Sunshine! Plants and burnt sugar

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

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

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

The Great Blue Heron checking out the grass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Advertisements

A soggy week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The play’s the thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Elizabethan Theater on the hill behind Lithia Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The carousel in Albany

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Ducks and dirt

I noticed this morning that there were two ducks fishing in our pond. My sister says we have a duck family there this year, but I don’t know how she can have seen them because she said she saw them on the way home from work, and the pond isn’t very visible from the road. I have not seen any chicks at all, but the house is up on the hill with the pond at the bottom, and you can only see about eight feet of the pond from the house. However, the adults seem to be mostly white with black heads, so maybe some kind of scaup. They have white or yellow beaks. I don’t think they have white patches at the back of their heads, so they’re not buffleheads.

The other day in town, we saw a couple of Canada geese just standing next to the road. I thought at first they were waiting to cross the street, but they stayed there after we drove by. I finally decided they were just watching the cars go by. They were big birds.

This morning is a kind of dismal day for our walk, but we always go unless it is pouring rain. Last week my sister and I picked up my neighbor and took her along to our Weight Watchers meeting, and then we all explored the Burnt Creek greenbelt in Vancouver where it comes out near our meeting. It is a nice, paved path with wildish landscaped scenery, but after a while, it became very suburban, so we turned around. We went 2.7 miles, according to my Fitbit.

That day and the four days after it were beautiful, cool and sunny. That was good, because my garden blend dirt arrived on Thursday morning, right on time. I thought I’d be shoveling away all weekend, but my husband came out and started working on it. That had its good points and bad points. The good points are, of course, that he was helping me, and it was unaccustomed work for me, so I had to keep resting. The bad news was that I felt I couldn’t go at my own pace. It took us a while to find a good method of working. I started out filling a wheelbarrow, wheeling it over, and emptying it, but in the time I did that, my husband could fill a bunch of loads of those big plastic buckets that painters use and fill a lot more dirt in than I could with the wheelbarrow (it was too fat and the wall of the beds too high to dump it, so I had to shovel it all out, which turned out to be much more tedious than filling it). So, after trying that, we bought a few more buckets and I started filling those while my husband emptied them. But it turned out I was too slow, so I lugged the buckets over and emptied them while my husband filled them. But I was still too slow. He could fill three buckets in the time I could empty one. So, he ended up using the wheelbarrow while I did buckets all by myself.

This is what we did most of the day, with a break at noon to go into Amboy, buy the buckets, and eat hot dogs for lunch.

Anyway, after a while, I went inside to rest and fell asleep. It is unusual for me to sleep during the day, so I must have been bushed. When I woke up, it was six PM and my husband was just finishing up. The beds were full! What a guy! We will probably have to fill them up a little bit more as the dirt subsides, but as of now, I am ready for planting season. I’m actually champing at the bit, but it is too early to plant until later in May.

We had a beautiful weekend, although our plans to go to Portland on Saturday got postponed because my husband kept changing his mind. It’s too bad, because it would have been a beautiful day to go. I ended up mopping our floors instead. We had a quiet Easter, just a nice dinner in the afternoon, during which we watched lots of TV mysteries.

We also were going to see Ready Player One on Tuesday, but my husband changed his mind because he didn’t feel well. We might go today or tomorrow.

In art class, I finished working on the ocean and started painting the land. I am painting a scene of Cannon Beach.

No photos for you today. I’ll try to think of something for next week.

 

Yep, it snowed

Starting with the weather report, after some beautiful days earlier in the week, it snowed on Friday and Saturday. We just had a dusting of snow on Friday, but on Friday night to Saturday morning we must have had at least two inches. That didn’t stop my niece and her husband from coming over to put together my raised bed kit that day. They worked in the garage while I baby sat their kids inside. They didn’t want our help because they said they were so good at putting kits together by themselves. They are so sweet to us.

My niece and her husband building my raised beds. Note the snow.

We had a debate about exactly where to place the beds. The general placement was always to put it where the old shed thing used to be at the edge of the driveway. But half of that space was covered by patio bricks. Originally, we planned to remove all the patio bricks except those down the aisle of the beds, but my husband thought we could put it right on the bricks. We also had a debate about which direction to face it, because the bricks were situated perfectly for the beds to go sideways on them, but I wanted to maximize their exposure to sunlight, which meant putting them the other way. However, my niece and her husband thought the bricks weren’t level enough, which would put pressure on odd points of the beds. So, we put the beds behind the patio bricks directly on the bed of gravel, facing the way I wanted them to go and putting them even more centered into the space with the most sunlight, which leaves a nice patio in front for a couple of chairs.

My completed raised beds with the patio in front

Anyway, I think my beds look beautiful. They are solid cedar. I have already ordered the garden mix dirt to be delivered to my house tomorrow, so I guess I’ll be shoveling for the rest of the week, which is supposed to be clear.

For our walk this week, we tried a trail through the Salmon-Morgan Creeks Natural Area. To our surprise, this area was smack dab in the middle of a rather prosperous suburban development. However, once you got into the thick cedar forest, there was almost no trace of the houses except for a few glimpses. The cedar forest was beautiful. The trail, although nicely kept in some places, was very muddy in other places. I had to share my neighbor’s hiking poles again to keep from falling down, which was enough to make me order some of my own as soon as we got home. That trail wasn’t very long. It was supposedly only 1.3 miles. We originally planned to walk it twice, but it took so long to navigate the mud that we did not.

In art class, I finished working on the sky for my landscape and began working on the sea. The class seems to be getting too full of children, but I know from experience that the number of children varies wildly from time to time. Next week is spring break, so there will probably be hardly any children there.

 

We think it’s spring, but maybe not

I’ll start out by telling you about something I forgot from last week. It was a date with my nine-year-old great niece for a sleepover in “her” bedroom. She wanted to bake, and although this did not accord with my Weight Watchers regime, we made mug cakes and peach pie. We started with the peach pie, which she claimed she had never had. I had her help with every step, including making a lattice top, to show her how easy it is. We used peaches that I bought last summer and froze. Then while it was baking, we made the mug cakes. Since she made me one, I of course had to eat it, and then we all had pie. I just had a narrow slice of it, no more than an inch wide, although it pained me to do so, and then we sent it home with her the next day (although by then my husband and great niece had eaten half of it). We finished off the evening with some brisk games of dominoes.

By the way, I joined Weight Watchers with my sister, and we are both doing well. I have lost more than 15 pounds since late January.

For our walk last week, my neighbor and I used the Trails app to try to find a loop around Battle Ground Lake. There were two, actually, but the start of the outer loop was hard to find, so we inadvertently ended up on the inner loop. The outer loop is actually the one that is reviewed in the app as fit for walking dogs and taking strollers. The inner loop is a forest path with lots of ups and downs and rough terrain that went right along the lake. That would have been okay except it was very wet. Almost the first thing I did was slip in the mud and fall down. I don’t do down very well, usually, but we had my neighbor’s hiking sticks, and that helped me get back up. Later, we had to crawl under some trees that had fallen across the path. Altogether, it was way more rough than I was used to, still being a beginning hiker. As we exited the loop, we came upon the other end of the outer loop, with people with their strollers walking along! According to the app, we walked (climbed, crawled) about 2.5 miles.

This could get interesting, because while I primarily care about getting more exercise, my neighbor used to be a hearty outdoors woman and sees us eventually hiking rugged paths in the Gorge. (The kind of paths I never hiked even when I was young and slim and fearless, although I probably would have liked to, I just never did.) Although I would like to hike in the Gorge, I have much more modest goals in mind. When I commented on the rough path, she said, “If we are going to hike in the Gorge, we’ll have to hike paths like that.” She already told me one story about being a speed hiker and how one time she was hiking so quickly in Yosemite that she hiked right past a bear without seeing it. Luckily, she has since slowed down to look at the scenery.

Thursday is the day for our Weight Watchers meeting, and my sister and I usually celebrate afterwards by going out to eat. We didn’t think we would be going that night, because my sister had to work after the meeting. But she got put on standby during the meeting, so we went to this really wonderful Greek restaurant in Battle Ground called George’s Molón Lavé. I had moussaka (not having had any for years) and my sister had the delicious lamb chops that I enjoyed the first time my husband and I went. All things considered, I vote for the lamb chops.

On Friday, I happened to ask my sister if she wanted to go in to the Crafts Warehouse with me, where I needed to buy a frame for my bird painting (my husband decided we should frame it—now I just need to find somewhere insignificant to hang it) and some linseed oil. She said it was her errand day, so we spent the entire day out. We bought dirt, chicken feed, stuff at Costco, veggies and fruit at Chuck’s, and linseed oil and a frame. At the art store she picked up some kits, because she has art class with my great niece every week and likes to do different things.

Saturday was very busy. First, I went with my sister and my niece to the Japanese nursery in Woodland. They bought several trees and some tropical plants for a terrarium for my great nephew’s new pet corn snake. (The kids’ pets tend to be unusual, because their mother is severely allergic to cats and dogs. They have a lizard, a snake, and two ferrets.) I bought a bare roots lilac bush to replace the one my husband mowed over last spring and a plum tree for our orchard.

Later in the day, we all (except my husband, the party pooper), went to see A Wrinkle in Time. It was fairly good, although much more of a kid’s movie than one for an adult. But it was for a particular age range of kids, as we found when my four-year-old great nephew ended up having to be taken out of the theater by his dad. His dad later said that he said, “I wish this movie was over!” Of course, it was full length, so it’s also probably the first full-length movie he’s ever seen, his previous experience being with animated movies, which are usually shorter. My great niece, however, thought it was wonderful although “not as good as the book.”

One thing that struck me right away, although my memory of the book is not very good, was that they went a long way to make the movie inclusive, even having Charles Wallace be adopted just so he could be oriental (he wasn’t adopted in the book, was he?), but the setting was Southern California all the way. Hollywood, big news flash—the entire population of the United States does not live in suburban Southern California. My recollection, which could be faulty, places the original story in New England. But I DO remember that they lived out in the country. One of the first things my great niece said when she came out was “They lived on a hill way out in the country. That wasn’t right.” So, if you want to be inclusive, Hollywood, how about including a few other parts of the country in your kid’s movies?

My new little lilac bush next to the small daffodils. In the top right corner of the picture is the very start of the pond. You probably can’t tell from this photo that the lilac is at the edge of a steep slope. Over on the top left are the stairs that lead from the lower drive down to the lower orchard.

Sunday was the start of a run of beautiful cool but sunny days. I went out and planted my bare roots lilac bush, trying to choose a place where my husband was unlikely to run over it with the lawnmower. I chose to put it next to the daffodils near the lower drive on the edge of the slope that goes down to the wolf pen and the pond. That little swath of land next to the sidewalk and drive (outside the lower level of the house) gets more sun than the orchard, because my daffodils are up there and the ones in the orchard are still hiding their flowers.

Over the last few days, we have planted some more trees (two blue spruces and a maple tree) and cleared off the area where my raised beds are going to go. I hope to begin putting them together soon. My niece said she thought her husband could help on the weekend, but they are very busy, so I would rather start doing it than wait for their help.

In art class, I finished tracing my landscape and spent the class painting sky and clouds.

But what does my title to this post mean? It means snow is forecast for Friday and Saturday. The forecast has been pretty steady, too. Over the winter, we often had snow forecast for a week later only to have it turn to a forecast of rain by the time the day came. But for the last week, the forecast has been snow on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and only today did it change to just Friday and Saturday. The Portland forecast says snow at 1500 feet and higher, and we are at 1000, but the local forecast on my phone is usually more accurate for us than the one from Portland. We’ll see.

 

 

Spring is sprung(ing)

Small signs of spring are appearing this week. My sister said her crocuses and snowdrops bloomed, so I went out in the orchard to look for mine. There were none, but there were some suspicious small holes where I planted them. I think a mole or raccoon must have eaten the bulbs. (Do moles eat bulbs? I know raccoons do, as years ago a raccoon dug up and ate every bulb I planted one winter back in Austin.)

Look closely and you can see some tiny daffodils. I don’t think these ones are supposed to get much bigger.

However, my daffodils are coming up. I planted some tiny ones along the edge of the basement level before the slope down to the septic field, and they had already bloomed. My larger daffodils, which I planted under the orchard trees, are showing the blades of their leaves.

Soon these nice green stems will be daffodils.

Down in the valley, though, spring is blooming ahead of us. Clumps of large daffodils wave in the breeze here and there, and the cherry trees are starting to bloom in gorgeous shades of pink and white.

We had three beautiful days in a row, warm and sunny, during which my husband and I both did some outside work. I went around with our wheelbarrow and picked up sticks that had fallen during the winter, and I also took the covers off the patio furniture. My husband put together a garden shed. I hope we’ll be putting together my raised beds on our next fine day, because soon will be time to plant. We will also need to build a fence around the garden, or the deer and rabbits will get everything.

Although the weather had returned to rain and gotten colder again, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more snow.

On Sunday, I was relaxing in the house when I heard a loud, reverberating bang that sounded like it was in the garage. I looked out in the garage but could see nothing wrong. Later, my husband came up from the basement and I asked him if he had heard it. He did not, but he was on the other side of the house, so it’s not surprising. He, too, looked in the garage and saw nothing.

Coincidentally, he had driven the car out of the garage earlier in the day when we were both working outside and not put it back, so he went out to move the car into the garage. When he hit the button to open the garage door, we heard a horrible grinding noise. It turned out that the spring to the garage door opener had snapped, and that was the noise I heard earlier. It’s a good thing he left the car out, because until the guy came to fix the door, two days later, it was impossible to open the garage door! We would have been stuck without a car to drive.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that we were forced to find another doctor. You may remember that when we first moved here last year, it took me more than a month to find a doctor who would take us, between the Medicare and the type of secondary insurance we had. We really like our doctor here, but in January, our clinic announced it was closing. Our doctor was not able to find another local practice, so he was planning to work in urgent care for up to six months while he looked. Originally, we were told that we should be able to sign on with his coworker at the Salmon Creek branch of our clinic, which is about 1/2 hour away.

However, the Salmon Creek clinic decided it would not take any of our doctor’s patients, because our doctor had too high a load of Medicare patients. His assistant told us that the Fishers Landing clinic was accepting a small number of Medicare patients, so we called them immediately and got on there. Unfortunately, Fishers Landing is about an hour away. We like our new doctor, but the plan is to switch back to our original doctor when he gets settled in a new local clinic, provided they will take our insurance. We have an alternate, sneaky plan, too. Our new doctor has office hours in both Fishers Landing and Salmon Creek, the same clinic that refused all of our doctor’s patients. Once we get established with the new guy, I’m going to find out if we can see him at Salmon Creek. I don’t see how they can turn us down when we are already his patient. That will save us a lot of driving.

Last week my neighbor and I returned to Moulton Falls on the East Fork of the Lewis River and walked about four miles. We were actually trying to find a path my neighbor thought linked the Moulton Falls park to the Lucia Falls park, but there was none. I think she just got confused by the confusing park map. We have still to walk the Lucia Falls loop, but it is very short, only a mile.

My niece told me about a trails app, which we will probably use today to decide where to go. So far, we are only doing easy trails, though, and it seems that most of them are very short. I suppose we could pick a short one and go around it more than once. The longer trails are the two we have done already. It doesn’t bother me to continue to walk the same trails—after all that is what I did in Austin, walk the same loop around Lady Bird Lake every morning for years—but my neighbor wants to branch out and eventually tackle harder trails.

This picture of pelmeni soup is from the recipe I used.

A few weeks ago, I reported that my Portland friend and I had done a tour of the Russian markets in Portland. I was fascinated by the different types of little frozen dumplings called pelmeni, but I was afraid to buy any because of the train trip and car ride home, a total of more than an hour’s time, during which I was sure they would melt. So, last week I visited our local Russian market and bought some a bag of lamb and a bag of cabbage pelmeni. I served the dumplings for one dinner, but my husband didn’t like them. However, I still had three pounds of dumplings, and I had noted references to soup, so I looked for a recipe. I ended up making a simple pelmeni soup, and it was delicious! My husband said he liked it much better than the dumplings by themselves, so I have gone farther and found recipes in my Russian cookbooks.

As I finished my painting in art class last week and brought it home this week, it is time to start another one. This new painting will be a landscape of the Oregon coast. I am a little trepidatious about it, as it is a complex landscape. I had been picking out simpler landscape photos to copy, but I selected this one because I had been there. My teacher picked it because she loves the Oregon coast, but she says it will be easier to paint than I think. In my art class, we draw the picture on tracing paper and then trace it onto our canvases or paper. This method makes our pictures neater, because the erasures are not on our canvas or paper. I got my picture drawn, but it turned out I had the carbon paper backward (it is quite worn, and it’s hard to tell which side is up), despite my neighbor in class and I checking to see it was right! Oops! I will start from there next week!