Quite the snowy week

I have no pictures for you today, unless you want to see our slushy, icy driveway. We had a week of snow almost every day, for a total of 10 inches by Wednesday or Thursday. Last Wednesday, we were able to get out to do our errands and found that once we came down out of the hills, the roads weren’t bad. But we kept put after that until Saturday morning, when we went to pick up my great niece for her tai kwan do class. An interesting difference between here and Michigan, where I grew up, is that people don’t shovel their driveways here. They just wait for the snow to melt. Well, in this case, the snow hasn’t quite melted yet, and getting up the hill in our driveway can be quite an adventure. You need a running start. When we encountered my niece’s huge but unshoveled driveway, we did a little skidding around trying to get back out. It was clear that only one car had driven down their driveway the whole time, which would have been my sister’s, and her tracks were filled with about three inches of snow. My niece and her husband were raised in California and don’t feel comfortable driving in snow, even though her husband has studded snow tires. He has to, because of his work as an appraiser.

My sister, in fact, was stranded in Portland for part of the week, as that’s where she works as a maternity nurse on the night shift. She spent the day at a coworker’s house and didn’t come home until Friday. On Saturday, she showed up at our house and told us that she had been on the way here when she pulled over on our one-lane road to make room for a truck and her car just slid off the road into the ditch. The truck driver, one of our neighbors, didn’t even stop to help. We went down and helped her get her car out of the ditch, at which point she parked it in our orchard entrance and said she was leaving it there until the snow melted. Then she walked home. She didn’t come get it until Monday afternoon.

We already had a plan for handling a trip out of town by my niece’s husband and great niece. As a surprise, my great niece’s father was taking her to Disneyland this week. Her little brother was staying home with my niece, who was going to take him to a nearby resort that has an indoor water park, as they had heard from her husband’s sister that their own children, who are about the same ages, had problems because the younger boy wasn’t old enough to go on lots of the rides. Anyway, the original plan was for them to leave my great nephew with us on Tuesday morning to babysit while my niece took the others to the airport, so that she could have the car with studded snow tires, since more snow is forecast. Then, we are picking them up at the airport on Friday so that my niece doesn’t have to hurry back from the resort.

However, we got an early wake-up call from my niece’s husband that day. My niece had been up all night with stomach pains. Could we drive them to the airport? I had to throw on my clothes and we were at their house in a half hour. All was well, though, and we got them to the airport on time. My great niece was really excited to learn where she was going, as it was a secret until they were on their way to the airport. She won’t miss any school, as she goes to school on Mondays and Thursdays, and Thursday is a teacher training day or something. She’ll just miss a few days of lessons with her mother.

Last night I went to art class again. I thought about taking a picture of my painting, as it is almost done. But I decided to wait until it was finished. I always enjoy my class and was upset with myself last week for not going. It had been snowing all day up here, which was why I decided not to go, but it was so much worse later in the week that I realized I could have gone. The problem is the ride back, which is all along two-lane country roads at night.  I was worried it would be slippery. But I made that trip last night with no problems.

I finally heard about the library job, and I did not make the cut for the interviews. I’m hoping this means that they had internal folks in mind for the job rather than they thought I flunked the assessment. The assessment I took was quite a strange one. The first part was sorting a cart of books, which I did in a weird way (I took the books off the cart, sorted them, and put them back on) but it was correct, which I think was the point. The second part was an easy computer test, where I had to look up a URL and then enter in information about a person from a sheet of paper. Then I had to look up information about a book that wasn’t yet published.

The third part was a written test, and it had its problems. Although by and large it was easy, almost a dumb guy test, it wasn’t well constructed. The first question was to identify a passage showing alliteration. As I have two degrees in English, I know perfectly well what alliteration is, but there was no good example of alliteration in the test. There was an example of assonance (some people confuse the two), and there were two passages with exactly two repetitions of a consonant apiece. The other choice was just a throw-in. I had no idea which choice they considered the “correct” answer. Then there were a few other questions where the answer was ambiguous, and in one case, I picked two answers and explained why, which for some people would mean I got it wrong. It depends upon how literal the person is who was grading the test. I think I overthought some of the answers. The final part was a bunch of synopses of articles, where I had to indicate which article would be the place where I would refer a patron for information. That part was easy. Oh well.

Lately, I have been noticing a large bird around our house that looks a lot like a robin but isn’t. It has much more of a golden orange tummy and some more speckled coloring than a robin does. I finally looked it up, and it is a varied thrush. We don’t have any cardinals here, and I miss them.

And that brings me to the little squirrel and the apple. We had a wizened apple sitting around here, and instead of putting it in the composter, I decided to leave it out for the birds. So, I took it out by the bird feeder. But it had been a snowy couple of days, and when I dropped it, it made a hole in the snow and disappeared. I figured someone would find it sometime.

Two days later, I was looking out the window and I saw a small squirrel with its head in the snow. Sure enough, it came tugging that apple out of the snow. The apple was at the edge of our driveway, which is where there is a slope up to some woods that our neighbors own. He began tugging the apple up the slope. He got about halfway, the apple was about as big as he was, when he lost his grip and the apple rolled down the slope. He went off and did something else, but a little later, I saw him pulling that apple up the slope again. I didn’t know what he was going to do, because the slope gets steeper the higher it goes, but he cleverly ate some pieces out of the apple and then pulled it into a rocky cavity about halfway up that is the top part of a water feature on the landscaped slope. That was all for him and the apple until the next day.

The next day, I saw that the apple was sitting halfway up the slope again. I think another squirrel or a raccoon or large bird might have stolen the little guy’s apple. Sure enough, he came out again, and started tugging the apple up the slope. This time, because we’d had a mixture of rain and snow, when he lost his grip and the apple rolled down the hill, it got covered with snow like it does when you roll snow for a snowman. Finally, he stopped tugging on it, and I saw that he was disappearing and coming back repeatedly. I realized that he had made holes in the snow where a big blob indicates our lavender bush, and he was popped in and out from under the bush. He was biting off pieces of the apple and carrying them through the snow under the lavender. After a little while, he disappeared with the rest of the apple into the lavender bush.

The only other thing I have to tell you this week is going to sound silly. It’s about my cat, Hillary (named after Sir Edmund Hillary, in case you were wondering). Last night we were watching a TV program that’s sort of a cross between a travel and photography program. The host is a photographer who travels to remote areas of the world to take pictures, and while he tells about the places he travels to, he also gives tips about how he’s setting up his shots. Anyway, Hillary started watching TV. She does this sometimes but usually only for a minute or two. This program was about Alaska and they were showing grizzly bears. Now I can understand her getting interested in birds, which they also showed, but I don’t really understand why she would be interested in bears. She was clearly getting excited at times, and she would look at the edges and top of the TV screen as if she was expecting the bear to emerge from the side or top of the television when it got to the edge of the screen. She watched TV for at least fifteen minutes before she lost interest. I find that truly amazing.




Adventures with wood stoves

I am again posting late because this morning both my husband and I went to the dentist. I had my first exam in more than a year, and the dentist wanted to check my husband’s temporary bridge. After that, my husband decided to have his teeth examined and cleaned. It turns out I have no tartar on my teeth, something I can hardly believe, and good pockets in my gums. My dentist congratulated me on my good teeth genes. I guess it’s nice to have some good genes in my body.

Last weekend I finally took down my outside lights. It was a beautiful day, and I wanted to be doing something outside. While the rest of the country has been suffering, we’ve had temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, and both weekend days were gorgeous, with no rain. Now, it’s gone back to being cloudy. Rain has been forecast all week, but we haven’t had very much or any each day.

Our other adventures had to do with our wood stove. As you may know, we had it installed last February, and we have been using it heavily. In fact, since my husband found it was easier to light if it was warm, most of the winter he has had a fire going almost 24/7. We have had a little trouble lighting it lately and we thought it was the new wood we bought, which hadn’t sat around all summer drying like our old wood. But on Friday, my husband cleaned out the ash pan for the stove, and when he did that, he pushed the chunks of charcoal out of the grill above it. He said he hasn’t done that before when he cleaned out the ash pan.

Well, the stove lit much easier and burned brighter, but when he went to bank it down that night, it wouldn’t calm down right away like it usually does. I suggested that was maybe because it was getting a lot more air because the grill wasn’t stuffed up. In trying to get the fire to bank down, my husband went outside and stuffed a magazine into the stove’s air intake, which I couldn’t help feeling was probably not a good idea. Shortly after that, the room got really hot, which it has done before, but not suddenly and not for a while. Then the smoke detector went off three times, although I could see no smoke. (The detector that went off is the one right up by the stovepipe at the top of the ceiling.) Next, I saw sparks flying through the air outside. My husband went out and said that there were flames shooting up the chimney. So, we aren’t going to light another fire until the chimney sweep comes out. This is early, though, to have to sweep the chimney. Snow is forecast for next week, so I hope we can get it swept quickly.

In art class, I spent the day painting needles on my tree branches. Oil painting is really different from drawing, because you put layers upon layers, waiting for the paint to dry in between. Next, I will paint snow on the branches, and then over the top of that, I’ll paint more needles. It takes a lot longer to do an oil painting than it does to draw a picture because of this layering. I didn’t get any sense of this when I took oil-painting classes before.

I think I’ve forgotten to report on some new birds I’ve seen lately. First, a big fat goldish, reddish fellow was sitting on my railing the other day. Hillary the cat was very interested in him. I think he was a northern flicker, the red-shafted kind. Then, lately I have seen some birds by the feeder that looked a lot like robins but had spots. I think these are spotted towhees. Finally, the other day I looked out the window and saw a large bird fly by. I couldn’t see his head, unfortunately, because he was flying through the trees, but judging by the gray speckling on his body, I think he was an immature bald eagle. Last year, I spotted a bald eagle just sitting in a tree by the road on the way into town. It’s nice to see more.

We have been a little worried about Hillary lately. She is almost 14 years old, and she seems healthy most of the time, still acting like a kitten sometimes. But she has had a recurrence of a problem she had as a kitten. When she was not quite six months old, she got an eye infection and when we went to the vet, I told her that Hillary had already had antibiotics and they had not agreed with her, so please not to prescribe them unless she really needed them. Well, of course she prescribed them. They really didn’t agree with her. She started vomiting all the time. She couldn’t hold down any of her food even after we stopped giving her the antibiotics. We ended up giving her some kind of prescription cat food that is not good for kittens. She was supposed to eat it only in very small amounts, and the poor kitten would beg for food. Plus, her brothers weren’t allowed to have any, so I had to feed her from my shoulder to keep them out of her food. It took a couple of months on this food, but eventually she got well. However, I’ve always been convinced that this period of malnutrition was why she never got very big. She is still not much bigger than a kitten.

For some reason, she has started vomiting all the time again. It started out with her treats, which she loves, so she would gulp them down without even chewing them, and she would vomit them whole. So, I stopped giving her the treats, and that seemed to help for a while, but now she is vomiting when she eats anything. Some of you may know that she’s a little bit wild and refuses to be picked up, so it’s kind of hard to take her in to the vet (like, impossible). Also, she hides when anyone comes over, so it would be hard to call in a traveling vet, which they have around here.

Feeding her less but more often has seemed to help, and we will go a couple of days without any vomiting, but then if we feed her at all late, it starts up again. She doesn’t seem to have lost any weight, though, so she must be getting enough to eat.

That’s about all I have to report this week. Aside from this, it’s been the usual housework, walks, lolling around, and reading.


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.

The touch of mortality

Hans in happier times

We had a sad event at our house on Sunday, which also was my husband’s 71st birthday. His standard poodle, Hans, died. The poor dog had been suffering for some time, but my husband thinks that taking a pet to the vet to be put to sleep is cruel. This issue is a difficult one to resolve. I personally believe that if the pet can’t be saved, letting it suffer is cruel, but we all have to deal with this issue in our own ways. In any case, we were out working in the yard when he died, and we spent the afternoon burying him in the pasture under a hemlock tree. At least he has a nice place to be.

After several hours of fooling around with his new riding mower, my husband took off to cut the orchard. For practice, he did our small front lawn and cut down my lilac bush, planted only a few weeks before. I saw him out there, and I thought, he is going to cut down my lilac bush. I saw him pass it safely. I went back to doing the laundry. Less than a minute later, I heard a terrific crunch and looked out to see nothing, that is, no lilac bush. My niece’s husband has been suggesting I put in raised beds in front for flowers. I’m beginning to think that may be a good idea. In any case, I guess there will be no scent of lilac on our property this year.

My husband was only able to cut a sort of circular swath through the orchard. I think the slope of it worried him and he was a little scared of his mower. He also found he could not fit the mower into the wolf pen, so it’s going to have to come down. I have been wanting to take down the wolf pen since we got here, but he thought he might use it for Hans. Needless to say, Hans never set foot in the place. Our tenants, who lived here before we moved here, used it for their goats.

Azaleas next to the waterfall with the pieris above

Although it is supposed to start raining again for several days starting tomorrow, we have had several gorgeous days in a row. On one of those days, my niece’s husband kindly came over and cut the rest of the orchard. The grass is getting out of control here because we didn’t have a mower and it rained for so long this spring. I weed-whacked part of the side yard and part of the wolf pen, which has grass that is almost up to my waist. Also in the last few days, the azaleas (I think they’re azaleas) have bloomed on our ridge. The pieris plants, which were yellow during the winter, turned bright red in early spring, and are now pink. Here is a picture of the azaleas and one pieris next to the waterfall, which is not turned on yet because we need to clean it out.

On the flooring front, our contractor found a flooring installer, which I reported last week, and this week he finally returned from vacation and contacted the flooring company. We have already heard from the company representative, who is coming out on Friday to measure. Finally, some movement!

My flower drawing. Keep in mind this is the first thing I ever drew.

We also finally heard from Lowe’s. As you may (or may not) remember, we ordered carpet for the new stairs from them, the same kind as we installed during the winter in the basement. They came back to us in February saying that the carpet was out of production and wouldn’t be available until May. Last week, they called us to say that carpet would be shipped to them on May 15. I had been worrying that they would call back and say the carpet was no longer available, which, since we were trying to match the downstairs carpet, would have been bad.

And although I have moved on from my picture of a flower to another exercise and now to drawing a bird (a cedar waxwing), I have not forgotten my promise to Naomi to take a picture of my first drawing. Here is my flower, in all its glory, or not. I guess it does look like a flower.

Battling hummingbirds and the state of the stairs

A couple of weeks ago I put up a hummingbird feeder, finally, after being astounded that my sister had hummingbirds at her feeder on New Year’s Day, in the snow. In Austin we never had hummingbirds in the winter, but apparently some kinds live here year-round.

This dear little bird has been keeping the others away.

Last week we had a warm, rainy day, so I opened the sliding glass door to the deck in our bedroom. To my surprise, our cat Hillary, who hasn’t been outside since she was six weeks old (she was born in our junk pile to a feral mama) and has never shown any inclination to go outside, walked right out. I got worried about that after a second (because there are coyotes around, and she is not exactly an outdoor-saavy cat) and scooted her back in. Just as I was closing the screen door, I heard a whirring noise, and there was a hummingbird! A little brown one. I have looked up the hummingbirds in our area and think she might be a female calliope or black-chinned hummingbird. She has a little cream-colored tummy.

A while later, I heard more whirring, and there were two hummingbirds, one a rufous. Unfortunately, the brown hummingbird was chasing the rufous hummingbird away from the feeder.

So, my husband and I went out and bought another feeder, figuring that would surely make room for two. This one has a red glass reservoir with a metal base. Less than an hour after we put it up, the rufous hummingbird spent about 10 minutes drinking from it. He came back several times (I admit, I have no way of knowing if these are the same birds or several of the same kind) but then the little brown bird started chasing him off. Since then, we have only seen the brown bird at the feeder and an occasional hummingbird battle. Yesterday there were two brown hummingbirds at the feeder. They like the red one best, although yesterday I finally saw two back at the original feeder, fighting.

A six-foot square area at the back of the staircase is unfinished.

Last week our contractors didn’t come until Friday, when they started putting in the flooring next to our new staircase. They did a really nice job, but they ran out of hardwoods. So, another wait. You can see in the picture that there is a distinct difference between the old wood and the new wood, but the new wood should darken up a bit when it is clear-coated. We knew the match wouldn’t be perfect, but when Dustin showed me the sample, it looked like it would be very close. We’ll see.

We have some painting left to be done, touch-ups and painting of the new doors and clear coating the new wood, but they won’t be doing that until the stairway is complete. However, Monday we were able to go back to order more carpet for the stairs.

We put a light-blocking blind in one of our bedroom windows yesterday. All I had been able to find for that window was a muslin curtain, and it gets light so early here that we have been waking up much earlier than we want to. We ordered a cellular shade, the kind that you can move up and down with your hand. Even though it hasn’t quite stretched out to cover the whole window yet, it makes a big difference in the darkness of the room.

Today I am going to the light store to pick up the new bathroom lights. We are getting close to completing the work on the inside of the house, whoopee! The only inside project that isn’t started yet is to replace the worn vinyl in the bathrooms and laundry room.

Not quite at the finish line

On October 16, we left Provo in a light rain early in the morning. We were feeling optimistic after our good day, so we thought we might complete our trip that day.

But we soon realized we wouldn’t, as we had to travel over too many hills at too slow a pace.

We ended up in a small town in eastern Oregon, stopping about 8 PM. We had dinner and went to bed in a funky old motel (but clean).

Nothing of note happened except that my cat had taken to hiding in her cat box, which was disgusting. I was also still worried about my husband’s hand.

What else can go wrong today?

We started out this morning by failing spectacularly to capture my cat, Hilary. She sits on my lap every night, but that doesn’t mean she lets me pick her up. Our clever plan was to catch her while she was eating and put her in our dog’s crate, where she could stay until we reached Washington. My husband’s brother is due in today, and we figured we wouldn’t be seeing her once he arrived, but certainly not after our helpers get here tomorrow and start tearing the place apart.

Last time I tried to pick her up to try to treat her for fleas, I made the mistake of following my husband’s advice and trying to pick her up by her nape. I have the scars to prove how bad an idea that was. Naturally, my husband believes he could have done it. So,this morning I left it up to him. He threw a towel over her, as advised by a friend. Now he has three scars. We have put her dish in the crate in hopes we’ll walk in sometime and find her in there eating. If that doesn’t work, I don’t know what we will do.

A high quality padlock
A high quality padlock

So, on to the storage facility, where we were picking up a moving truck and clearing out our unit. That went just great except that my husband insisted on locking our unit every time we made a trip to the truck. There was literally no one else there.

On our last visit to the unit, the key broke off in the padlock. Of course, these storage people have to cut locks off all the time, luckily for us. She just brought in a saw and cut it apart. But there are still several hours left in the day. What else might happen?