last stop yesterday was at the produce market, which had eggs! Yay! Lots of eggs, so I bought two dozen. I bought some veggies and some pork chops and a bunch of spring flowers. I think they are anemones. The produce market doesn’t always have flowers, but when they do, they look like they are from someone’s garden rather than from a flower stand. I include a picture of them in my grandmother’s silver water jug for your enjoyment.

Battle Ground at this time of the year is gorgeous, with lots of flowering trees and flowers coming up everywhere. We are behind, so my daffodils are out, and in one day my crocuses all died, but our fruit trees haven’t flowered yet. Neither have my lilac bushes. In fact, they have never flowered. I fertilized them this year in the hopes that we would get some blossoms. Maybe they’re not old enough yet. I have no idea why they haven’t blossomed.

And speaking of plants, I’m beginning to worry that I won’t be able to buy my vegetable starts. I decided to try to buy them online this year, but everything I want is already gone on all the sites I can find. I understand that suddenly everyone has decided they need their own garden, but this is ridiculous. I will probably have to buy my starts at the farm store as I usually do, but I’m not sure when they will be there. I have checked online a couple of times. It seems it should be soon. I’m hoping I’ll be able to order them online and just go pick them up. They claim we can do that, but I’m not sure they’ll put the starts online.

I’ve had bad luck with tomatoes every year, so I was hoping to try a Siberian variety this year, but no such luck finding any. My niece has only managed tomatoes by having a greenhouse. I didn’t think I could afford one, but maybe we can put something together with plastic or something. Where to put it would be the question, since the logical place is by the garden, but the garden doesn’t get enough sun as it is.

Our weather has been gorgeous up to today, when it is raining a bit. A few days ago, I was sitting out under the green umbrella on the deck and decided I wouldn’t be as careful as I usually am about putting the umbrella down when I went back in. That was a mistake. On Monday, I wasn’t aware of strong breezes, but I happened to glance out the window and our table, which is a long wooden one with space for eight people, was tipped over onto some of the chairs and had clearly been dragged a few feet along the deck by the umbrella. I had to get Wayne to help me pull the umbrella out of the hole in the table, and the umbrella pole was a little bent. However, it still works, it’s just at a bit of an angle when you put it up, instead of straight. No big harm done, but from now on I’ll put the umbrella back down!

I have spotted the ducks in the pond several times this week.


Turning into a couch potato

Today our county has 185 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and 13 deaths. So far, 1616 people have been tested, still not very many. We remain mostly inside, and Wayne has been okay lately, although he was taking his temperature yesterday, never a good sign.

I have a mystery connected with my crocuses. They are still looking good, but several days the last week or so I went out to the orchard to find that some of them were torn out of the ground and lying on top of it. Their bulbs seemed to be intact, so I stuck them right back in, and they seem to be doing fine. I would think that if anything was going to eat them, it would have eaten the bulbs.

I am always careful when I’m in the orchard, because I’ve had several sightings of our duck couple, and if I go toward the bottom of the orchard, sometimes they act alarmed, even though I’m not that close to the pond yet. So, I stay away. If what I saw a few weeks ago was ducklings, I haven’t seen them again, but I’m not sure of what I saw. In any case, we have had nesting ducks several times, but their ducklings always get taken by something. The ducks that have been down there lately are not the same ones that we had a month or so ago, because the male of the first pair was black and white, maybe a goldeneye or a scaup, but the couple there now are mallards.

A few weeks ago, it finally looked like it wasn’t going to be snowing anymore or raining every day, so I took the covers off the outdoor furniture. Then, this week on the first sunny day, I got the bright green umbrella out of the garage and put it up above the table. I was able to take my book and coffee out one morning this week for the first time.

We have had sunny or partly sunny weather the last few days, so more opportunity to get exercise but fewer places to get it in. Now, almost all the parks are closed. You can go walk on the paths and trails, but you can’t park, which means that no one can use the parks unless they live near enough to walk there. Christine and I were planning a dog walk in her neighborhood this week, but her daughters talked her out of it. We would have walked apart, but they were worried. So, the only exercise I got this week except for practicing tai chi just a little bit was walking on our road, which is less than 1/2 mile to the end from our house. I have taken Luke on several walks, although he usually prefers to go next door and play with Rosie. I also took a walk with my neighbor, Maja. She came to the end of my driveway, and I walked down, then we walked across the road from each other. We went to the mailboxes and then down to the other end of the road, and then I dropped her at her little road and walked home. At least it was an opportunity to visit.

My only other outings have been to pick up groceries (this time they made several substitutions in what I ordered) and go to the produce market for fresh fruit, vegetables, and meat. My niece and sister bought a half cow, so they have meat in their freezer. We, on the other hand, have a little but not so much.

When I drive down to Battle Ground, I notice that it is getting really beautiful down there. Lots of flowering trees are blooming, and there are lots of flowers out. At our house, only my crocuses and daffodils are out, but we are generally a bit behind the valley when it comes to things blooming.

They’re not very big yet, but some of these green spots are going to end up in our salads this year.

I have been doing my blackberry vine pulling, several days this week, and I finished preparing my beds for the spring planting. I took this picture to show that my salad greens, which I planted a couple of weeks ago, are starting to come up. I have also been playing a lot of ball with Luke. We use a chucker, and he likes to steal the ball out of the chucker before we even get outside. His idea of playing ball is to keep the ball away from the old person.

This is a very difficult puzzle for me. It’s 1000 pieces with large patches of the same color. The sky was the hardest. It is actually changing from light blue to deep brownish gray, but it was difficult to see the color differences when the pieces were on my dining table.

The other thing I did was finally finish my jigsaw puzzle! I have been working on it since January. I had forgotten that when I bought it, I planned to do a bunch of other puzzles first to prepare for its difficulty. As you can see, it has large patches of almost the same color. It literally took me three months to finish this one.

I have also been editing a novel that was written by my brother. It is a little annoying because he makes the same mistakes over and over, but I have been making him find some of them and correct them himself. I also write him notes to tell him why I corrected his manuscript, and he says he’s been learning from me.

I have been thinking about whether I want to paint a painting at home, since we’re going to be here so long. The governor has closed the schools until the end of the year, so I suspect our stay-at-home order will continue at least until the end of May. I picked out a picture to paint, but usually what I do is put the photo on my phone and then go down to Walgreens and print it out so that I have a good quality print. I tried printing it on my printer on glossy stock, but it looked bad. We haven’t been to Walgreens in a while, and when we do go, we’ll probably use the drive-up, so it would not be a good idea to go in just to make a good print of my picture.

Ah, problem solved. I uploaded my picture to the Walgreens site, and they are going to mail me the photo.