Among other things, a tour of Russian grocery stores

A beautiful day for a walk. Our deck looking north toward our orchard

It looks like Wednesday is becoming the default day for my long walk with the neighbor. Today, for the first time in I don’t know when, it’s beautiful out. I’m hoping it lasts. Yesterday, our contractor came over to look at some jobs we want estimates for, and it was nice while he was here, but as soon as I went out for my short walk down the road, it got gray again. Right now the weather is cool and sunny, and it would be nice if it was like that for our walk later this morning.

Last Wednesday, we went to a little county park along the Lewis River for our walk. We were attempting to walk a 2.5-mile trail indicated on the maps, but we kept getting off it and missed the correct way back. I think we probably walked about three miles. It was a gray day but not rainy. In fact, despite being rather drippy most days, the only real rain we got was last Tuesday night on the way back from art class.

I don’t think I mentioned that last week I applied for a job. Probably that was because I didn’t see the job notice until Thursday, when I sat down and made out the application immediately. I may have mentioned last year that I talked to the manager of the Battle Ground library about volunteering there, and that was when I discovered that they don’t allow volunteers to do any real library work. She suggested I keep an eye out for positions that sounded a bit like floater substitutes. I have been looking ever since, but this is the first job notice I’ve seen that sounds like it might be like that, only it is a senior position. I have some experience working in libraries way back, so I don’t know if they would consider me qualified. In fact, I was inclined to think this may be a position where they already had a candidate in mind for a promotion. However, this morning I received an email notifying me that I needed to sign up for an assessment next week of my computer skills and book-sorting capabilities. So, I have an appointment for Tuesday afternoon. This is a part-time position over at the Ridgefield library, so a bit of a drive.

Last Thursday, my sister and I went for our first weigh-in at Weight Watchers after joining. I lost 6.4 pounds, and my sister lost 2. A very good start for both of us.

On Thursday, as I said, I spent the day working on my job application, resume, and cover letter. I did not have all the information I needed. I wish I’d kept a copy of my state application for Texas, as I had to find the phone numbers and addresses for every business. Then there was the job of finding people for references. It’s been a long time since I was asked to supply any references at all, most companies in high tech being satisfied with calls to former employers.

On Saturday, we rescheduled an outing that was designed to get my husband out of the house. He doesn’t walk much anymore after injuring his knee two years ago, despite the doctor’s telling him that he needs to exercise more. And he tends to turn down opportunities to do things, preferring to stay home. So, my friend in Portland and I arranged that we would take the train into Portland and meet her at the Gateway station, where she would drive us to visit several Russian grocery stores in the area. There is a large population of Russians out here, I was originally surprised to find. My husband not only studied Russian (as did I, although I doubt that I can remember any) but he visited several times during the days of the U.S.S.R., and he actually lived there for a year with his ex-wife, when she was on a Fulbright. So, he’s the one who knows about Russian food.

On Saturday mornings, I take my great-niece to her tae kwon do class. I started doing that when I found out that she was missing the class most weekends because her parents kept forgetting about it. She loves that class so much that I thought she should be able to go if she wanted to (and incidentally, this Friday night she is testing for her yellow belt; she is all excited). When I left to pick her up, my husband told me he would be ready to go to Portland when I got back, and he seemed to be perfectly well. However, when I arrived home after dropping her off, I didn’t see him in the living room and got a sinking feeling. Sure enough, he was back in bed, and I heard the usual. He felt crappy. His legs hurt. He didn’t go.

My friend and I had a great time, although we didn’t end up eating Russian food (bought some, though). The one place that had a delicious-looking deli only had a weird little place outside to eat, so we went for train sushi. I brought back some cheese, bread, crackers, and cookies for my husband. I was tempted by the many jars of different kinds of mushrooms we found in one place, but I was afraid they would be pickled. I don’t like pickled things very much.

My picture in art class is coming along. This week I painted pine needles on top of my branches that are covered in snow and worked on my bird. My new teacher said, “This is really your first oil painting?” (Technically, it is not, but I haven’t painted in 25 years and at that time received a minimum of instruction.) I said yes, and she said, “In that case, this is remarkable.” I almost took a photo of my picture for you but decided that my phone was too buried under my art supplies.

 

Slow week

Not much is going on yet this week, although the end of the week will be busier. I was supposed to go for my first extended walk with the neighbor today, but she has cancelled because of the rain. We have missed all the nice days we might have tried to go because rain was forecast and I didn’t want to invite her at the last minute once it proved to be nice. We are going to try for tomorrow.

Yesterday, we were up and out very early. My husband had an appointment with a sleep center in Vancouver. Ever since he had radiation therapy 11 or 12 years ago, he has had a sleep disorder. He goes to sleep okay at night and then wakes up around 2 or 3 AM and usually can’t get back to sleep. This means he takes lots of naps. It never seemed to occur to our Austin doctor to refer him to a sleep center. He has tried lots of sleep remedies, but most of them have to do with going to sleep, not staying asleep, and he doesn’t want to take a possibly addictive medication. But he has tried rooibos tea, melatonin, and even a marijuana infusion (it’s legal here). That worked the best, but not as a regular dose before bed. That is, it worked three or four nights in a row then stopped working. So, finally, he has a referral to a sleep clinic. He has his sleep study next month. It’s possible he has sleep apnea.

I went along for his appointment because it was in Vancouver, and I had other things I wanted to do there. We went to a craft shop afterwards, where I was looking for some small paint brushes to use for the needles on my pine trees (in my painting, of course). Then we went for breakfast at Elmer’s and on into Portland to Ikea.

My husband has switched from sitting on the sectional to using our Amish rocking glider. He started sitting there because he has trouble getting up out of the sectional, which is low. First, he started by pulling the rocker out of position so that he could see the TV. It ended up in a passageway, so I was always having to push it back when he wasn’t sitting in it. Finally, a few weeks ago, I rearranged the furniture so that his rocking glider could be permanently in a good place for TV watching.

My husband’s cozy corner. The table doesn’t match the chair, but it does go well with the sectional, which is across the way. The double doors behind are usually open. They are to my little office, but my desk is messy, so I closed them.

But then he didn’t have a place to put his remote controls, drinks, and so on. (Of course, the remote controls are his.) So, he kept pulling out a table from the wall. Thus, the table, with its cord attaching its lamp to the wall, was always in the walkway, and he never remembered to push it back when he wasn’t sitting there. So, he clearly needed a table next to his rocking chair. That’s what the trip to Ikea was for, and I’m here to tell you that Tuesday mornings are a good time to go. Always, before I retired, I had to go in the evenings or the weekends, and it was incredibly crowded. Yesterday, hardly anyone was there. My husband put his table together yesterday afternoon, and now he has his own cozy corner of the living room.

We are ramping up to have our contractor back to bid on a few jobs around the house. I have figured out that I’ll never get my raised beds for planting vegetables if I don’t get that shed thing removed. I’ve been waiting for my niece and her husband to help, but they are always busy, and every time they plan to come over and start, something comes up. As predicted, because if something isn’t full, my husband fills it, he has also filled it up with firewood, so now we need somewhere to put the firewood. We compromised. We’ll ask for a bid on tearing down the shed thing and building a woodshed elsewhere. You may ask, why not use the shed thing for wood? It’s because it’s located on the only part of our property up by the house that has full sun. As it is, I was peeved when my husband put the propane tank there, since he knew that since we bought our house, I’ve been planning to use that space for a garden.

With careful feeding of our cat every few hours, we have gotten it so she is only vomiting after breakfast. We think it’s because of the long period between dinner and breakfast, so we are going to try giving her some food before we go to bed. Also, my husband has to remember not to give her lots of food for breakfast. The problem seems to be that when she gets too hungry, she gulps her food, and then she throws up. If she is fed smaller amounts closer together, she doesn’t throw up.

In art class last night I painted snow on top of the branches of my trees. My teacher, Sarah, says that probably needs two weeks to dry thoroughly before we paint more needles on top of the snow. So, next week I’ll be painting my bird. Next week is my last class with Sarah before she takes pregnancy leave. We still don’t know who is taking her classes, but she thinks it will be a new teacher, who just graduated from art school, someone she knows well. If so, I will give her a chance before I think of changing classes. I just don’t want my last teacher, Theresa, back. Last night I heard another student asking Sarah about who is taking her classes. That student is a professional artist who is taking classes at the art school to learn watercolor. She was asking if the replacement teacher knew watercolor and saying that she needed someone who did. Of course, no one knows who the replacement is going to be, but Sarah said that if it is Theresa, she does not do watercolor. Sarah remarked that she was afraid that by the time she got back from pregnancy leave, she would have lost all her students, because so many of the adults are considering changing classes when she leaves.

Well, that’s all for this week, but starting tonight, a lot more is going on in the coming week, so there will be a little more to report.

Some pictures from art class

My great niece with her picture of flowers in art class. I think it’s pretty good for a nine-year-old.

We took three pictures in art class last week, one of my great niece and her drawing of flowers. She took a lot of encouraging, but I think she did a good job. Her teacher told her she had a knack with the charcoal.

The other two were of my drawings. One was the finished castle that I mentioned last week. Half of the picture was its reflection in the water, and I was deeply unsatisfied with my rendering of it. But when I went back to class last week, it didn’t look that bad after all. I cleaned it up a bit and decided the drawing was finished.

My castle landscape

The next assignment was to do a still life. I wanted to try one, but after I got started, I don’t think either I or the teacher was very dedicated to it. I remember hearing our original art teacher tell people that she usually skipped that assignment, which she thought confused people because it had no relation to the method they used in the school for learning how to draw. I didn’t know how they were going to let me do a still life, as we sit in rather small spaces to draw, but it turned out that I was allowed to select some objects from the anteroom and they put me at a corner to draw so that I would have more room. The objects I could select from were fairly tacky, so I picked a glass vase and two seashells. I did not think I did such a great job, and my teacher really didn’t help me much. I wanted pointers on how to do the glass and all she said was “Make it streakier.” I remember getting lessons on painting glass in my oil painting class years ago, so I know there is a lot more she could have said.

My really pathetic still life

On the home front, I first went crazy buying bulbs. Ever since we arrived here, my intention was to plant bulbs in the fall so we would have flowers in the spring. But I was hoping to actually have flower beds by that time, which would have been easier. I went out to buy daffodils one day, to plant in the orchard, and I was fairly restrained, but they did not have a good selection. Then the next day, I went with my sister to the farm store, and they had a much better selection, so I got more daffodils, ranunculas, crocuses, and snowdrops. The next day I went out to find places to plant them. I planted some of the daffodils under a rim of sod behind the house and some under one of the apple trees in the orchard. But most of our ground was either rock under a thin layer of dirt or under sod. It was very hard trying to plant, and I didn’t get more done except that I planted the ranunculas at the bottom of the ridge between the blueberry bush and the bird feeder. Still haven’t done the crocuses, snowdrops, or about half the daffodils. But I don’t have to get them planted all at once.

On the weekend, I went on an outing with the kids. My niece, her husband, and their two children and I went to the Japanese nursery in Woodland and then to the pumpkin patch. I restrained myself at the nursery, only buying a partner walnut tree for the one we have in our orchard. My great niece talked her father into buying something called a jujube tree. He is a pushover, basically. Then we all went to the pumpkin patch. My niece needed lots of pumpkins to be jack o’lanterns for the spooky forest walk for my great nephew’s birthday party. So we filled up a wheelbarrow with pumpkins. Then the kids enjoyed the hay maze and the hay ride. Later we went to Fuel, a cafe we like in Ridgefield, and then home. A couple hours after arriving home, it was back to their house for our third Game of Thrones night.

This week I have spent finishing the housework for our guest’s arrival. The days were beautiful until yesterday afternoon, but now it is cold and drizzly. Poor timing, as our guest is coming from Houston and is originally from Louisiana, so she is used to warmer weather. I hope she doesn’t think its too cold here.

Today, our contractors are back to finish our sets of steps in the rain.

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.

Things that are different

We have a few things to worry about this week. My younger brother is in the hospital with cardiac problems, so we are thinking about him and hoping his procedure today comes out okay. Also, we have been thinking about our friends in Texas, in particular, Houston. Our friends in Austin report that it isn’t bad there. They just got more rain than normal. But Houston is a low lying city with a high water table and no high areas. We called one friend on Sunday, and at that point she said she was okay, although she was worried that water might come in the house. She said when the rain stopped, the water drained off immediately, so she was just hoping for breaks in the rain often enough to keep her house from flooding. We are assuming she is okay. As far as I know, she doesn’t live near any of the reservoirs that they opened up.

I don’t have much news this week, so I thought I’d write a little post about some of the things we’ve found different about living here in Washington, versus Texas, where I lived for 30 years.

Weather. Well, I’ve written a lot about the weather. We absolutely love it here. At this time of year in Austin, it would still be really hot, with highs in the 90’s or even 100’s and no relief until October or even November. We got so tired of six-month summers, and really hot ones at that. This week, it has been hot here in southern Washington, by which I mean in the 80’s and 90’s but cooling off into the 60’s at night. We have only had one day that we had the air conditioning on all day, versus most of the time in Texas. Most of our days are sunny. In fact, this year, we are having less rain than usual. I understand that most years it is sunny in the summer most of the time but rains every three weeks or so. This summer we have only had one rainy day. Still, it is nice and green here. We have loved all of the seasons, and we are moving toward the end of our first year here.

Degrees north. Since we are so much farther north, one thing we’ve had difficulty adjusting to is the earliness of the mornings. In Texas, morning comes about 6 AM in the summer and 7 in the winter, and evening at about 8:30 PM in the summer and 6 in the winter. At the height of this summer, it was getting daylight about 4 AM and stayed light until after 9. My memories of living in Michigan are that it was dark in the winter until about 7 AM, but here it is definitely daylight in the winter earlier than that. That might be because of the time zones.

We have had difficulty adjusting to having light come into our windows so early in the morning. Unfortunately, our bedroom faces east, and the sun blasts in even before it is over the treetops. In fact, if we didn’t have a line of huge conifers behind the house, it would be much worse. We have black-out curtains everywhere except across the sliding glass door, because I couldn’t find the right size. My husband bought a blind to put outside that door, but he hasn’t hung it yet, partly because I think he bought one that is too large. It will cover the sliding glass door and both windows, and I don’t want to cover the windows, which have black-out curtains on them, because I want to be able to get air into the room at night. So, we still have the sun blasting through the curtains on the sliding glass door every morning.

Scenery. Austin, with its hills, creeks, trees, and river, was pretty enough, but it is gorgeous here. We are surrounded by huge trees, with views of mountains on clear days. We’re up on a hill with a view of our pond and woods. We can barely see our neighbors. And this is just from our house. Every drive we take we discover more to look at.

Traffic and driving. In Texas, people drive fast, probably because the state is so big it takes forever to get across it. Here, some people drive fast but lots don’t. After all, we’re in the country, and comparatively speaking, there is no traffic. I also have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have anywhere to get in a hurry. I’ve been consciously slowing myself down. (My husband has had less success in this regard.) However, I have noticed some little driving idiosyncrasies here. The main highway on our way home is four lanes in Battle Ground, then it is down to two lanes, and after about a mile it has an extra passing lane. Then it is back down to two lanes. I keep getting behind people who drive very slowly, like at least 10 miles an hour under the speed limit, on the two-lane road, but then when the passing lane comes up so that I can pass them, they speed up so that I can’t. Then as soon as we are back to two lanes, they slow down again. That is frustrating.

But the odder thing, the thing I can’t figure out at all, is what I call the white stripers. These are the people who drive up the highway with their right two wheels straddling the white line so that their wheels are actually on the shoulder. I have seen this time and again, and I haven’t seen it anywhere else. I have no idea what they think they are doing or why they would drive like that.

But traffic? No, there isn’t any really, except for the double dump trucks that are busy disassembling the mountain nearby. We don’t like them.

Logging. A sad thing about this area is that if a property changes hands, in most cases the first thing that happens is all the trees are logged. I mean all the trees. I mean utter destruction and devastation, with piles of trash lying around on the ground for months afterwards. It is horrible to see and so bad for the environment. But the people around here are loggers. See a tree, cut it down. Although some of them will plant a few trees on the property after they build their house, many of them won’t. In fact, they really like to decorate with rocks. And I am sure that many of them need the money from the trees in order to afford the house that they put up. Still, many lots in our area that were wooded when we moved here are now scenes of total destruction. This is really a contrast for me. I remember that when we were kids, our family bought a wooded lot, and our parents went around with the builders and marked every single tree that the builders were allowed to cut down to build the house. I’m sure it was difficult for the builders, but we didn’t want to end up with a treeless lot.

Religion. Here’s the biggest oddity of this area. Unknowingly, we have moved into the hotbed of a sect of a sect, that is, Old Apostolic Lutheranism. I did some reading after we got here, and this county has the highest concentration of members of this church in the country. I tried reading about their beliefs, but I don’t really understand what the Wikipedia page is talking about. Their practices are another thing—in particular, that they take really seriously the “be fruitful and multiply” part of the bible. I think we have at least three apostolic families in our neighborhood. Our neighbors across the road are one of them, and they have 17 children. I was really surprised when I met them to find that they are only in their 40’s. They get married really young, and then they have children every year. Those neighbors’ kids, in particular, are considered the scourge of the neighborhood. They are always making a lot of noise. Lately, they’ve been shooting guns all day every day. We’re talking eight-year-olds, here.

Basically, most of the boys go straight out of high school into a trade. In fact, they’ve all been working really hard before they get official jobs. I think I mentioned that the kids across the street are the ones who cut and sold us our firewood. This means we have lots of very capable and hard-working people around here, especially in the building trades. I am fairly sure that our contractors are from that religion, although we never talked about it. The girls get married and become mothers. I don’t think very many people in our county go to college.

These people are descendants of the original settlers of this area, who were from Scandinavia. Old Apostolic Lutheranism came out of Sweden, but we also have a lot of Finns in the area that belong to the church as well. Our contractors are of Finnish descent. Finns are good wood workers, which is one reason they constituted a large portion of the population of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where long ago they engineered the copper mines. (I lived there for a year long ago.) My understanding is that a lot of the people up there are also Old Apostolic Lutherans.

I think this is all very interesting, and so far the only down side is that the schools around here are known for bullying by the OAL kids toward the other kids. My niece heard about that before her kids started school. In fact, standing in line at the post office, an OAL mother told her not to send her quirky red-headed daughter to the Yacolt school or she would be bullied. So, she is home-schooled part-time and goes to school two days a week in Battle Ground. Next week, my little great-nephew is starting preschool on the same schedule.

Anyway, it is odd to me, coming from a city, where the largest churches are usually Catholic, Methodist, and in the south, Baptist, to find that what I consider the more usual religions have very small churches out here, whereas there are three really big (for the country) Old Apostolic Lutheran churches in the immediate area, and their parking lots are packed on Sundays and some other days, sometimes at rather odd times, like last Friday at 10 AM.

So, you can see that there are some things here that are very different for us.

Getting back to normal

We are back to our normal life this week after entertaining like mad last week. We had my middle brother (MB) and his wife here for Wednesday, then they moved over to my niece’s house so that my little brother (LB) and his family could stay at our house. Then MB and wife came back for the next night, after LB went home to Seattle. The house was noisy and full of people, but it was fun. We had nine people to dinner on Wednesday night and fifteen people to dinner on Thursday. When you consider that it’s usually just the two of us, that’s a lot of activity.

We are noisy when we get together. MB is quite the raconteur, and LB’s family of five is just plain outgoing (sort of a family trait—most of us are super extroverts, and then there’s me, the introvert). But LB has quite the knack of just coming in and making himself at home. When he and his family arrived, he came out on the deck and helped me grill the steaks (when he was young, he had a job as a chef at a fancy restaurant) and his wife started roasting cauliflower. MB also assisted with the steaks, only he had LB saying to him repeatedly, “Don’t cut it!” (He cuts into the meat to see if it is done. Apparently, you’re supposed to tap it.)

It’s a good thing everyone brought something, because I thought steak, big baked potatoes, and salad were enough. Then when I came back in from eating, hoping for more green beans that my niece brought, literally every bit of food was gone except for some of the steak. After dinner, LB’s oldest daughter, a lovely 16-year-old, started making cookies for dessert. My niece and her husband took their youngest home and left her daughter with us, so that she and her cousin, nine and ten, could spend some time together. The two little girls were no trouble at all.

And in the morning, LB got up and started making breakfast. That was a nice start to the day. Then we went over to pick raspberries at my niece’s house before they had to leave. That night, the rest of us went out to eat and finished the evening in my sister’s hot tub.

All in all, there was mostly just a lot of talking and story-telling, but that’s what family get-togethers are for. It was a shame that the week they were here was one of the hottest on record, one day being 105, but no one seemed to be uncomfortable. We just couldn’t go on any hikes, which is something we usually do.

The lower steps, ending up at the wolf pen. Yes, that thing in the bottom center of the picture is a step.

Then yesterday the guys were back out to work on the very last project that we are paying for, the outside steps from the top level of the house down to the lower drive. I don’t know if I reported a few weeks ago that I almost fell down those steps when the asphalt guys were working on the driveway. They were very dangerous. Some of them slanted, some were unsteady, and one was a step that was twice as high as the others. I forgot to take a picture of them to start with, so here is a picture of some other ones we have that are actually safer than the ones we replaced. These steps go from the lower drive down to the bottom of the orchard. See if they even look like steps to you. I have been weed whacking them, but I haven’t done it recently.

The steps at the bottom are new, and you can see what the old steps looked like at the top.

Since I forgot to take a before picture, I took the following picture while they were in progress. You can see that several steps are already inserted at the bottom of the picture, but the top of the steps give you an idea what they were like. The only ways besides these steps to get down from the upper level are to go back in the house and go down the stairs, or to walk all the way down the driveway to the lower drive and back up again.

Our nice new steps

Finally, here is a picture of the finished steps. They forgot we asked for a rail, so they will have to come back and provide one, but in the meantime, these steps are much safer. We have already been up and down them several times, whereas I used to avoid the other ones.

That pretty much takes care of the projects we are paying for, except for the sauna, and the electrician is coming out next week to install the new part. We still have lots more to get done around here, though. My husband says maybe we can have our contractors come back and do the lower steps later, but we have already used up more of our house sale money than I wanted to. I want to have some left over for emergencies. We have to take down the wallless shed so I can put up my garden boxes, so there will be some gardening related activities to report later. And my niece’s husband has some plans for some more rustic, but still safer, steps below.

But in the meantime, now that the major work on the house is done, I’ll have to figure out some other projects to work on.

Two big accomplishments

I was estimating it would take me through the weekend to put away my books, and we are running out of time to prepare for my brother’s visit. We are going to the beach on Saturday for my sister’s birthday celebration and won’t be back until Sunday. My brother is coming from the beach to our house on Monday, so we don’t have much time.

The back of the big room. Picture it before, with about 80 boxes and assorted junk, and the furniture just anyhow and covered with dust.

But I was wrong about the books. On Wednesday morning last week, I got through F, and then my sister volunteered to come help me with them after art class. Once she gets going on something, she really gets going, and she had a good idea about doing a double sort. Instead of putting all the books for one letter on the table and alphabetizing them, which could be very difficult with letters that had lots of stacks, she sorted out all the, say, GA’s first, then began making stacks of GE, GI, and so on while I sorted the GA’s by author and title. It made the work go so much faster that in a couple of hours, we were able to get through N. The next morning, using her new system, I got halfway through T (S and T were lots of stacks), and then she came over again. Within a half hour, we had finished the books. When I tell you that we had 11 stacks of just the letter M, you will know that we shelved a lot of books.

I took my sister out to dinner on Wednesday evening, and on the way to take her home, we saw our friends the doe and her two fawns, having a snack in our orchard.

The big room toward the window. A few boxes still by the window

My husband and I then set about clearing out the room. We finished doing that as good as it is going to be done by Sunday, and then I started cleaning it. Here are pictures of what the big room looks like now.

And we finally got our carpet in, after waiting for it since February. It is not a perfect match with the existing carpet. To me, it looks browner. I felt like the existing carpet had more light and blue colors in it. I chose a speckled color to hide dirt. But since the two carpets meet at the doorway, I don’t think anyone is going to notice.

The carpet is in!

I started cleaning the house on Monday. I had been neglecting the cleaning while I worked on books and helped my husband stack firewood. We did a little more of that today. Our last rack finally came in, and I just finished stacking three layers and came in to rest. My husband is still outside splitting the larger logs. The shade by the woodpile is almost gone, so I probably won’t go back out to work today. It’s only an hour before I have to leave for my class.

The contractors came back out on Friday to “button up” the rest of their work, that is, put the transitions in where the marmoleum and hardwood floors meet, adjust the pocket doors for the new floor height, do some dry walling in the electric room, rehang the closet door in the laundry room, and finish the sauna. Unfortunately, when we tested the sauna, the heater did not work. We had it on for more than an hour and no heat. So, the electrician has to come back out. We don’t think he saw the instructions for the sauna in the folder with the ones for the generator when he came the first time. He knew the generator, so he probably didn’t even look at the folder.

My clown fish

For those who are interested in my art class, here is my latest picture, of a clown fish among anemones. We are still not sure we are going to stick with our new teacher. The time slot is good for my sister and for my great niece, who is on the waiting list for our class. But we have noticed that the teacher spends lots of time with the kids in the class and not much time with the adults (the opposite of our former teacher, but then most of the kids in the class are not serious about the art). If we didn’t need help with our art, would we be in a class? My sister is going to talk to her today. She told me what she was going to say, and I said it was better for her to talk to her, because I wouldn’t be so tactful.

At last, marmoleum!

Our laundry room in use. The marks in the vinyl won’t come out, and it looks dirty all the time.

Our marmoleum is finally all in. The flooring guy came back on Monday to replace the subflooring and finish laying the marmoleum in the laundry room and half bath. Today, our regular contractors will be here to replace the baseboards. On Thursday, I can wash the new marmoleum and we can finally put back the washer and dryer. I guess I’ll be doing laundry this weekend.

So, the pictures I have for this week are of the laundry room before and after. You can see how bad the vinyl looked before. It had black marks in it that wouldn’t come out, and it was worn and dirty looking.

The baseboards aren’t back in yet, nor are the washer and dryer, but what an improvement.

Here you can see quite an improvement in the appearance of the room. And the flooring in the bathrooms looks even better because it goes so well with the light green-blue paint.

We’ve also had a slight movement forward on the problem of cutting our slope. We have a steepish slope in back of our house from the basement floor down to the pond, with the wolf pen in the middle. It is important to keep it from getting overgrown, as it includes our septic field.

Our slope, as viewed from the deck above.

I was trying to trim it with our weed whacker, working my way up from the bottom, but as soon as it got too steep, I had to stop. It can’t be cut with the mower until it is trimmed, and in any case, I have my doubts about getting a mower up that slope, although our tenant managed to keep it cut. In this picture, the foxgloves that you can see in the middle are actually almost five feet high, so that gives you an idea of how high the grass is.

We have been looking for someone to cut it for several weeks now. Finally, a young guy called last week and said he would be out yesterday. He came, but our contractor had not conveyed to him the information that he needed to bring a brush cutter. We put him to work with our weed whacker, but because it hadn’t been charged up, he soon ran both batteries out of juice. My husband ran up to the hardware store to buy one, but they were sold out. Our yard guy said he could borrow a brush cutter from his uncle, so we had him cut our orchard with the riding mower, and then he went home. I had been working on the orchard with the weed whacker, too, and my husband had taken another swipe at it with the riding mower, but he still feels unsafe on the mower with the slope in the orchard.

If you look very carefully at the edge of the wolf pen in the top part of the picture, you can see the small progress the lawn guy made with the weed whacker before the batteries ran out. He is coming today with his uncle’s brush cutter to finish the job. Unfortunately, he’s only a short-term solution, because he is moving away in a couple of weeks to go work in California.

And that’s about it. We’ve had lovely weather lately. It rained toward the end of last week and during the weekend, but we had a hot one on Monday, and then since then it’s been delightfully chilly at night and cool during the day while still nice and bright out. I would say, perfect weather.

With the marmoleum out of the basement, my husband and I should soon be able to get back to fastening the bookcases to the wall so that I can unpack our books.

One step forward, two back

Here is our driveway, all done.

The good news for this week is that our asphalt is finished, and it looks really nice! Everyone who has come up the driveway has commented about it. Our next door neighbors even asked the pavers to come over and give them an estimate while they were here. So, here is a picture of that. One more project finished!

The floor with the old vinyl looks dirty even though it isn’t.

Now on to other news. The flooring guys, as you may remember, wanted to install the marmoleum on the same day that the pavers were here, so we had to put them off. The guy arrived to do the flooring yesterday. The original plan was to lay the marmoleum on top of the existing vinyl, but when the flooring guy started working in the laundry room, he realized that the vinyl wasn’t securely fastened to the floor. You could just lift it up, basically. Even though it had been glued, it hadn’t been glued very well. He also said that he was not allowed to lay the marmoleum on top of the flooring that was underneath it. So, it turned out he was only able to do two of the four areas yesterday. Those were the small toilet area in the master bathroom and the closet. The laundry room and half bath are rescheduled for Monday, when he will come back out and lay a different floor.

The marmoleum is down in this room, although nothing else is done.

I had hoped to be able to show before and after pictures, and I still can, but unfortunately the rooms I took pictures of are not the rooms that are “finished.” By “finished,” I mean that we are still waiting for the toilet to be reinstalled and the baseboards put back. As you can see from the picture above, the old vinyl looks all worn and dirty even after it has been washed. The after picture here is of a different room, and the marmoleum hasn’t even been washed yet (you can’t wash it for three days after it is laid), but you can see how much better it looks.

We will get one toilet back today (thank goodness—I am tired of going downstairs just to go to the bathroom), but the flooring isn’t going to be finished until Monday, and the marmoleum can’t have any heavy weights on it until after it is washed, so our washer and dryer will continue to sit in the guest room for about another week.

Now, the carpet. Just to recap, we laid carpet in our basement in December and then we replaced the scary spiral staircase with a regular one in February. We went back and ordered the same carpet for the stairs and the landing in late February or early March. We have been waiting for it since then.

Our ship date for the carpet was early May, and then it got changed to mid-May. In mid-May, I understood my husband to tell me that Lowe’s had called and told us the carpet was shipped. But by last week we still hadn’t heard back from them. I finally called them on Friday. Of course, they had no record of that last call, and my husband could have misunderstood what they said. Perhaps they called to report the new ship date not to report the carpet had been shipped. So, Lowe’s called the mill (Lowe’s had apparently completely forgotten about our order). They called back to say that the mill is having trouble producing the carpet and is going to discontinue it. They say they’ll honor the back orders, and we have a new ship date of June 30. But the flooring person from Lowe’s warned me that they had this happen once before, and the mill cancelled the order.

I have a friend telling me the carpet probably won’t match anyway, but there isn’t so much as a threshold separating the old carpet from where the new carpet will be, so installing the same stuff seemed like my best bet. I am not sure what I’ll do if they call back and say we can’t get the carpet at all. I could try for the same texture and pull out one of the colors in the carpet (which is a speckled mixture of beige and blue and some other colors), or I could install something completely different. Or I could put something else at the landing, maybe wood, and a different carpet coming down the stairs, so that the two carpets don’t meet. I hope they will at least give me a definite answer by the end of the month, either ship the carpet or cancel but don’t put me off again.

Here’s hoping that by next week I can report one more project finished.

A work in progress

The excitement around here this week is all centered around the driveway. Our pavers did show up on Monday. Up until Saturday, we just had a provisional start date from them. They had originally told us that they didn’t schedule very far out because of the weather. But they were here bright and early on Monday.

You can see how pretty and rural the driveway looks here at the top. On the two tracks running down the hill, though, the bricks are easy to slip off of or miss and they pop out of position.

This was a project that I was against when we first moved here. Our driveway is made of diamond-shaped bricks in two tracks, one for each wheel. I loved the rural look of it with the grass growing through the diamonds. However, during the winter, with all the rain and the trucks coming up and missing the tracks, it turned into a mud pit, and it still has ruts in it and bricks that are out of place. I had to admit that paving the driveway seemed to be a very practical idea. I meant to take a picture of it before the guys started, but I forgot, so my first picture is of the top of the driveway, when they hadn’t yet dug out the bricks. It doesn’t show the mess that the driveway had become, just the nice part of it, because they had already dug up the bricks in the messy part.

It turns out the driveway bricks were held in position by rebar, sticking up straight out of the ground, which the pavers had to pull out of the driveway, piece by piece. They even put rebar in the side parking area (which was where we found it first), which didn’t have the bricks but instead large chunks of brown gravel. Because the people who put in the parking area had first covered the grass with plastic, the parking area didn’t drain properly and got all churned up over the winter. We are paving that, too, as well as the lower drive. When we moved here, the movers had mixed success with getting down that drive. Now there shouldn’t be a problem.

Here is the driveway with gravel on it. The arc of grass to the right is in front of our house. The area to the left is the bottom of our ridge.

The guys are planning to finish today, but I took a picture of the driveway in mid-progress, with lovely gravel. I actually might have preferred a gravel driveway, but I know that my niece and her husband asphalted their driveway a year or so ago because every winter their gravel got washed down into the road. We probably would have had the same problem.

Of course, just as I feared, the flooring guy was planning to lay the marmoleum tomorrow. That would mean that our contractors would have to be able to get in today to yank the sinks and toilets in the bathrooms. But of course, they can’t, and the asphalt is not supposed to be driven on for a day, so we had to reschedule. So far, I don’t know when that will be. Nor have I heard at all from the carpeting people. Once these guys get out of here and we have a date for the marmoleum, I guess I need to call the carpet guys. We have been waiting for the carpet to come in since February, and it was supposed to have arrived at the end of May.

I am also still trying to find someone to whack down our back slope. Once we get it whacked down the first time, we should be able to maintain it with the push mower, or if we can find someone, we can just get them to whack it down several times over the summer. No luck so far, and pretty soon the grass is going to be over my head. I see some spears of foxglove growing in it, too. Very pretty.

Our contractor came out late last week and removed his junk from our basement and outside the house. I would be working at putting away my books if I wasn’t waiting for my husband to fasten the bookcases to the wall first. He has promised to do it this week. I feel like everything I could do is on hold. This one job would allow us to move forward in a big way, but as I’ve mentioned before, I have never figured out a way to motivate him to get something done. Right now, he has several projects in progress. The wolf pen is partway down. The parts for fastening the bookcases to the wall are there, but no work is done. The seat of our new outdoor dining chair that he broke by slamming his butt down into it is on the table with the glue sitting next to it. The table and the counter that he said he’d clear off are halfway empty but are starting to accumulate junk (all his) again. He bought a blind to cover our bedroom sliding glass door but never even started putting it up (good, because I don’t want it over the windows—it is too big). The shed thing that is in the space where my garden needs to go is still sitting there waiting to be taken down, and after that my above-ground garden boxes need to be made. (My niece’s husband said he would do that, though, so it will get done.) He cut the orchard grass once, and after the guys get their trucks out of the orchard, I suspect I’ll be the one cutting it from now on. That’s how life is around here.

I am missing my bird book, because the birds around here are different from the ones we saw in Texas. At first, our bird feeder seemed to be attracting only chickadees (and our hummingbird feeder hummingbirds, of course), but lately, I have managed to identify a couple of birds I’ve never seen before, using the app whatbird. One of them is the Smith’s longspur, which is quite a pretty bird and loves the suet feeder. The other one looks like a black-capped or California or black-tailed gnatcatcher, but the range for all three of these birds is the southwestern United States. I am only a novice bird identifier, but I couldn’t find another bird that looked like these, with a black head, a gray body and light gray tummy. They are small birds, slightly bigger than the chickadees.