Up in the forest

This week was highlighted by two visits to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The first was a bit of a debacle. My hiking friend, Maja, wanted to hike a trail called North Siouxon Creek. We stupidly started out just using her phone to get to the trailhead, even though we both have maps of the forest (which we left home). What happened was that well before we entered the forest, we lost our phone signal, so had no idea where we were going, and we had not thought to enter the destination coordinates into her GPS, which of course knew nothing about the trailhead. We referred to the written instructions on the AllTrails site, which we both had in memory, but they were pathetically bad, only mentioning the first road that took us from the highway toward the mountains. There were references to yellow gates, none of which we saw.

The view from Calamity Peak Road, showing some fall color

Finally, after going a long way up Calamity Peak Road, Maja decided to take my suggestion that we try FR-5701. She maintained that couldn’t be the road, since it wasn’t mentioned in the instructions. But hardly any roads were. After a long time of driving on a very poor paved road where lots of the pavement had buckled, we could see on her GPS that the road was ending. We were just thinking of turning around when we ran into a ranger, who told us the trailhead was at the end of the road. What we didn’t know was that it was the Siouxon Trailhead, which turns out not to be the trail we were heading for. After I reconnoitered later in the week and consulted a map, I saw that we were way off, and that the North Siouxon Creek Trailhead was actually in the Siouxon Creek County Park next to the national forest.

Despite an extra hour of bumbling around in the forest, we had a great time. We got to take a beautiful hike through deep forest and along the creek, even though we cut it short because we wasted so much time getting out there. The scenery on the way there, too, was breathtaking. It was a perfect time to go. There was some fall color and hardly anyone else on the trail.

So, that was our Wednesday hike. Very nice. I hope that this Wednesday we have another nice day so that we can go back and try the trail we meant to take. However, forecast so far is for rain that day. When it’s rainy, we stick to trails we know.

On Thursday, I had a busy day, puppy play and errands in the morning, my mammogram in the afternoon (oh joy unbounded), and art class in the evening. I got stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital for my mammogram, and that’s another story. Well, actually, two. The first is about the idiots at the traffic stop. I was going down a two-lane road to the hospital in the middle of the country, and I got to a place where they had flaggers. I was the only car there on both sides to start with, but they had the Stop sign up at both ends while this idiot slowly walked out and placed cones near the dividing line on my side of the road. There was absolutely no reason why they couldn’t have let me go slowly in the other lane, but no. Instead, I had to wait several minutes while this guy walked out and placed all his cones. By that time, there were two cars on the other side of the blocked area, and would you know it? They let them go first, even though I had been stuck there for several minutes before they showed up. Frankly, it made me want to run over their stupid cones and knock them back down, it made me so mad. I was already running late.

The second story has to do with when I got there, because I came into the parking structure from another way than I usually do and mistakenly went down instead of up so sort of got stuck in the basement, where, of course, there were no free parking places. When I finally got going up, I found a place on the second floor. I did not know, however, that the second floor was the pedestrian exit from the garage, so I ended up walking down the stairs to the lower level for no reason. I was heading toward the elevator when I tripped over one of those parking curbs and fell flat on my face. Luckily, I was close enough to a car to use it to stand up, or I would still be down there. I could get to my knees okay but could not stand without support.

I have to say that they took me right in for my mammogram, so one thing that afternoon went right. They are very efficient here, unlike in Texas where I had to wait sometimes for an hour. However, as a result of this adventure, I have a purple knee.

In art class I made some more progress on my landscape. Because of the undercoat we painted, it still doesn’t look like anything. However, my sister’s turtle, which she painted using the same technique, is almost finished and it looks great. I hope I have similar results.

Up on Calamity Peak at the point where the road decided to look more like a cattle track than a road, so we turned around. However, we saw later that if we’d taken a different road, we’d have come back down on the other side. This picture doesn’t really convey the depths of the canyons below us.

On Friday, a nice outing with Wayne. These are few and far between, since he doesn’t like to do anything anymore. I told him all about the nice drive we had on Wednesday, and it was in a direction we hadn’t taken yet. He likes driving expeditions sometimes. Friday was supposed to be a lovely day, although cold, so I suggested we go, and he agreed. We drove largely back up the way Maja and I had driven, except rather than take FR-5701, we drove further up Calamity Peak Road to see where it went. At the top, when we decided to turn around, it was only 46 degrees, whereas when we went down the mountain five minutes later it was 60. Chilly and windy, but beautiful. We were high on the mountain and could see down into deep canyons below. On the way back, to top off the outing, we made an un-Weight Watchery stop at the little ice cream shop in Amboy.

On Friday while we were enjoying the cold, we got to contemplate the mystery of whatever happened to Wayne’s jacket. He has, or I guess I should say had, a nice dark blue jacket that I bought him when we first moved here because I could see that his windbreaker wasn’t warm enough. It is lightweight but heavy enough to wear until it gets really cold. However, it is nowhere to be found. My last recollection of it was that this jacket as well as two of mine were in the back seat of the car one day after it started out cold one morning and then got warmer. (I had left one of my jackets in the car the day before for the same reason.) But I took all of them out that day, and mine are here. He apparently took it off somewhere and left it. I called his doctor’s office and two restaurants that we visited, but no one claims to have it. So, either someone took it, or he left it somewhere else. I have already ordered him another jacket, so this will be the time for it to reappear somewhere in the house. But I swear, we’ve looked everywhere. I don’t know how he does this. The first time I bought him a pair of gloves, he wore them on our trip to Germany and then one week later, when they were about a month old, he left them on the bus. Who takes off their gloves on the bus and lays them on their seat instead of putting them in their pocket?

On Saturday, it wasn’t raining, but it was cloudy all weekend, so not as nice. On both days, I went out for a while and worked on planting bulbs in my orchard. It’s my wish to have the entire orchard full of daffodils, so I plant some every year, and some crocuses, too. This idea was inspired by my aunt and uncle’s house in Ohio. They had a wooded knoll next to their house, and in spring it was covered in daffodils.

Since I moved here, I have been borrowing my niece’s long drill bit to plant bulbs. It works great. You just drill a hole in the yard, plop in the bulb, and push some dirt on it. This year, however, I bought a new drill bit for myself that was designed for planting. It is wider, so makes a bigger hole (some of the bigger bulbs were difficult to plant with Katrina’s drill bit), but its design is faulty. It only goes in two inches at most, and much of the time, even with hard pushing, I could only get it down about an inch. So, I planted a few bulbs over the weekend and then borrowed my niece’s bit again. I finished planting on Monday, which was a gorgeous day. This year I planted about 16 daffodils and 35 crocuses. The crocuses and snowdrops I planted the first year are so small that last year when I went out to look for them, I didn’t see them at first. I kept wondering why my sister’s came up and mine didn’t. Last year, though, I planted larger ones. I didn’t actually know they came in sizes, and the larger ones are very nice. The smaller ones are just color dots in the lawn.

Luke has begun to be very bad about staying in the car. We have been putting him in the wayback only to have him jump back out before the door can close. (It closes very slowly, and you can’t push it closed yourself or you’ll break the mechanism.) Wayne had him tricked by putting a cookie behind his cushion in the back so that he would take a minute to get it out, but on Monday when I tried this technique, he actually jumped out rather than try to get the cookie. I had to let him ride in the front, because I couldn’t get him to stay in the car. I’m hoping that once we have him trained on the electronic collar, we can stop this kind of behavior.

Ironically, he wants to go with us, but he doesn’t want to ride in the wayback. When we have the liberty to do so, we have taken to putting him in his crate and leaving him home if he jumps out of the car, but most of the time we actually are taking him somewhere, so we can’t do this. I’m hoping that if he has to stay home enough times, he’ll get the idea. He finally got house trained when I got smart enough to put him in his crate if he had an accident.

After a long break, he seems to be turning into Destructo Dog again. Last week he got one of my bras and tore it to shreds. This week, he fished one of my gloves out of my coat pocket and ruined it before I noticed what he had. These were purple leather gloves that a friend bought me for Christmas forty years ago. I’ve worn them every year since then. But one good glove doesn’t really do me any good, so I threw them away.

And speaking of him, we played a form of tic tac toe in his class this weekend where teams competed to place their pieces on a grid if they were the first to all get their dogs to follow a series of commands. I feared that with Luke on the team, we would lose all the time, but we actually did fairly well except against a team that was blatantly cheating by not waiting for the moderator to check them before placing their piece and going on to the next set of tasks. Once she stopped them from doing that, they still cheated, because they had disks that they could throw onto the grid, whereas we had cones. We would be told at the same time that we had finished, but they would throw their disk on while we had to walk up and place ours. After that, she only let one team place their piece at a time, and then we actually beat them in every game. Still, one person on our team plainly didn’t play tic tac toe, because at the point where she only had to place our cone in the right spot to win, she put it somewhere else. We won on the next turn.

It was amazing to me that adults would actually bother to cheat during a silly game meant to show whether our dogs understood their commands. Later on, I talked to one of them, and we decided it was just the difference between how Ash, who instructed my team first, gives instructions and Dawn does. That other team had been playing a much more disorganized game with Dawn before we were switched into the room.

On a more prosaic note, I spent the time on Saturday that I wasn’t taking Luke to class or planting bulbs cleaning out my refrigerator. It’s embarrassing how long it’s been since I did that. It’s also amazing to me how little actual good food we had in there. Now I catch myself admiring how easy it is to find things in there and how nice it looks.


Fire at the neighbors’

Last week, we heard just a blip from a fire engine siren. It didn’t even sound like it went by on the road (or for that matter came down the main road). Later, Wayne went out and said that the fire department was down by the house on the corner.

Since we moved here, there has been a family on the corner of the main road and our road who lived in a double-wide. They are an Apostolic family, a young one, that already has three or four little kids. Since this spring, he has been building a large house on the lot with the help of friends and relatives on weekends and evenings and days he isn’t working. Almost all the Old Apostolic Lutherans in the area are in the building trades, and they really know what they’re doing. A week or so ago, the family finally moved into their new house, which is very large. We were all happy that now they would have enough room.

Luke in the orchard with our big maple tree starting to turn yellowish orange

That left the double-wide on their lot in front of the new house. My understanding was that the father-in-law, who owns a lot of the property around here, owned the mobile home and was going to move it onto his property, which is kitty corner to the side of our house. They had cleared some of the forest to make room for it, and we were wondering how close it would be to us.

Well, something happened when they were dismantling it to move it, and it started on fire. The fire department came out that day to put out the fire, and then they came back and did a controlled burn to take it the rest of the way down. Over the weekend, the guys removed all the rubble in a dumpster, and he has already landscaped the property so that you wouldn’t know the mobile home had even been there. It’s a loss for the father-in-law, but at least nothing happened to the young family’s brand new home.

Our driveway down to the road, looking fallish

And speaking of fires, we have had highs in the 50’s for most of this week so far. One of those days, Sunday, was rainy and dismal, but the last two days have been gorgeous. We already started burning fires in our wood stove in the morning, or at least by afternoon. Trees are starting to change, and there has already been snow as low as 3000 feet. Can our elevation be far behind? Mt. St. Helens, which was bare rock last time I looked at it, has a beautiful coat of thick snow this morning. It’s supposed to frost a whole month ahead of normal, which doesn’t bode well for my Brussels sprouts.

The lower driveway, looking more green but with more fallen leaves

The trees are just beginning to change here, but yesterday was a fine fall day. The wind was blowing leaves down, it was crisp and sunny. I took some pictures. The trees aren’t quite yellow yet, but we saw lots of red ones in Battle Ground this morning.

It’s been disappointing for me that it’s been so beautiful the last few days, because I’ve been sick. Wayne and I were doing errands and stopped somewhere for lunch on Saturday. As soon as I got home, I felt as if I’d eaten something that disagreed with me. Unfortunately, and also because I was beat from entertaining the night before (we had my brother and his wife and another couple over for dinner), I had told my brother we would come over for dinner. They had salmon, which was not appetizing to me, not that anything could be the way I was feeling. I had problems all night long and even more the next night after thinking I was feeling better and making the mistake of eating popcorn. Monday, I stayed home. I tried to stay in bed, but Wayne left Luke in the bedroom with me after breakfast and went down into the basement. After a while, Luke started growling and barking at me and pulling the covers off the bed. So, I had to get up and take him for a run in the orchard. But the rest of the day, which was very cold, I sat on the couch in the living room reading in front of the fire, with the door open so that Luke could run in and out. We need a dog door!

And speaking of Luke, he has just lately taken to stealing my shoes. One of the things he did that morning was pick up one of my shoes and carry it to the door. I’m beginning to think he’s doing it because he wants me to go out with him, and he has noticed that I put my shoes on before doing so. Yesterday, we found one of my shoes outside three times before I shut it into the closet. He hadn’t chewed it or anything, but the third time I found him with it, it took me five minutes to get it away from him.

I was very careful of what I ate on Monday (almost nothing) and Tuesday, and I think I am getting back to normal today. We also made the discovery that I had run out of my heartburn medicine quite some time ago and Wayne had forgotten to refill it, which probably added to the problem. At least it was the cause of the yucky tasting burping I’ve been doing lately. As a result of all this, I missed weighing in at Weight Watchers and the puppy pack walk on Monday.

No hike this last week, because the only person who has been going, Autumn, decided to go to Mt. Rainier to hike with her son. I could have gone along, but it is 3 1/2 hours one way and then I wasn’t sure I could handle the hike. Still, one day that would be a good thing to shoot for, being able to hike in some place like that. However, I don’t think I would plan to go there, hike, and come back in the same day.

Finally, on the wildlife front, I was walking in the orchard with Luke early on Friday morning and without paying attention first to what might be on the pond (I usually am), I started down the path to the pond, crunching leaves merrily underfoot. When I got halfway down, a large bird arose from the pond. I still had tree branches barring my view, so I couldn’t see the whole bird, but it had a large wingspan and gray wings. I’m guessing I surprised a Great Blue Heron.

Likewise, we haven’t had any deer spottings at our house since last spring. Last night, Wayne and I were sitting in the living room when Wayne said, “There’s a deer out there.” I got up to look, and there were actually three deer near the woods in the corner of our side yard behind the garden fence, two does and a fawn. They saw me, but they did not leave immediately. They slowly ambled up the hill, the one doe and the fawn watching me the whole time.


An ordinary week

The bulk of this week has been very ordinary. On Wednesday, Autumn and I took our dogs on our hike, to Whipple Creek Park. It was a rainy day here in Yacolt, but at the park, we just had a few drips. By the time we got done, we were a bit steamy.

Thursday’s highlight was art class, where I continued to work on my latest painting, a landscape. We are exploring a new approach this time. I painted the entire painting with an undercoat of burnt sienna and then hit the shadows with ultramarine. On Thursday, I began painting the sky and clouds with their normal color. We could not mix a very light blue green that was in the picture. When we mixed the colors, they were too dark, but white took away the brilliance of the original color. My teacher said I could look for the right color paint during the week, but we could also get that color by glazing. I found a very close color, at least according to the swatches, at Craft Warehouse, but they didn’t have it. I ended up ordering it from Amazon. We’ll see how closely it matches and if it doesn’t do the trick, glaze.

We tried this undercoat technique because another instructor in the school always has her students do it, burnt sienna no matter what the finished colors of the painting are, and we have noticed that the colors of the paintings done this way seem to pop! Sue is also using that technique to paint a sea turtle, but in her picture, far more of the undercoat will actually be showing on top, because she has orangish coral in the picture. My picture is mostly a deep blue green, although the clouds have lovely orange highlights.

On Friday, we went back to the urgent care to have Wayne’s stitches out. He’s just fine.

Saturday was dog class, and Luke did his usual of barely seeming to pay attention while he made every attempt to smell the astro turf.

On Saturday afternoon, my niece Katrina and her husband Ares had a Mabon party. Katrina likes to celebrate the original holidays that people observed before Christianity. She says that Thanksgiving doesn’t make any sense, since it is way later than actual harvest time, so she throws a harvest party at the autumnal equinox or as close as she can get. The idea is, if you can, to bring things you grew yourself. I made a huge beet and apple salad with greenings I picked from our apple trees. It’s the second time I’ve picked apples this year, although they are not yet ripe. The first time, I made applesauce. I make the old-fashioned kind with brown sugar and cinnamon. It tasted almost like a caramel apple.

Usually, every year by the time I think our apples are red enough, they are all gone. This year we had a bumper crop. We have two trees. Both produce apples with lots of spots, but on the one apple tree that I don’t know the type of (maybe McIntosh), the apples are great when peeled. The apples off the Fuji tree, however, have lots of brown spots inside. We are not really farmers, so I don’t know what to do to avoid the spots, and I don’t want to be spraying the trees with all kinds of chemicals.

I have been wanting to invite my brother Mark and his wife Nancy for dinner, but I know he likes meatloaf. I make an extra special meatloaf, the recipe for which has been in my family for years. It requires three types of ground meat, however, and I have had a hard time finding one kind this year. Last year, I was able to find it and the year before, but this year, no. (It was never a problem in Austin.) After checking at all kinds of specialty groceries, I finally found a butcher at Safeway who said it would order it for me and I could pick it up on Sunday. So, on Saturday at Mabon, I invited them and also our friends Shawn and Randy. When I went in on Sunday, however, they said they weren’t able to get it anymore. Just on the off chance, I stopped by Albertson’s, and they had some. So, we won’t have to reschedule.

The only other thing of note this week is that Tuesday night, Sue and I went to see the Downton Abbey movie. I have been a Downton Abbey fan as long as it has been on, although I am not such a heavy duty one that I rewatched the entire series like some people did.

Highclerc Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey

We enjoyed the movie. It was perfect for Downton Abbey fans, based around a visit from King George V and Queen Mary. All the characters were there, even some we had forgotten. Several of them had suggested futures by the end. My sister said one scene brought tears to her eyes. So, a nice evening.

No hike today, so Luke and I will have to find something to do.

Suddenly fall

It’s suddenly very much fall, with cold, rainy days. Just last week, we had one or two summery days, and then it became cooler. Now, I am having to think about putting on my second shirt, which I wear throughout the colder weather. Yesterday, it rained all day long and also on Sunday. As a result, Wayne and I have been binge watching episodes of Longmire and The Fall that we never saw when they originally came out. That’s because we finally joined this century and got a streaming subscription to Netflix. We kept our CD subscription, though, because most of the movies I want to see aren’t available in streaming. We’ve also had our first two fires of the season in our wood-burning stove.

Someone else’s picture of a banded kingfisher

I have seen some unusual birds by the pond lately, perhaps indicating migration. I glimpsed one several times over the course of three days, but I didn’t get a good look at it. I just had the impression of a stocky, large bird with a suggestion of a sea bird, a jay-like head and a harsh, clackety call. I finally got a better look at it, and it has a blue head with a white band around its neck. I think it’s a banded kingfisher, hanging out at our pond.

Someone else’s picture of a bittern

The other bird was swimming on the pond in pairs. I happened to see them when I was out with Luke. I thought they were brown ducks, but when they flew off, I saw they had a heron-like shape. I think they were bitterns.

After an eventful last week, nothing much has happened here this week, except that the dog trainer finally realized that Luke needs an electronic collar. I asked about one several times, but his demeanor in class is so mild that I don’t think they believed me that he gets rough with me. However, after Wayne’s injury last week, the owner approached me about getting one. I think they are going to train Luke with it at Puppy Play and Train instead of over an intensive week, which is what they usually do. That will save us a bunch of money but take longer.

No hike Wednesday because I had no partners, so I got together with Christine and we took Luke for a walk. Her dog, Duchess, has been injured the last few weeks, so we haven’t been able to take Luke over there for fear he would inadvertently hurt her. However, on Wednesday she was at the groomer’s. Christine said that when she got home, she sniffed everything in the house because she could smell Luke.

And that’s about it for this week.

Sad news

I thought this week’s post was going to be about lighthearted things like the art show, but two days ago we got some sad news. A very good friend from Austin, “the other Wayne,” died unexpectedly. He had cancer, but he died from something else altogether, his system weakened by the cancer and some recent surgery. I met him 15 years ago on a job, and he and his wife have been good friends ever since. Our hearts go out to Sue, his wife.

And in other respects, this week so far has not been so great. Yesterday, my husband Wayne had a lower GI scheduled. We made arrangements to take Luke in for doggy day care. I had made the arrangements with the owner the day before, and last time I did that, she never told her staff, so we were unexpected. So, while I left Wayne outside while Luke did his business, I went inside to make sure everything was set up. While I was talking to the owner, I looked outside, and Wayne was crawling on the ground. At first, I thought he was looking for something, and then I realized he must have fallen and was crawling toward the car to have something to help him get up. It turned out that when Luke realized I was gone, he lurched toward the building, pulling Wayne off balance, and he fell. His knuckles on his right hand were all gouged, but we had no choice but to throw some bandaids and antibiotics on his hand and go off for his medical appointment.

That went okay except they found an ulcer that they are biopsying. However, after we ate breakfast, we decided to leave Luke in the doggie daycare and take a break from him. We went home, and Wayne took a nap and I got interviewed by my great niece for a school homework project about family history. Then after Mischa went home, Wayne came out and said he wanted to go to Urgent Care.

We drove into the Vancouver Clinic Urgent Care in Battle Ground and waited in line for 15 minutes only to be told that THIS Urgent Care was only for Vancouver Clinic patients. We go to Vancouver Clinic for all our specialty doctors, but they would not take us for primary care when we moved here because we were on Medicare. The medical system out here is really weird. In Texas you go to your primary care physician, who is usually in private practice but may belong to a clinic, and then if there is an emergency, you can pretty much go to any Urgent Care as long as your insurance has a relationship with it. Here, most of the doctors are affiliated with big clinics, and it seems that the Urgent Cares are affiliated with them, too. So, we had to go pick up Luke and drive all the way to Salmon Creek in Vancouver to go to the Legacy Urgent Care, since our doctor works at a Legacy clinic. It turns out that if Wayne hadn’t considered it unnecessary that morning, he could have gone to the Vancouver Clinic Urgent Care where he had procedure, though, as they said it was a proper Urgent Care. Who knew things would be so complicated?

The good news about the Legacy Urgent Care we went to is that almost no one was there, whereas there were lots of people at the Vancouver one. Wayne got seen almost immediately, and the doctor put a few stitches in his knuckles. I thought they would need stitches as soon as I saw the gashes, but at that point, Wayne was assuring me they were fine.

So, those are our bad things this week. Our good medical news is that my middle brother, John, came through his second heart surgery just fine. He and his wife have been planning to move out here and had hoped to be here this fall until he started having Afib again. Now, he has a three-month recovery period, so they hope to be here in early December.

Here I am with my painting looking silly because I hate having my picture taken. Also, that is a very unflattering blouse!

The big thing for me and my sister this week was the art show. It was at the main branch of the Vancouver Library starting Friday night. They told us the reception was at five, but there really wasn’t one, just people there looking at the art.

My sister Sue in front of her picture at the art show. She is a better poser.

The exhibit had some really good pieces. Some that stood out for me were some very realistic horses done in colored pencil and also some delicious, dark plums with water beads on them, done in pastels. I didn’t know you could get pastels that dark. Anyway, there was lots of good art. I had to run out while Wayne was having his upper GI to pick up the paintings, and the guy said that they had a good turnout and were sure they would see us again. When we were there, only about 20 people were there, but we got there right at the beginning and then went to eat dinner nearby at a very good Thai restaurant. My sister met her son there, who passed off his grandson into her care.

Here are some of my hiking companions standing at the bottom of the rock, which is much more imposing than this photo suggests.

I did have another accomplishment, though, and that was for our hike last Wednesday. We decided to climb Beacon Rock, which is a very tall outcropping on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. I saw the rock a couple of years ago on our failed hike on the other side of the highway and thought it would be a long time before I would be able to climb it. Its elevation is over 600 feet, which isn’t that high, but it is over the course of less than a mile. The good news is I made it! I don’t think I could have done it if it wasn’t for all the switchbacks, which made the rises less steep. When we started up, it was cool and overcast, but by the time we were halfway up, it was sunny, so we got hot. The views were fabulous.

The next day, I went with Sue and Mason, her grandson, to the Ridgefield Multicultural Festival, because Mischa was in a taekwondo exhibition there. I have been to Ridgefield Farmer’s Market before, and there wasn’t much there. However, the Multicultural Festival was nice. There were half a dozen booths with food (I went to get a tamale but ended up with some delicious ribs and a mango lhasi), about a half dozen booths with jewelry and other artifacts, and a stage. We missed most of the acts but saw a Ghanaian drumming act and the taekwondo exhibit.

Here is the demo team after they gave their exhibition. My great niece is the red haired girl in the middle front. Master Oh is in black.

That Saturday was pretty much our last summery day. For the next three days, it rained heavily most of the time until yesterday afternoon, when it was sunny but cool. Apparently, Monday night a tornado was in the area of northern Vancouver, which is unusual. Today feels like fall. Since we have had to remove all of our rugs, including our doormats from the house because Luke chews them up, I see it’s going to be a long winter. I just mopped the floors on Sunday because they got so bad so quickly, and now I need to mop them again.

I sighted an animal in the pond last week, but I couldn’t tell if it was the beaver or the otter, as I could just barely see its head. One clue, though, is that it was just swimming across the pond, not playing. Maybe our beaver ran the otter off.

Another finished painting

My starfish painting, or at least most of it. I can see that my photo cuts off the two sides just a little bit.

It’s a good thing I didn’t submit information on my starfish painting for the art show (we had to submit it two weeks ago), because my entry has to be at the library, framed, by Thursday afternoon, and I just finished my starfish painting last Thursday. My instructor told me to give it two weeks to dry before trying to take it home. So, deciding to submit my Mont St. Michel painting was the right thing to do. My starfish painting came out really good, by far the best thing I’ve painted so far. I know exactly where it is going to go, in the bathroom. I don’t really think I know what I’m doing yet, but this is the first painting that I’ve thought was good (for me). I especially like the reef at the top left and the rock under the starfish.

On Thursday, we will be dropping my painting and Sue’s at the library, and next Tuesday they are to be picked up. The show is for First Friday, when downtown Vancouver opens its art galleries and the library generally features something, but I guess the pictures will be up all weekend. We probably can’t pick up the pictures on Tuesday, because Wayne has a colonoscopy scheduled that day, although they have yet to tell us when he’s supposed to be there. It’s very different from how we scheduled them in Austin. They’re not going to tell him until Friday or Monday (they said two days before, but that would be Sunday).

My great-nephew started taekwondo last week. He’s five and is very excited about it. I was supposed to take both him and his sister to class last Saturday, but my niece told me later on that she had forgotten they had tickets to something in Portland. Next Saturday is a cultural event in Ridgefield, where Mischa is supposed to be part of a demonstration, so no taekwondo then either.

Luke’s dog classes start back up regularly this week on Saturday at the same time as taekwondo. This means that I am not there to watch the kids. We just drop them off and Wayne picks them up while I am in class. Dog class is only one day a week this fall with extra pack walks on Monday nights at various places. I have already explained my problem with these walks. She never posts the information in time for us to go. And I can’t go on the Saturday pack walks because of having to take the kids home from their class.

As for our mini pack walks, Christine and Duchess are still out for the count, but this week I met Nancy (not my sister-in-law but pack walk Nancy) and Lola for a walk. Lola is a little Havanese, and they have been busy most of the summer. We went up to a coffee place and ordered coffee, which gave us a chance to catch up. Nancy’s daughter is near to having her first baby, so she was very excited.

No hike last week, but this week Autumn, who goes with us occasionally, has suggested Beacon Rock. I will give it a try. It is straight up, but at least it’s a short hike and not too big of an elevation change. I hate straight up, though.  At least the days are trending toward being cooler. For a while there, it was fairly hot for hiking.

My niece tells me that she tried twice calling the number to check on the wild bird we found, but no one answered, and then she forgot. Unfortunately, I gave her the information, so I can’t check on the bird.

I took Luke in for his shots on Friday and talked to the vet about his peeing and his rash. They gave us an antihistamine and some steroid spray for him. He is much better and doesn’t itch  most of the time. His tummy has healed right up. They aren’t sure what is causing the peeing but think it isn’t associated with his neutering procedure, although it certainly started up then. He seems to do it most often either when we spray his tummy, which he hates, or when I come home after an absence, at which time he is very excited. I think perhaps that Wayne doesn’t see he is out often enough when I am gone, or at least doesn’t go out with him as often as I do. As for the spraying, we have found that if we do it right after he goes out for the morning, he doesn’t have an accident.

Yesterday the chimney sweep came, so this year we hope to have no chimney fires! Wayne made an appointment for next year but unfortunately didn’t write it down, so I have no idea when it is. I’ll have to call them. It’s “same time next year,” but does that mean the 2nd of September or the day after Labor Day? This time, we scheduled it for the day after Labor Day.

I haven’t sighted the otter since he had that big fight. I hope he didn’t leave our pond. I did see a deer yesterday morning on the way to Puppy Play, right in a spot where I’ve seen one several other mornings at about the same time.


You otter see this!

Twice last week when I was down by the pond, I saw a mammal that was not our beaver. The first time, I saw it swimming in the pond, flipping over, swimming under water, and then flipping again, obviously playing. This is not beaver behavior. The beaver is always beavering away carrying twigs to his dam. I looked up what it could be, and it was too big for a muskrat, which only weigh about four pounds. It didn’t have a rat tail like a nutria. I was hoping it wasn’t either, as they can be destructive to ponds. When I described it to my brother, he asked, was it long and skinny? I said yes, and he said, “You have an otter.” I am so excited.

A few days later, I heard a shrieking sound from the pond that I had heard before. When I heard it before, I thought it was some kind of water bird, as when they show up at the pond, they often make loud noises, but I didn’t see anything. This time, as I walked so that I could see the pond, something fell into it. I could see it was the otter, which swam off, shrieking the whole time. I think someone was having a fight. My sister-in-law says the otter and beaver should cohabit nicely, so maybe there are more otters than just one. I hope the otter wasn’t being attacked by a cat or something.

For our hike we just went to Lewisville Park this week, but we took Luke. At first, as happens sometimes, I had trouble getting him to stay in the way back until the door shut. I finally gave up and left him home. Then I went to get Maja and told him why Luke hadn’t come. We decided that since Luke probably had no idea how recently I left (sometimes he acts like I’ve been gone for hours when it’s been a few minutes), we would pick him back up and if he stayed in the way back, he could come. That’s what happened.

And speaking of animals, I gave the information about the bird we rescued to my niece. I keep forgetting to ask her whether they called to find out what happened to it.

Thursday afternoon, I got a call from Craft Warehouse that my picture was ready to pick up, so my sister and I went early to art class so that we could stop by first and pick it up. She had also been asked to put a picture into the art show, and she picked one she had painted of her granddaughter on a horse. She had actually framed it herself using a staple gun and fabric tape, but she is not a detail person, and the detail she got wrong was which end the staples came out of. She ended up stapling her little finger and had to go to the ER! After all that work and a disabled finger that was making her miss work (although luckily on her left hand), the art teacher didn’t want to submit her painting because it wasn’t painted for the Medallion school but before she started there. So, Sue had to go home and frame her lighthouse painting that she finished a few weeks ago. Luckily, she had already bought a ready-made frame at Craft Warehouse. If you are putting an oil painting into a ready-made frame, which is a fairly easy thing for them to do, Craft Warehouse only charges about $20. (They used to do it for free when it was one of their frames, but no longer.) I think she spent a bit more than that going to the ER.

In any case, both of our paintings have made it into the show along with a drawing by one of our other classmates. I was sorry that our teacher, Sarah, wasn’t submitting anything, because I have seen photos of her paintings, and they are amazing. She said it was because none of her things are framed. I hope if they are going to repeat this show that she will frame something for the next one.

I am supposed to take both our paintings to the library downtown the Thursday before the show. I think Sue has managed to frame her other painting without stapling herself. (I shouldn’t laugh because I’m sure it hurt, although she said it didn’t hurt right away, and she couldn’t figure out why the staple gun didn’t work. Where was the staple? In any case, there is no permanent damage and she has a good story to tell.)

My second haul of blackberries. I think by myself I ended up with more berries than before, although together Deb and I picked more last time. I had eight cups, just exactly the amount needed for one batch of jam.

On Friday, less than a week after our first blackberry-picking expedition, I went back down to the same places and picked a huge basket of berries. There are still more to be had, as many of them were still green. I spent Friday afternoon making freezer jam. I have never made jam before, so this was kind of an adventure. I think it came out right. I took some to Christine, who had talked to me about making it before, and she said it was the right consistency, not quite as thick as cooked jam.

Homemade wild blackberry jam, the first jam I ever made. This picture is from before it had cooled. You have to leave it out an entire day and then you can put it either in the freezer or refrigerator.

We got an invitation to my brother’s house for dinner on Friday night. Shortly after they moved here, my sister-in-law went around to all the neighbors and introduced herself (something that I never even thought of doing when we moved here). Apparently, the people who lived in their house before were not good neighbors, and the neighbors were so relieved that someone nice moved in that they brought my brother a huge salmon fillet, fresh from being caught. He had already had my niece’s family over to dinner the night before to try to eat the fish, and even with Wayne, Sue, and me there, we still didn’t finish off the rest of the salmon. A good time was had by all. I gave everyone some jam.

No dog class this week, but I did take Mischa to taekwondo. She is now a red belt. She has one more belt level to go between red and black, but I think it is much more difficult to progress from here. Lukey also did not have a pack walk this week. Lately, it’s only been Christine and me and our dogs, and now Christine’s dog Duchess is injured. She strained her back somehow, and apparently it will be a long time before she can go for a walk or play with other dogs.

As a result, I’ve been making more of an effort to find something for Luke to do, and so Monday I tried to go on the Enzo’s pack walk, which they usually have every Monday night. During the summer, they have been doing them at locations all over the county and even in Portland. It has been difficult to participate in these, because the owner of Enzo’s never posts the information until just a few hours before. She posts it on Facebook, and sometimes when I look for it, I can’t find it. For example, two weeks ago I probably would have gone on one at Frenchman’s Bar Park, but I didn’t see the announcement until 5 PM and they were meeting at 6:30, more than an hour from my house. Well, what happened is that this week, I found a notice I hadn’t seen before, drove all the way out there, a 50-minute drive, and no one showed up. I looked it up on my phone to be sure I was in the right place, and I was. It wasn’t until I got back home that I saw in very little letters under the video that she posted it last week. If she had done a text post, it would have been easier to ascertain when it was posted. She never ever lists the date, as if she expects that you’ve been keeping track of her posts. It turns out they didn’t do a pack walk this week, and I don’t think there will be a pack walk next Monday, as that is a holiday.

In the meantime, she has passed around a sign-up sheet for a picnic on Saturday but has not announced where or when. This is typical.

Speaking of Luke, those of you who have been following this blog know by now that he’s a very silly dog in many ways. For the longest time, we couldn’t get him to go out by himself. Now, if we leave the door open, he sometimes will not be able to resist all the nice smells.

Ever since he was neutered, I have noticed that sometimes when he is very excited, he will pee a little. He hasn’t done this since he was a very small puppy, so I mean to discuss it with the vet. Wayne says it’s because he’s conserving his pee for marking, but I have never seen him do any marking and being neutered is supposed to lessen it even if he had been doing it.

This morning, I got up about an hour after Wayne and Luke, and he was very excited to see me, jumping up on me in my nightgown, which I hate. Ever since we got him, I’ve had to change into my clothes right away instead of lounging around in my pjs, like I do sometimes. This time, though, he was making a little whimpering noise, and it occurred to me that maybe he hadn’t peed yet, although he wasn’t making any little puddles. Well, I found out I know my dog.

He has had a bad tummy rash all summer from running around in the underbrush, probably from nettles. So, we have been trying to spray this stuff on his belly every day that makes him itch less. When we are good about doing this every day, his belly stays clear, but we haven’t been so good about it lately, so the poor dog itches all the time. (Wayne doesn’t want him to take the steroids the vet gave us.) He was scratching himself, so I almost immediately decided to spray him, which entails Wayne catching him and holding him up, while I wash his tummy off with a washcloth and then spray his belly. He likes the washing but not the spraying.

Wayne picked him up, and he began copiously peeing. It was plainly his whole night’s worth of pee when he’d been up already more than an hour. Wayne took him outside and stood by the door, and I spent the next 15 minutes mopping up the floor (still in my nightgown). When they came in, I asked him if he had gone out with Luke this morning. He had not, just opened the door. I told him Luke wouldn’t go unless he was taken out to his usual places. As usual when I imply that Wayne’s been lazy, he got angry and started yelling about how stupid that was. I said I knew it was stupid, but that was Luke. I got dressed and took him out, and sure enough he also pooped, which he should have already done.

Well, that’s about all of interest that has happened this week except we have had several deer sightings. Last Saturday on the way to taekwondo, Mischa and I saw a deer by the road and then just a bit farther down another deer and a fawn. Then last night Wayne and I went out to dinner at Fargher Lakehouse and a black-tailed deer was standing behind the parking lot. I always love to see the deer.