Moving into oils and a gift

My last landscape drawing, a Greek church, perhaps on Santorini, where we had our honeymoon years ago. Thngs don’t look quite straight, but I think that’s because the page has buckled. You can see the edge coming up on the bottom right.

In art class, I am moving into oils. I finished my last two drawings the week before last and last week. I then had to look at the state of my old oils to decide whether to buy the kit sold by our art school. As it turned out, although I had most of the colors, some of them were almost used up and about half of them were stuck so I couldn’t get the tops off. Also, some kind of goo leaked out into my box and got all over the sides of some of the paints and a brush so that I had to pry them up from the bottom of the box. I wasn’t able to get the goo off yet, although it might come off with linseed oil. I think it was some kind of medium that leaked. Finally, I didn’t have a lot of the brush sizes and other items on their basic list.

My latest still life

Anyway, my husband and I decided that I may as well buy their art kit, which I had to admit was sexy, with all its new tubes of paint and brushes. I haven’t started a project on it yet, so I’ll be doing that today. The first project is to paint a color wheel.

My sexy new art kit

It is my birthday today. My husband tends to buy me things like office supplies, robot dogs, and remote control cars for my birthday if I don’t specify a gift, so this year, I asked for a record player so that I could play all my old vinyl albums. To make sure he got it right, I sent him the URL. And I got a great record player. My great niece had one of her sleepovers at our place last night, and last night we taught her how to play dominoes, which she greatly enjoyed. This morning we picked out a bunch of albums and played them while we played dominoes again. Unfortunately, we did not find my Thriller album, which she wanted to hear. I don’t know what happened to it. I don’t remember anyone borrowing it or it getting wrecked. My husband thinks there still might be a box of records somewhere that we haven’t unpacked. Of all things, she picked out Harry Belafonte, Linda Ronstadt, and Simon and Garfunkel to listen to. She was also happy because she coaxed our cat, Hillary, famous for hiding under the bed, to sit on her lap.

Two weeks later, I just posted this picture of my record player.

I have meant to mention that lately, a couple of times, we have seen the deer in the woods, including some fawns so small that I mistook them at night for dogs. Small dogs. They must be very newly born, and it seems late for them. I hope they’re going to make it through the winter. It has started to turn coldish, with both highs and lows in the 40’s.

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Autumn around our farm

My sister seems to be right in that our fall colors consist of yellow before the leaves die. I’ve been looking around, and the only glimpses of orange and red I get are from planted or landscaped plants. The natural colors of the forest seem to be yellow and green.

In any case, fall is my favorite season. I love the color and sunny, cool days. I also love the blustery days. I love seeing pink cheeks on the children. The cooling weather always seems to energize me. I even love the rainy days, which we had most of last week. This week has been gorgeous, though.

Yes, is the same bush I showed you a few weeks ago. We think it might be a blueberry.

So, I give you a few pictures of our fall color, because nothing much else is going on this week. First, that little bush that I showed you a few weeks ago is now bright red and getting ready to drop its leaves.

At least I think this is a maple. It has maple-like leaves. I know very little about trees.

Back behind our orchard is a huge maple tree. It must be a silver maple, as I believe that other maples turn red in the fall. I took this picture when I went out into the orchard to plant more of my bulbs. This week we also planted the Carpathian walnut I bought to be a partner to our other walnut tree.

Behind the house there is quite a bit of color, but it is hidden among the fir trees. Here is the most notable color, at the top of a wild cherry tree right next to the pond. It’s too bad that the color is behind the firs, because I think it’s quite spectacular back there, if you could but see it.

All around our pond there are yellow trees peeping out from behind the firs and the other trees that have stayed green.

In the orchard, something or someone has eaten all our apples. I was out there a few weeks ago, and there were lots of apples on one of the trees, the tree that is supposed to produce Fuji apples. They weren’t quite ready to be picked, and my research shows that they are ready in November, which is when my sister picked them last year. Our other apple tree only had one apple. So, yesterday I went out to the orchard to check them, and there is only one left, high up in the tree. I don’t know what or who has eaten them, but I didn’t find any cores or apple parts on the ground. Perhaps the deer got all but this one, which is too high for them, because our little Fuji tree is leaning over to the ground. I hope it is the animals and not the kids from across the road, as this is the closest tree to the road. In any case, one of these days we’ll take a ladder out there and get our last apple. The apple on the other tree is gone, so I assume that whatever got the Fujis got that one, too.

This weekend is the Spooky Birthday Party for my great nephew, who will be four. I went over there yesterday to find all the adults and his older sister engaged in decorating the house, the yard, and the forest for the party. It is going to be quite some bash. I will be sure to take pictures of the costumes and the decor for next time. My niece must have spent hours on this so far, because, for example, her kitchen is full of bottles that she has labeled “Eye of Newt” and “Arsenic,” things like that, with quaint old-fashioned labels. What an eye for detail she has! Even in the living room are piles of books with titles like Grimoire and references to witches and devils (next to the giant spiders on the sofa pillows). My sister went out and bought a fog machine to send fog down the forest path for the Haunted Forest Walk. These kids are going to have a blast, as long as the little ones don’t get too frightened. All events are scheduled for daytime, though, so it shouldn’t be too bad. The children are excited at having helped their parents put up the decorations, so they dragged me through the house and forest yesterday showing me all the things they had made.

A week of sightseeing

I spent this week entertaining my guest from Houston and boy, am I tired! Yesterday, we dropped her at the airport at 6:15 AM, and after doing a few chores around the house, I lay down and fell asleep for four hours.

My friends on one of the many bridges across the Williamette River in Portland. The bridge we were standing on is a new one that is just for walking, biking, and mass transit.

The first day of our visit was cold and rainy, and we again took the North Clark County Scenic Drive. Of course, it began raining when we got to the waterfalls, so we ended up skipping the one that we so far have always skipped for one reason or another. We were happy to return early for a pot of tea and a seat before the wood stove.

On Friday, we had a few rain gusts, but it eventually became sunny. We met my Portland friend in Portland for a visit to the Pompeii exhibit at OMSI. After we saw the exhibit, we walked around downtown Portland and of course visited Powell’s books. By the time we got there, I was just ready to sit in the coffee room, but I did buy a book by John McPhee about Alaska called Coming into the Country.

Cannon Beach, with its famous monolith

Saturday we went to the beach. We drove out to Astoria, went up to the tower above the city, and then drove down the coast as far as Cannon Beach. We got to see what each of the small beach communities was like. I confess that I still prefer Gearhart, where we were this summer, because it is quiet. The beach at Cannon Beach is very nice, though. Seaside is crowded and full of arcades for the children.

At a viewpoint on the way up to the mountain. It was a gorgeous day.

My husband went along with us only on our Sunday expedition, back to Mt. St. Helens. He only went because I asked him to, as I was already very tired and wanted him to drive. As usual, he was not much help when it comes to entertaining visitors. It was a beautiful day, so we got some nicer pictures of the mountains and had the opportunity to listen to an interesting presentation by a ranger.

Monday started out with a doctor’s appointment, but then my friend and I continued out along the Gorge. Normally, I would want to take a visitor to the old highway between Vista House and the falls, including Multnomah Falls, but all of these sights are closed because of the Eagle Creek fire. So, instead, I decided that it might be a good time to investigate the Maryhill Museum of Art, which is way down the Gorge. My original plan was to drive there on the north side of the Gorge, on highway 14, and back on the freeway on the south side of the Gorge, but our GPS kept trying to force us to go to the freeway, and so we had no idea how long it would take us to drive out on highway 14. Finally, we decided to cross over at Bridge of the Gods, because who could resist driving across that bridge? It is really spectacular, an old, narrow bridge that people can both drive and walk across.

Maryhill Museum of Art

Maryhill museum is small but packed with interesting exhibits. It was originally the house of railroader and highway advocate, Sam Hill, who was trying to establish an agricultural community out there. But he bought property just a little too far out on the dry side of the mountains, and the community failed before he finished building his house. Eventually, he decided to make a museum out of it and got contributions from his friends in European royalty.

The museum has rooms with Russian icons, Grecian urns, gilt furniture and other artifacts donated by the Queen of Bohemia, chess sets, an entire room of Rodin sculptures, and what interested my friend most, the Théâtre de la Mode, which is a display of 24-inch wire mannequins dressed in beautiful gowns that the Parisian designers used after World War II to present their creations to women in the United States. The collection was believed lost, but the mannequins were salvaged from a store basement in San Francisco and their elaborate settings restored. It’s a very interesting little museum and well worth the visit, even though the trip is long and there is nothing else out there except a winery.

My friend left early yesterday morning, and now I am just trying to get back to normal. We had a beautiful week, but yesterday it started raining again. Art class today!

 

More of the same

This is the upper set of steps before being redone. As you can see, you can barely see that there are steps. You can see the edges of two of them at the top middle of the picture.

This week there’s not much to tell. We had a few days of rainy weather, but it really didn’t rain very much, and now it’s beautiful out again. We know that probably won’t last long, but right now it’s lovely, cold in the mornings and warm in the afternoon, sunny skies. The trees have begun to turn, mostly yellow, but there’s not enough movement yet in that direction to show another picture. Looks like our friend’s visit will be timed just right for fall color. My sister tells me that here the colors aren’t as pronounced as back east, but they are better than Texas, where you just get a suggestion of color change. Next week it will be almost exactly a year ago that we arrived here, and the colors in the Gorge were pretty gorgeous.

Here is where the steps go from the lower drive down to the bottom of the orchard and the pond. This is the longest set of steps. They wind toward the right of the picture and about halfway, they turn toward the left.

Our contractors came back for a day last week to begin working on our final project. We have two sets of steps that are very dangerous, one up to the ridge above our house and one down from the lower drive to the bottom of the orchard and the pond. We decided to have the guys put in steps like the ones they installed from the upper to lower drive, only half the width, because these stairs are more foresty. They put most of the steps in last Thursday but got called to another job on Friday, and then it began raining. They might put one more step in when they come back, and they have to install the railings. Anyway, I took some before pictures and have one of the mid-stage.

Here are the partially finished lower steps without the railing. Now the wind and length are much more obvious.

I skillfully avoided doing some of the more unpleasant housework (like bathrooms) the last two weeks so that it will be done right before our guest’s visit. Perfect timing.

In art class I am drawing a ruined castle beside a lake. The lake shore is about halfway down on the picture, so that the castle also appears upside down in its reflection. I didn’t have much of a problem drawing the castle, but the reflection is driving me nuts. I feel deeply unsatisfied with it.

We had our second Game of Thrones night last Friday and my husband signed on for a third, so maybe we have him hooked! Socially, nothing else is going on except that my niece is already signing people up for their spooky birthday party for my three-year-old great nephew, whose birthday is right before Halloween. I’ll be wearing a costume for the first time in 20 years. We ran into my great nephew’s other grandmother at the grocery store yesterday, and she told me that she was happy to have finally found her Spongebob Squarepants costume, so she can wear that for the party. It’ll be something to see this slim, tidy woman in a Spongebob Squarepants costume. I think I’ve been drafted to carve about a bazillion pumpkins.

Glimpses of fall

After a rainy and cold week, we had beautiful weather for several days, in the high 60’s or low 70’s and sunny and in the 50’s or 40’s at night. It is supposed to start raining again in a few days, but for now we are enjoying the lovely weather. And we need the rain, so we’re not upset about that either.

Just little hints of fall color here and there

I am beginning to see very faint indications of fall. I can hear leaves falling in the forest and there are a few more on our drive. Some of the plants on our ridge have changed colors. We thought the larger one on the right of the picture might be a blueberry bush, except that I never saw any blueberries on it, and I don’t know what this one is next to the rock. The trees haven’t started to change yet, though. Our friend is coming for a visit from Houston in a few weeks, so we hope that she will see some fall color.

Yesterday I popped by our neighbor’s house. It was such a lovely day that I had to walk somewhere. I don’t like to pop into my niece’s house for fear of interrupting them, and Tuesday is a day when my sister usually sleeps most of the day because she works at night. My neighbor had invited me to come round sometime. I think she expected me to call first, but I was too shy to do so and thought I’d just go over. I think I was a little rude to do that, but she invited me in and we had a long talk. She is a widow who retired last year, just as I did. She is the neighbor who hosts the Native American religious ceremonies two times a month that I have mentioned on occasion. Her late husband was a full-blooded Native American. We talked about how we both needed to get more exercise, so soon we are going to start going for walks, maybe over at Moulton Falls.

Around the house, I haven’t done that much this week except normal housekeeping. I hung some pictures, and that’s about it. I think I am suffering from a reaction to all the work I have done in the past year to get us ready to move, the move itself, and the handling of the contracting work afterwards. I was delighted, however, to find my electronic picture frame, which has been packed away ever since I stopped having an office at my work, probably about four years. Looking at the pictures on it was fun, awakening many memories.

Finally, we started a regular Game of Thrones night with my sister, niece, and her husband. Every week we will go over to their house after the kids go to bed and watch two episodes of the show. We saw episodes one and two on Friday night after a family dinner to celebrate the fall equinox. My niece is trying to celebrate different holidays than everyone else, so she has chosen some pagan holidays that correspond fairly closely to the dates of our regular holidays. For example, they did something for a day close to Easter that has the word Oster in the holiday. My niece is an unusual girl. My husband isn’t sure he wants to continue with Game of Thrones, but he has said he will try one more time.

Visitors and Mt. St. Helens

Our visit with my husband’s brother and his wife passed off nicely. They only stayed one night and were not interested in more driving, as they had driven down highway 97 to the Gorge and come down the Gorge and back up here. We found that an odd route, considering there were forest fires on both sides of the Gorge, past which they had to drive. They said they didn’t see any fire, just smoke. We showed them the house, did a lot of talking, found a restaurant to take them to dinner, and all had a sauna, and that was about it. When they left, they were planning to go back along the Gorge to Hood River, which would put them even closer to the fire in Oregon.

Last we heard, the fire on the Washington side was well contained, but they were saying that the Eagle Creek fire may never be fully contained because of the rugged terrain. However, starting Sunday, it is supposed to rain here for three or four days in a row, so maybe that will put both fires out. It is supposed to be the first substantial rain we have had all summer.

Our guide in his favorite place in the park

On Saturday, we had an outing with my friend from Portland to Mt. St. Helens. Her neighbor works as a part-time ranger there a couple weekends a month, and she was able to arrange a personal tour with him. He was quite a garrulous guy, but he had lots of interesting stories to tell about the eruption and about the park in general. He himself had a close call. He was at Spirit Lake helping remove some equipment from a boy scout camp, and he and the other people with him had decided to spend the night to finish the job even though the governor was not allowing anyone to stay overnight in the area. But a law enforcement officer came by and asked them to leave. The next morning was the eruption, and they would have been killed if they hadn’t gone home as requested.

Mt. St. Helens on a misty day, but it cleared up just for our visit. The eruption busted through the side of the mountain, removing the top and making that huge crater.

I have to admit that Mt. St. Helens wouldn’t have been my first choice of a place to visit, but it was fascinating. It was amazing to think that it only took three minutes for all the debris and gas from the eruption to go miles across the valley and up the other side, to where I was standing when I took the picture above. The before and after pictures are devastating, and the movies in the visitor center were informative and moving. This was a really interesting visit, and I recommend it to anyone who is in the area.

We almost cancelled our expedition because of smoke from the fires, but it cleared up the day before. However, the day we went it was misty. But the mist cleared for our visit, and it started raining just as we were leaving. Because of the fires, there were not many people at the monument that day.

At home, I have spent the last two days listing teapots on my Etsy store. The whole Etsy experience has been a lesson learned. I started out with some harlequin dolls from a collection I made in the 1980’s. I had offered the dolls to the little girls, but they find them creepy and always put them out in the hall when they sleep in the kids’ guest room. So, a few months ago, I looked at Etsy to see what it would take to list them.

I was just investigating opening a store, and before I knew it, I was actually opening one. They don’t really have a primer that tells you all the steps ahead of time, which was what I was looking for. I ran into trouble when it got to the shipping part. I could have just saved my listings and investigated the shipping later, but instead (don’t ever do this yourself), I guessed about the shipping. The program says “Let us estimate your shipping costs,” and I thought (duh!) that when it asked for the weight of the item, it meant the item itself, not the item with shipping materials. I stupidly thought they had a way of estimating the weight from the size of the box and the weight of the item. Of course, I had no boxes and I didn’t have the dolls packed, so I just weighed the dolls! Boy, was that dumb. I figured if I was off, I would only have to add a few dollars.

The error came out when I sold my first item, last week. It was my best doll, and I had it under-priced to begin with, I think (although I couldn’t find any as nice to compare it with). I packed it up in the only box I could find (the one containing my Indonesian puppets, whose bases I can’t find yet), printed the postage label, and took it to the post office. There I found that I owed $8 more on the postage. So, I made hardly any money on that doll. I also have a problem that to get boxes the correct size to ship the dolls, I have to order 25 of them! I only have a few more dolls to ship, so I hope that my husband will be able to make boxes for me out of other boxes. Oh, for the box store I used to go to in Austin, where you could get one of any size of box.

I have always planned to sell my teapot collection that I put together in the 1990’s, and that sale got me going again. So, the past few days, I got the right-sized box from Walmart and have been weighing each teapot with the packing materials on them, adding the weight of the box, unwrapping them and taking their pictures, and listing them. Some of the teapots are unusual enough that I wasn’t able to find comparisons, so I hope I have them priced right.

It has started to turn cooler here. The last two days have been cool and sunny, and finally the smoke has cleared out completely. Right now it is only 46 degrees out, and the high today will be 62. It will get warmer again next week, but I think fall is coming!

Oh dear. My niece just invited us a costume party for my great-nephew’s fourth birthday just before Halloween. I’m going to have to do some thinking. I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in about 20 years!

Fire, incoming guests, and an outing

The last few days we’ve been keeping an eye on the progress of a nearby forest fire. It started at Eagle Creek in Oregon, near the Columbia River Gorge, apparently by a 15-year-old shooting off illegal fireworks in the forest. It has displaced quite a few people in Oregon, although last I heard, no one had died and no structures have burned. But yesterday, it jumped the river into Washington. It is over in the next county, although I don’t think it is nearly as bad here as in Oregon. But they are evacuating some people on our side of the Gorge.

Our skies are so smoky this morning that we can barely see the sun, even though normally it would be a clear day.

Our skies have been really smoky as a result, and outside it smells like smoke. The air quality is very bad, and we have been avoiding doing work outside, although I had to go whack down the weeds in front of our address sign yesterday, because we are having guests who have never been here before and I realized you couldn’t read the number. There is ash all over our deck. I hope this is the worst we get from the fire and that everyone else’s houses are okay.

This is ash on the deck as of yesterday. Today it is worse.

At midnight the wind was supposed to change and the sky was supposed to clear out, but I could see no evidence of that when I got up. It was still hot out, too, and it was supposed to get cooler. But about an hour ago, I went outside and it was cooler, so I suppose the wind has finally shifted and the smoke will move out of the area. But since the wind is shifting from east winds to south winds, it will be blowing the ashes from the fire straight up into Washington, although not toward us anymore (we are northwest of the fire).

Just last Friday we saw some of the smoke on a little outing we took, although then it was not very bad, because the fire was still just on the Oregon side. We started out just going to the post office. But it was a nice day, although hot, and my husband decided we would take a little drive. First we headed straight east out of Yacolt, but after a while each of the roads we took ended up as private roads. One of the oddities of this area is that there are hundreds of private roads and roads that start out public often become private. It cramps your style when you are blindly exploring, as we like to do. So then, we decided to take Sunset Falls Road, which ends up in the Gifford National Forest, but only out as far as Dole Valley Road and then see what is on that road. Our ex-tenants live somewhere out on that road (they are my niece’s in-laws), so we wanted to see what the territory looked like.

It is much more remote than where we are. The road heads south, and we wound our way through mountains and a beautiful valley, presumably the Dole Valley, for hours. We thought we ended up in the Gifford National Forest, but looking at the map when we got home, I realized that it was the Yacolt State Forest. At some point in the forest, the road became just a narrow gravel road, and then it changed its name to L-1000. We passed a prison. It surprised us that there was a prison in what we thought was the national forest (but wasn’t).

Eventually, we got to a four-way intersection marked by signs on wooden stakes. One direction sounded like it pointed out destinations in the park. One sign said “Henderson,” and I had no idea where that was. It wasn’t even on our county map (which, since it was a map for bikers, helpfully had a huge legend covering the area of the county where we were) or the state map. The other sign said “Camas.” I knew where Camas was, on the Columbia River, because my sister and I visited it after art class one Wednesday. So, we decided to go to Camas, but it was still quite a drive to that nice little town. Camas has a scenic old town with lots of interesting shops, restaurants, and art galleries, so we stopped there for lunch at a Louisiana-style restaurant. The food was pretty good. There was some sort of art competition going on, because at just about every corner, there were artists working on canvasses. I know that there is a yearly art competition centered around areas of the Gorge, so maybe that was it. Finally, we drove home on the more normal route. When we got home, we found out we had been driving for about four hours.

Now, we are preparing for tomorrow’s arrival of my husband’s youngest brother and his wife. He was the brother who helped us drive our stuff up here from Texas. They are coming from British Columbia, where they live about an hour outside Vancouver (the more famous Vancouver). Although he was not eating a special diet when we moved last year, I find we need to locate somewhere where he can eat on a vegan, low-carb diet. That should be interesting.

For those who were worried about my brother, he is at home now. He did not have some of the more dangerous conditions they tested for, but he had to have his heart started twice to try to get it beating more regularly. Now, he will have to take medication every day and keep nitro glycerin pills near him at all times for the rest of his life. This is better than the alternative, I guess, but he is such an active guy who likes camping and kayaking and is in good physical health in other ways. He now has some blockage that makes him tire easily. Unfortunately, a bum ticker is part of our family heritage. My father died of a massive heart attack on the tennis court when he was 54, and his father died at the same age from the same thing (although not while playing tennis). My uncle was surprised that he made it to his 80’s. I guess this legacy has now made it down to one of my brothers.