Getting briefly back to normal

This week just ordinary things to report, briefly, because next week we are going on vacation to the San Juan Islands!

Art class was really wild last week. The kids were out of control. This made me ask the receptionist, Angie, when Sarah was coming back from maternity leave, as I had always been resolved to switch into her class when she came back. I like Alina well enough, but we have too many young children in our class, and she is only 21 and doesn’t know how to handle them. Angie told me she had already put me on the waiting list for Sarah’s class and that they could open up the third classroom when she came back. They have a list that will fill the class up already of older women like me. Then she told me that if I wanted, Oksana, who has a class at the same time, has openings and she would put me in one. Oksana is one of the few teachers who does watercolor instruction, so it is hard to get into her class usually. I went home and thought about it, but I finally decided just to go for it. It is a late class on Thursday, and I had been hesitating because it would mean I wouldn’t get home until after 9 PM. But I will be on that same schedule for Sarah’s class, so I thought, what the heck. I start this week. I finished my painting last week, finally, but forgot to take a picture of it. I will post that next week.

Here is a picture of Moulton Falls on the other side of the highway. There is another falls to the side and above this one, but I did not think to take its picture.

My neighbor did not go on our hike this week. Instead, my sister and my former tenant went. We decided not to do anything out of the ordinary, just go back to Moulton Falls. Since it has a very easy path with few ups and downs, I left my hiking poles at home and regretted it. That’s because Shawn, my tenant (who is also my great-niece’s other grandmother), took us to a part of the park we hadn’t been to before. We took a side trail down to the highway and across, then took some old stone steps down and down and ended up on a bridge at the base of the actual falls. If you’ll recall, in my last post I said there weren’t really any falls, just rapids. But these are falls, if smallish. The stone steps go across to the other side and up, then there is a path through the forest and a substantial picnic area, and finally you go back across the highway to an area where we had been many times. We ended up getting most of our exercise in the area where we had been before, about 3.4 miles down and back. It turns out this park is much bigger than I had realized.

Other than that, I spent some time weed-whacking the slope again. We have spent a couple of days working outside, but it was very hot yesterday and is supposed to be today (hot for the Pacific Northwest, that is, which is not at all hot for Texas). So, I’m suspending the yard work until it cools off later this week. It was supposed to be hot during the weekend, but instead both days we got a late-afternoon thunder storm, which cooled it down nicely.

I put out another hummingbird feeder and bought a large hanging fuschia plant and put both out on the back deck a few weeks ago. Now we have hummingbirds everywhere back there, flying around, doing acrobatics over the empty area in front of the deck, and squabbling with each other. I love it!

Oh, yes, I only gained 0.6 pounds during my week of dissipation. Yay!

 

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A week of frivolity

A view of the Columbia from up high, taken on our failed hike

I didn’t post last week because I was in the midst of a week of frivolity, entertaining my friend Ray, who came to visit from Denver. The week before, I didn’t do much except clean the house and take my weekly hike with my neighbor. She suggested we go out to Beacon Rock State Park, which is on the Washington side of the Gorge. We didn’t go up the rock but up a hiking path across from it. The hike was supposed to be a short one, a little over two miles round-trip, but I was unable to do it. The path went straight up with no leveling out or going down so that I could catch my breath. Our goal was a waterfall, but after seeming hours of trying to get up the hill, I had to give up. It turned out we had hiked a very short distance, because it only took about 10 minutes to go down. I guess I’m just not ready for so much up. The scenery was beautiful at times, though. Either we were in dense forests or we saw views of the Gorge.

The tae kwon do demo team. My great-niece is the tall redhead in the front row of kids dressed in red.

The Saturday before last, I went to a parade. My great-niece was chosen to perform in the demo team for her tae kwon do class. Of course, I dressed wrong. It was cold in the house, but it was hot down in Hockinson, where the parade was. My niece made the same mistake, and my poor great-niece had two layers of clothes on. Boy, was she hot when she got finished. The kids did a great job, of course. They had to stop periodically and go through a routine. My niece’s husband, whom the red hair came from, walked with the parents behind the team. He came back with a sunburned neck!

My friend Ray arrived last Monday. The first night, all we did was go to the movies, but that is unusual enough. The only movie we could agree on, it being summer and therefore time for movies for 14-year-old boys, was Ready Player One, also for 14-year-old boys, but at least witty. After that we went out to eat at a 24-hour diner. My diet was shot from then on, so I didn’t really try that hard. The damage has yet to be assessed.

My friend Ray on the bridge over Moulton Falls. They’re not really falls, just some rapids, and in this picture, you can’t really see them.

Our hike was moved to Tuesday morning because we were going to the beach on Wednesday, so my neighbor decided not to go. Ray and I went over to Moulton Falls. It was a beautiful day, and we walked about three miles on an easy trail.

Here’s a really bad picture of James Taylor. To give you an idea of how bad it is, he’s the man sitting down on the far right who seems to be dressed in white. In actuality, he was dressed in black. Of course, you can’t see his face at all in this picture. As you can see, though, we had very good seats.

That night was one of the highlights of Ray’s visit. My sister had invited me months ago to attend a James Taylor concert with her. When I realized that Ray’s visit coincided with our concert, I checked to see if tickets were still available and then called Ray and had him buy one. The three of us went out to dinner in Portland and then went to the concert. It was great! I was astonished that his voice seems just as good as it always did. We were disappointed to miss Bonnie Raitt, who was supposed to perform with him but had to cancel. However, the concert was excellent with all the old favorites plus some songs we weren’t familiar with. We got home after midnight for the second night in a row.

On Wednesday, we left for a three-day trip to the Oregon coast. We tried hard to talk my husband into coming, but he decided not to (no surprise there). It seemed contrary to Ray, but we traveled north on I-5 and then cut over to Astoria, where we stopped to go up to the tower and eat lunch, and then drove along the coast most of the way down. Once we got in the Tillamook area, we were inland, and the views were more pastoral. We ended up in Lincoln City. There, Ray had found a great hotel. It is called the Shearwater Inn. Because we thought there were going to be three of us, he got us the Grand Suite, a two-bedroom suite. It was really nice, and a great deal. This entire suite, which was about the size of three normal hotel rooms, cost less than my motel room in Ashland last spring. The hotel was clean and elegant. My bedroom and bathroom alone were the size of a regular room. Then we had a living room with a fireplace and a full kitchen, another bathroom, and a smaller but still nice-sized bedroom with windows on two sides. Our suite had two balconies, although we really only used the one off the living room. The other one was off my bedroom. We felt like we were in the lap of luxury. It didn’t do my diet any good that they filled up a small bowl of salt water taffy every day. I love salt water taffy.

We went for a long walk on the beach, which was a mere 50 feet or so from the door of the hotel. Then we ate dinner at a very good seafood restaurant that was just across the parking lot from our hotel.

The next day we were booked for a whale watch in the afternoon, so we spent the morning driving south from Lincoln City along the coast. We saw some spectacular scenery. The weather was a bit blustery, and we were supposed to have confirmation on the trip by 9:30, but they didn’t really confirm until about noon, and then they wanted us there by 1 instead of 2. So, we had to jump in the car and drive back up to Depoe Bay. I was surprised to find we were going in a very small boat, a rubber launch that only held six passengers. Before, I had gone whale watching on large boats. We were able to go very fast, but I think being lower in the water made it harder to see the whales. We saw one and followed it along for a while, but our captain claimed to see another one that we never saw. One thing that happened on that boat that I never saw on the larger ones was that both of the other women in the boat got seasick. One of them spent the entire trip kneeling over the side. We were supposed to see a movie before the trip, but that was moved to afterwards. However, by the time we got back, Ray and I were so hungry that we skipped the movie and went straight for lunch. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening exploring the coast.

I took this picture of a bridge and the beautiful rugged coastline when we were down below near the Spouting Horn. It was too difficult to get a picture of the Horn when it was spouting, so I didn’t try.

The most interesting sights we saw that day were along Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. There, the sea comes in on a rocky coastline, creating some really interesting phenomena. One is called the Spouting Horn. The sea comes in a channel called Cooks’ Chasm that has a cave at the end. If the water hits the cave just right, the water shoots a spout way up from a hole at the top of the rock. Another feature is called Thor’s Well. It’s a hole in the rocky shoreline. Every wave that comes in, water bubbles up in a huge bubble that comes up several feet above the edge of the rock and then gets sucked back down the hole when the wave goes out. We were told to view these an hour before high tide, and we stayed there an hour watching them. These sights are spectacular but can be dangerous, because people can be sucked by the waves back out into the ocean.

The next morning was the only little glitch of our stay in our hotel. I woke up really early that morning. We had had an interrupted sleep, because the city electric department was working all night outside our windows. Ray said he got up in the middle of the night to watch them for a while, they were making so much noise. In fact, they cut the power to our hotel from 11 PM to early morning. I would have thought I would sleep in after that, but instead I woke up shortly after 5 AM with the idea of taking a last walk on the beach before we left that morning. Once I had the idea in my head, I couldn’t let go of it, so I went out and walked on the beach for about 40 minutes. It was perfectly peaceful. I only saw another woman with two dogs and a lot of sea birds. I would have stayed out longer, but I was afraid Ray would wake up early and wonder where I was.

However, when I got back to the hotel, my badge had stopped working. This small hotel doesn’t man the desk all night. Instead, the desk doesn’t open until 7:30. There I was with no money and no phone outside at 6:15 wondering if I had to stay out there another hour. Of course, I hadn’t been able to decide whether to stay out longer, but since I couldn’t get in, I was determined to get in. Luckily for me, a maintenance man was there right in the lobby when I went to the main door. He had been checking the hotel systems ever since the power went back on at 4:30 AM, so he let me back into the hotel and into my room.

That day we had tickets booked on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railway in the afternoon. Before our train trip, we explored the coast north of Lincoln City. This drive we took was supposed to have the most spectacular scenery, but what we saw was a little disappointing. Of course, we didn’t make it all the way around the top of the cape to Pacific City, because we had to make our train trip. It was raining all day, so it was nice to just sit on the train, but otherwise, this trip was a little disappointing as well. It went from one seaside town to another, Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach, but in between, we mostly saw the backs of houses. Rockaway Beach seemed like kind of a sad little beach town with a muddy beach and mostly tiny cottages. However, they have a great bakery right across from the railroad depot. We went across and had a treat and coffee then got back on the train.

After that, it was time to drive home, which we did in pouring rain. This was the first time to use my GPS, which gave us such a wacky route home that we ended up using Ray’s phone. The entire way home it was pouring, and we didn’t get home until about 7 PM. My neighbor and I had concluded that the preferences for the GPS were set strangely, so we had several times tried to figure out how to get to them. As a test on Friday, when we were sitting patiently in Portland next to the I-5 ramp (which would take us almost straight home), we told the GPS to Go Home, and it said, “Cannot go there with your preferences.” We then made a plan to go out to the garage before our next road trip (to Mt. St. Helens) to check the preferences when the car was stationary. Sure enough, we were discussing this plan the next morning when my husband, who had just said he didn’t change the preferences, said “I know how to do that,” and left for two minutes to change them. Since I didn’t know how to change them, it was clear who had done it in the first place and who had listened to me complaining that I couldn’t use the GPS on numerous occasions because it had routed me so strangely, and yet had said nothing. I don’t remember if I told you that the morning my friend and I went to Ashland, it tried to send me four hours out of the way to pick her up. She lives an hour away. The GPS had a Highways check box, and apparently, my husband had unchecked it, so it was trying to route us without using major highways.

The mask is open to show the other mask inside, but the side parts, when closed, make the beak of a bird that juts out maybe five feet in front of the dancer’s face.

But that’s neither here nor there, there is more frivolity to relate. The next night we did one of the most interesting things of the trip. We went to a summer ceremony at the Lelooska Foundation. The Lelooska family created the foundation to preserve the arts of the native people of North America. The ceremony takes place in a long house and consists of stories, dances, and the display of the masks representing the characters to which the Lelooska family has earned the rights and privileges, as he explained. These masks are extraordinary, and the ceremony and stories are interesting and funny. Chief Lelooska explained the meaning of what they were doing first and then told the story while the characters came out and danced. The masks are fantastic. We were not allowed to take pictures, so my picture is from a card that I bought in their gallery. This mask is one of a bird, and you can see that the person wearing it (most likely a woman, as almost the entire family was made up of women) has huge claws on her feet. This picture shows the mask opened up to show another mask underneath, but when the mask is closed, the beak projects about five feet in front of the wearer. It is truly spectacular, and then she makes a snapping movement, and it opens up.

Our final outing was on Sunday, when we drove up to Mt. St. Helens with my sister and my great-niece. It was a rainy day, and when we got to the mountain top, the mountain was covered by a cloud, so we never got to see it up close. However, my great-niece was delighted, because she said she had never been in a cloud before. The movies they have at the Johnson Observatory are great whether you can see the glaciers and the caldera of the volcano or not. I was delighted to find that I could easily tackle some hills that I had not been able to go up last October when my friend visited. It was cold and sleeting at the top of the hill across from the mountain, and we had a wet drive home.

My friend left on Monday afternoon, and after we returned from the airport, I fell asleep for three hours!

By the way, my painting is finally finished. I forgot to take a picture of it, but I’ll post a picture of it next week.

 

First harvest

The bathroom with its painted walls and tile back splash

My guest room and bathroom are finished! I finished painting the bathroom late last week, and on Saturday my husband and I installed the self-adhesive tile. It was really easy to do, and it looks good. The wall board behind the sink looked really messy (actually, the walls in that room don’t even feel or paint like real wall board, but I don’t know what else they could be), but I couldn’t figure out a way to paint just that part of the wall without it looking bad, since the cabinet and the back splash do not line up exactly. I took a look at the self-adhesive tile in Home Depot, and this is what I found that did not require us to actually cut tile. All we had to cut was the backing that connected the small stone tiles together. My husband helped me install it, and it took us about 30 minutes to do it.

On the garden front, I was afraid last week that my bean plants weren’t going to come up. I told my sister that, and she said that she goes through that every year, because the bean seeds take a long time to germinate, but then they grow very quickly. Sure enough, the very next day I saw one poking out of the ground. That one is now three inches high, and the other two are two inches. It looks like one of the seeds is not going to come up. Still three bean plants should give two people plenty of beans.

My first harvest! A basket of spinach

I just harvested my first vegetables for dinner. I cut some spinach for a salad the other night. I don’t know what I was thinking. I could have been eating spinach any time the last couple weeks. I just had it in mind that nothing was ready yet and wasn’t paying attention to the evidence of my own eyes.

Also, I am just beginning to see evidence that my lettuces and salad greens are coming up. A few are just peeking up from the dirt.

This week I am concentrating on getting the house good and clean for our visitor from Colorado next week. I sent Roomba down to sweep the guest room and big room downstairs, but Monday after dusting I went down and vacuumed anyway. Roomba did okay in the guest room, but the big room is so big that he didn’t get it all clean before he ran out of juice. Yesterday, I swept and mopped all the Marmoleum and vinyl floors in the house, and tomorrow I will do all the wood ones.

Sadly, my husband and I think that some animal might have gotten the ducklings. I never saw them, but my husband did. The other day I was going to go down there, but before I did, I checked the pond from the deck, because I have scared away the female duck before despite walking down very quietly. I could see the mallard couple swimming around by themselves, so I decided not to go down there. They seem dejected and haven’t been doing much eating. My husband has seen them since but no ducklings. My husband is talking about building an island in the middle of the pond where they can raise their ducklings safely next year. I’m not sure how he thinks he’s going to do that. Maybe we can float something.

I have also spotted the beaver many times since I first identified it. Sometimes in the evening I can see him from the kitchen window swimming across the pond with leaves in his mouth. He almost always gets out of sight before my husband can get to the window.

For our walk last week, my neighbor and I went back to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge because the hiking trail opens up the first week of May. Unfortunately, it was closed again for hiking or biking because a cougar had been spotted in the park! In any case, all those thousands of geese and ducks were gone. I’m sure we still would have seen lots of birds, though, if we had been able to do the hike. Instead, we drove up to the northern part of the park, which was not closed to hiking, and hiked around it, about 2.5 miles. Because the park is in a marsh, there was not much shade, and it was very hot coming back. I told my neighbor that when it gets farther into summer, we’re going to need to leave earlier, because I can’t handle heat. The rest of the week, of course, it’s been cool. In fact this morning it is in the 50’s.

Finally, I am almost done with my painting in art class. I won’t be attending next week because we have a guest coming, or I would have expected to finish it then. I have to admit that the changes we made this week made it look a lot better. In particular, the photo I am copying shows a bunch of leafy undergrowth in the foreground of the picture, which in a painting looks rather amorphous (unless I was prepared to paint all the leaves, which I was not and which aren’t even really visible in the original photo). The instructor suggested I vary it a bit more, and I decided to turn it into grass, which looks a lot better.

I keep considering switching to the later class (only would get home so late at night), because we have so many children in our class now, about 10 really young rambunctious ones. It all started with two little boys who began taking the class a few months ago. They were fine by themselves and one of them continues to be well-behaved, but now their friends and relatives are in the class, and some of the boys, particularly, are very disruptive. They can’t stay in their seats and they make lots of noise. We had two new ones this week who were just as active. My new teacher is a better art instructor than the one whose class I quit, but she is young, just out of art school, and she isn’t very good at keeping these kids in order. Yesterday, two little boys were running around and I told them to sit down. They did, but when she tells them to, no one pays attention. There are too many of them, and they are too young to be in art class.

One little boy who sits by me is serious about his art. He draws quietly in his seat and I sometimes see him watching me. I heard his mother say this week that he likes to sit in that seat, so I can’t help thinking he likes to watch me work. I occasionally give him little suggestions. He is only about six, so it’s hard to tell if he will turn out to be talented or not, but at least he is trying to learn.

Most of the noisy kids are about six or seven, and they have a talkative little girl of five who sits with them and speaks very little English. (She speaks Russian.) Then we have a few slightly older girls in the class who are much better behaved, one little girl who comes with her very talented mother and who loves to draw owls (does a good job, too), and a teenage girl who quietly sits and minds her own business. I asked my teacher if she thought the kids would quit coming after school is out, as most of the home-schooled kids just come for a month or so for school credit. However, she answered that, sadly, none of them are home-schooled. I had been hoping I could hold out in this class without switching until Sarah comes back from maternity leave, at which time I will switch to her class if I can get in.

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!

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.