Out and about a bit

Last time I checked the coronavirus statistics for the county, it seemed as though we had fewer new cases this week. However, today the total number is up to 1946, which is more than 200 since last week for the county, so no, the number of new cases is not slowing down. Now we are showing 40 deaths, so right before we opened up more, we were only getting about 50 new cases a week and were steady at 29 deaths, but since then, we’ve gone up by 150-200 cases a week and 11 more deaths. Now 36,558 people have been tested, and the mystifying rate of new cases per 100,000 population is down to 74.3. Perplexing.

This Friday, Maja and I took a hike on the Siouxon Trail. We had only been out there once. It is extremely remote. After exiting the highway and driving down some country roads, you drive on some bad roads and through rugged scenery for about 15-20 minutes to get into the Gifford Pinchot Forest, and then you drive for about another half hour once you are in, the roads getting worse and worse. In several places, the pavement has buckled and the roads are only one lane wide. Finally, you get to the very end of a forest road, and there’s the trailhead. The first time we went out there, we got totally lost, because we were depending upon the driving instructions from AllTrails, and the phone lost our location. We were actually looking for a different trail and ended up at the Siouxan. There was only one other car out there.

So, this time, we were shocked to find more than 20 cars there. By the time we hiked three miles and were returning to the parking lot, people were coming down in droves. We saw lots of backpackers and several camps set up near the trail. We had to cope with the masks going up and down, and there were so many dogs around that I had to keep putting Luke back on his leash, so I finally ended up keeping him on it. It really is a beautiful trail, though, sinking down in the lush forest to run alongside the creek. It wasn’t terribly hot out, but with the exercise we got quite warm, and the trail is down far enough that you don’t often get nice breezes. Rumor has it that there are waterfalls, but we haven’t made it to any.

I also had some exercise on Wednesday, when Luke and I met Christine and Duchess at the city park where we always used to go dog walking. We set out along our usual route, but we got side-tracked when I mentioned a park that another woman told me about, called Hidden Park. She had told me it was off one of the circles in that area, but I couldn’t remember which one. We were right next to 7th Circle, so we went to the dead end, but no park. We tried again at 6th Circle. We finally found it at the end of 5th Circle. It’s a very small park along some woods. The trail goes back to the creek, and there was apparently a way to get over at one time, but now there is a sign that says “Trail Closed.” So, it was an interesting discovery but not a very big park. After that, we went back to the park where we started and then drove over to Christine’s for a visit and lunch. I don’t usually put anything on my arms, and I had little tiny ichy blisters on one arm after this expedition. I guess I got a bit of sun poisoning. I used to get it when I was taking niacin, so badly that I had to wear long sleeves in the summer in Austin and keep my hands out of the sun. Finally, I got my doctor to take me off it.

I went to art class on Thursday only to learn that my instructor Sarah is quitting again. This time, it is from concerns for the virus. She says she believes the students are safe enough but that she has to clean off everything in the classroom several times a day, and she doesn’t feel safe. She urged us to give her replacement a chance so that she’ll have a job to come back to. I didn’t have good experiences when she was on pregnancy leave, and I have been a little worried myself about my exposure to the virus, so I guess I’ll give the guy a chance, but I may quit. I just paid, so I might as well go a few times to see what he’s like. I was not happy, though, with the behavior of another class member. She comes to class with both a mask and a face shield on, but at the end of class this time, she took both of them off and then walked right up to me to look at my picture. I was so shocked that all I could do was back away from her. A few minutes later she put her mask back on. Of course, the instructor didn’t notice.

Other than those expeditions and one to do shopping errands, it’s been home as usual. At least it has cooled down a bit here. Now, we can leave the windows open all day without the house getting unbearable. Wayne has been doing a lot of weed whacking, but this morning he got a bug-a-boo about our security. I do think that we’ve had an opportunistic thief. Someone took Wayne’s 100-foot extension cord, which he left out only one day after he used it. That was a few months ago. Then last week, a small white pickup came all the way up our driveway and turned around. The thing is, you wouldn’t know we had a turn-around without coming up our driveway in the first place, because our place is up a hill, and all you can see from the road is the hill. And if you’re going to turn around on our road, you would just pull into the driveway and back out again. It’s only a one-lane road, but it doesn’t have that much traffic. Later that week when I was walking Luke on the road, I saw what seemed to be the same truck coming out of a driveway at the end of the next road, where a neighbor rents out some places on her property. These places aren’t very nice, and her property is right next door to my niece’s, who says they’ve had trouble with the renters. So, if I’m right about the truck, the guy could have been scoping out her place or he might live there. I saw the guy in the truck, and he looked like an ugly customer.

In any case, now Wayne is convinced that the day of my hike with Maja, when I left through the back door leaving the front door unlocked while Wayne was outside weed whacking (I thought he was in the house), that someone walked into our house and stole some things. Now, this is not a new phenomenon. We went through this in Austin several times, and Wayne always found whatever was missing eventually. (And we did not leave our doors unlocked there, but that didn’t prevent him from thinking we had thieves.) We have only been through it once here, and unfortunately that stuff never turned up, but that was slightly different as it was the guys who helped us unpack our moving truck who took some of Wayne’s electronics. He persists, however, in believing that periodically people come into our house and steal things, and yesterday morning, he spent quite a bit of time setting up a webcam pointing at our driveway. Unfortunately, he didn’t do his homework, so at first it had no way of recording anything except if I happened to look at it (he installed it on my phone) and push the record button right at the time someone came in. It still doesn’t even notify my phone if someone drives up the driveway. I was wondering if he would ever fix this, but by afternoon he had found some kind of card to put in it, probably from one of our old cameras, and now it records. (The reason I thought this was because we have another, older web cam system, the kind that uses cords instead of wifi, in a box that was never opened.)

Here are my red poppies kind of pushing out some of the other things I planted.

One of the stupid things I did when I was planting my beds was strew seeds around in each of them. I can only hope that none of these flowers will come back next year, because they are absolutely stuffing my boxes. However, my poppies look nice, so here they are. Some of the other flowers that I planted are near blooming, but they haven’t done so yet. I also moved over my begonias to the middle box because they were frying in the end one, which gets more sun. The ones already in the middle box are fine. I was afraid to move the begonias again, because sometimes replanting a plant twice will kill it, but they were being slowly murdered anyway. We’ll see if they do better in the middle.

It has become time to water our orchard trees, and we had a little fiasco connected with that task. It is usually my job to water the trees. For the past three years, we have run a hose down to the orchard in the middle of the summer, and what I do is place our buckets at the base of each tree and then run around with the hose and fill them up. Each bucket has a hole in the bottom, so it slowly drains. Once one is empty, I move it to another tree and fill it back up again.

Well, Wayne has been busy this month.

So, I went down to the orchard to water the plants. I knew that Wayne had rerouted the hose to go down to the wolf pen (east of the house) instead of the orchard (north of the house), simply because he burned a trash pile in the wolf pen this spring and set up a base for our fire pit down there, the fire pit we have never used. So, get this, he decides having the water go there, to a place where we have burned something once, is a priority over having it go to the orchard, where we use the water every week in the mid to late summer. This would be fine if he had run enough hose out to the orchard for it to reach all the trees, but after several minutes of dragging the hose out, I found that it only reached halfway across the orchard. Wayne had watered the trees the week before, and I asked him how he did it. He said he took a smaller bucket and walked it over to the tree where the hose didn’t reach and dumped it into the bigger bucket. (There are actually two trees it doesn’t reach, so I assume one didn’t get watered at all.) Now, this is a tough enough job already. It doesn’t sound tough, but it means a lot of walking up and down the orchard, and I told him if he thought I was going to make several trips, uphill, just to fill one bucket, he could forget about it. Geez, I don’t understand how guys think. I suggested to him that we run the hose down to the orchard the way we did before and then bring it to the wolf pen in the unlikely event that we need it there. (I didn’t say “in the unlikely event,” though. I have some tact). Then he suggested I get one of the other hoses and add it on. Those hoses are both on hose reels, so they would have to be unwound and detached, and by the way, I use both of those hoses where they are, one for watering my garden and raised beds and one for watering the lilacs. As it is, I have to detach the hose that runs to the wolf pen and attach the hose on the hose reel if I want to water the lilacs, and then put them back. By the next day, he had fixed a broken hose and added it on so that it reached across the orchard. That was an unusually prompt fix for him, probably caused by my going back into the house and not finishing the watering as soon as I realized I would have to be lugging filled buckets of water.

I am sitting here wondering why Wayne’s brilliant ideas always result in more work for me.




Our virus cases continue to go up every week. This week the county has a total of 1566, which is up almost 300 from last week, our largest number of new cases yet. We have had 38 deaths, which is 5 more than last week, a pity because we were sitting at 29 for quite some time. Now, 24,593 people have been tested. The rate of new cases per 100,000 is now up to an astonishing 99.7, meaning it has almost doubled since last week, and last week it had almost doubled since the week before.

This week has been much more humdrum than last week. Maja and I went hiking on Wednesday, but we just went to Lewisville Park, which was very popular and full of people without masks. As with the other populated parks that Maja and I have gone to lately, I got tired of lifting my mask up every time we met someone coming the other way.

This week I had the opportunity to go with my sister and her grandkids back to Yale Lake, but it was very hot out, and they planned to take a picnic and stay for hours. I really can’t stay out in the heat and sunshine for hours and hours. Last time, we were there for a long time, but it was a cool day.

I went out that hot day to pull up some more vines, and after only 20 minutes decided to go back in, because I was too hot. Wayne said it was still cool enough to work outside in the shade, but I was in the sun. This morning it is much cooler and even rained a little tiny bit.

This week, I don’t have any opportunity to hike because Maja is hosting an abbreviated version of the usual month of Native American Church ceremonies. Usually, she is in Grand Ronde for the entire month of July for this, where she is in charge of feeding hundreds of people. This year, they’re doing a week in her yard, and she has only invited a few elders who have been keeping isolated. That’s what she said, anyway, although I have heard children playing over there. I suspect that more people came than were invited.

So, that means she can’t hike, and since no one else has been responding to my invitations except occasionally my sister, and she told me she was hiking this week at a place that is too hard for me, I didn’t send an invitation out this week. I pinged Christine about dog walking, but she is also too busy. So, unless I decide to take Lukey out somewhere by myself, we won’t go. But when I go just with Luke, I usually go to Moulton Falls, and that place was aggravating last time because of the number of people who were there.

Last week, I did something stupid on Thursday afternoon. We were driving to pick up Lukey from Doggy Day Care, and as we drove past a side road, we saw the Enzo’s van coming out from what must be the owner’s ranch. Wayne wanted to see if she took the same way to Enzo’s as we were going, so I was stupidly watching through the rear view mirror to see if she turned off where we did. She did not, but watching in the jiggling mirror for so long made me dizzy, so much so that I got nauseous. Usually, I am smart enough not to do anything that messes with my eyesight, because it always makes me sick. I have the same problem with having my eyes dilated for my eye test. I just have to go home and go to bed. As a consequence, I wasn’t feeling any better when I got home, so I called in sick for my art class.

I did get one thing done this week, though, and that was my book. First draft complete, and now I am editing it. I am hampered in finishing it by not being able to go to historical societies and the library to try to research a few details about the history of this area. I have questions like, was there a motel in the local area in 1981. Things like that which I have been unable to research online. I would also like to try to find someone knowledgeable in the historic Klickitat tribe. But I can’t really do any of that with the county closed up.

This week, we have had several hot days, but it is supposed to get cooler for the next few days and then hotter again. So, we still haven’t had very much hot weather. Our spring was extremely mild and so has been the beginning of summer.

I have picked a few very small tomatoes and lots of snow peas. Lately, I have harvested a handful of regular peas, but don’t have enough yet to have peas for dinner. It turns out that Luke really likes snow peas, and he comes and begs them from me every time I am out picking. Those are my successes, although I so far have only had one tomato of any size coming in, and it is still green. My cabbages, however, are all eaten up with holes, and only one feels dense. One was in such bad shape the I already pulled it up and threw it on the compost heap.

That’s about it for this week and no pictures either. Hope everyone is well.


Lots of exercise

Our stats for the county continue to go up at an alarming rate. As of this week, we have 1272 known cases of the virus, which is up more than 250 since last week. To think that before we opened up more, we were steady at about 50 new cases a week for a whole month. We had also been steady at deaths, but this week we have four more, for a total of 33. 18,032 people have been tested, and the new statistic for rate of new cases per 100,000 population is up to a 55.1, twice as high as last week. Of course, it’s a very small percentage of the population, but still it is rising, and we don’t really know how many people have the virus without symptoms.

There is another table for our county that is interesting, showing that now by far the most cases are for those 50 and under, with the numbers being fairly evenly spread out in the decades from 20 to 50. I still run into people who think that the virus is less likely for younger people. The older people are obviously being more careful, because there are only about 200 cases in people 60 and older.

This week, I got lots of opportunity for exercise, although some of it didn’t work out the way I wanted. On Wednesday, Maja chose Lacamas Lake Regional Park for our hiking outing, and she brought along her de facto family, although most of the time they were back behind us somewhere, and of course Maja and I walked apart from each other. Again, I found it irritating to hike in a more populated park, because I had to keep lowering and raising my mask. I think I’m getting spoiled because our family has found so many places to hike where no one is there. Thanks, SIL Nancy for finding most of them!

That park has a particularly rough section in the first third of a loop around the park. I don’t know what happened, because I have hiked it several times with no problem, but I was leading with Luke, and when we finished that section, I suddenly had the sensation of complete exhaustion. Maja and I looked at the map, and it was by far closer to walk back the way we had come, but I didn’t think I could face the roughness, and we’d be going uphill almost all the way. The other direction was twice as long but relatively easy; however, I knew there was a very long, steady upward trend to part of that walk. We finally decided to leave the park and walk the city streets back to our cars, figuring that would be easier although longer, and it was, except when we got partway up a really big hill. Finally, Maja went and got my car for me while I sat on some logs and waited for her. It was a few days later that I figured out I was probably low on blood sugar, but I didn’t think of eating the bar I had in my pack. That’s kind of funny because when Maja had a spell in that very same park, I gave her one of my bars, but I didn’t think of it for myself. Also, as it started out a cold morning, I was wearing a long sleeved shirt that wasn’t my lightest, and after walking a while, I got very hot. I really can’t handle heat very well. This park seems to be our nemesis.

My brother John and SIL Lucie came in to camp on my niece’s lawn for the weekend, and one of the things they like to do is hike. I had asked about a hike when visiting on Friday night, but no one was making a decision, and after a while, I went home. Luke and I walked over there on Saturday morning, and after I had been there about ten minutes, Søren said, “Are we going soon?” and Sue said, “We’ll leave in five minutes.” I said, “Are you going somewhere?” and that’s when I learned they were going to hike on Dunegan Mountain, a hike I enjoyed recently with Sue and Søren. So, Luke and I had to hustle home to get our stuff ready to go, and we met them there. In this case, I was hiking with John, Lucie, Sue, and Søren, because Mischa and her parents were home. Mischa was testing via Zoom for her black belt! And of course, she earned her belt. She now has three new snazzy uniforms that I didn’t get to see, but she showed me her belt. Gosh, a black belt at 12. I asked her if she wanted to go for another black belt (her instructor has 9), but she said she wanted to go into the leadership area instead, which means helping Master Oh teach classes, do demos, and so on.

So, back to the hike. Again, I was a little tired, so when we got to the place where there is a slightly more challenging (but not much) route to the top, I opted to walk around to the quarry. They liked it so much up there that they stayed a long time, and I started to worry that either Luke would hurl himself off the edge of the quarry (he was trying to) or get too hot, because he has a lot of fur and usually sticks to the shade which there was none of in the quarry, so the two of us started back expecting they would catch up to us. But they didn’t, so we went home. I think maybe my problem is having gained a bit of weight during the virus and also not being able to find anyone who wants to hike many of the weeks during the last few months, so I am sometimes getting very little exercise comparing to what I was getting.

Sue at the Lewis River inlet to Yale Lake

Then on Sunday there was a similar hiking situation. I was home working on John’s manuscript, figuring I would stroll over there sometime later, when I got a call from Ares. They were all on their way out to hike the Yale Lake IP Logging Road, and they suddenly wondered if anyone had told me. So, again, I had to hustle around and get all my stuff together and load Luke into the car. This time, I forgot to give Luke his lunch first, so that was really bad of me, but I found some dog biscuits in the car when I stopped driving and put them in my pack for him. We had such a good time on this one. It wasn’t so much a hike as a playtime, because we went down to both the beaches we had discovered before, one on an inlet of the Lewis River, and one on Yale Lake. On one you can clamber around on the rocks (except me, who doesn’t do clambering), and on the other is a sandy beach with shallow water for wading. It was just beautiful there, and we only saw two groups of other people, one on their way out as we went in and another on kayaks who came across the lake from Beaver Bay Park and stopped briefly to play on the beach where we were.

On the rocks at the very back are John and Lucie and in front, Ares and Mischa. Katrina must be around on the other side of the rock on the right.

In this case, it was easy to keep up with everyone, although Luke and I left to go home just a bit before the others because neither of us had eaten since breakfast (except the dog biscuits and an apple I had in my pack). We stayed there all afternoon, though, we were having so much fun.

As you can imagine, a lot of the three days they were here was taken up visiting with the family. We told lots of funny stories around the new fire pit in the evenings. The kids were fascinated by our stories of an old friend of John’s, Howard, a really daring kid who always got into trouble, and they kept saying “more stories about Howard.” Unfortunately, he died youngish in an incident on Saginaw Bay where some duck hunters’ boat capsized. It seems as if we were making a sort of memorial to Howard, because Mischa said later that they had decided to refer to any reckless behavior as “a Howard.” I think I might write about this sometime to his sister, who is my childhood friend.

My art school opened back up. I couldn’t decide whether to go back or not, so I wrote an email to my instructor. She told me I should go take a look and if I wanted to go back home, that would be fine. She said they had installed new air filters in the building and were keeping the doors opened, that the classes were cut down to a maximum of eight and she only had five in her class on Monday, that the seats were spaced out at six feet, masks were required, and so on. When I got there, I also found that hand sanitizer was required every time you entered the building, that they had spaced the classes out so that people weren’t sitting around in their small lobby, that the teachers went and got things for you that you previously fetched yourself, and she had a pointer so she didn’t have to go right up to your painting. Also, she completely wiped down the classroom surfaces between each class. And, of course, you’re facing your own painting the whole time you’re there, almost. I chose a different seat, because the one I used to sit at was right by the door, and people had to squeeze past me to get in and out. Instead, I sat where no one had to go right behind me. I felt it was fairly safe. I was only exposed to eight people (seven classmates and the instructor), and they were all wearing masks and staying away from each other. It felt safer than, say, going to the grocery store. I would have been glad to find only five people in the class instead of seven, though. Actually, I would have been really glad if two preteen girls had stayed home, but then I always feel like that about those two.

Luke continues his Thursdays at Doggy Day Care where there is no contact between humans dropping them off or picking them up, and I haven’t run into that witch again.

Funny news about government efficiency! Wayne and I sent our expired passports in on March 11, when I figure they had about a month to process them before everything closed down. However, I was a little worried about them, because Wayne didn’t even use return receipt mail when he sent them. Then, of course, we heard nothing. Eventually, I found a Where’s My Passport type page and was able to get the exciting update “In Process,” which they said was the only update they could provide during the virus. At least that meant they had our passports.

Then last week, I finally got an email update, and up to yesterday morning, I have had three. They are, as follows, IN ORDER:

    1. Your passport is in progress (big surprise)
    2. Your passport has been mailed and will arrive on or around July 19 (received Monday—Yay!)
    3. Your passport is being printed (received Tuesday—Huh?)

So, our passports are either in the mail or being printed. Who knows which? At least we will have some should we ever have the opportunity to travel again.

Ew, gross! Next to our front stoop was a little mouse hole that Wayne said Luke was fascinated by. Last night as we were going in, he put his nose down that hole and when I looked at him, he had a little tail sticking out of his mouth. I forced his mouth open and the mouse fell out, but it was dying. When Wayne went out to get it, it was dead. It was only about an inch-and-half long. Poor little thing. A little later, he got another one, which I think was a baby. Wayne went out, filled the hole with dirt, and put a rock on top of it. This morning, first thing, what did Luke do but catch another one, the other parent, I think. That was when I figured out that they weren’t small mice but moles. I was able to get this one out of Luke’s mouth without too much damage, so I picked it up in a paper towel and took it out to the orchard and let it go. It was probably trying to figure out how to get back into its den. It’s a shame about the mole family, but we already had one in the house a couple of weeks ago (or a mouse, I never saw it), and I don’t want Lukey picking up small animals in the yard.

A bit more exercise

This week our county shows a total of 843 case of the virus, up a shocking 140 cases since last week. That’s the biggest rise we’ve had, I think, during the entire time. We’re still sitting at 29 deaths, and 14,996 people have been tested. Our rate of new cases per 100,000 population number has gone down, 15.4, which makes me wonder how that number can be correct, since our new cases went up this week from about 50 a week to almost 150. The map showing our zip code seems to now be incorrect, because the color for our zip code has changed to show 80-120 cases (whereas last week we supposedly had less than 10), but the chart corresponding to the map still shows N/A for our numbers, implying they are less than 10. Very confusing.

Our weather was really nice for the last 10 days until yesterday, when it got a little misty, and today when it is downright rainy. We got a lot of yard work done, and our yard, for a few minutes anyway, looks pretty good. Yesterday, we were gathering limbs and sticks from our lower drive. I usually do this every spring, but this year, I just sort of shoved the limbs off to the side. Wayne wanted to pick all these up and put them in the burn pile, because they are fire hazards.

Last week was one for reviving our hikes. Maja and I did a socially distanced hike up at the Yale Lake logging road on Thursday. Unfortunately, because it was Luke’s Doggy Day Care day, he could not come. And speaking of which, I had an unpleasant encounter while dropping Luke off. The way they have it set up now, one person at a time, you ring the doorbell at Enzo’s and then walk into an empty room and put your dog in a crate. Then you walk back outside and ring the doorbell again, and someone comes through an inside door and gets your dog. They have this explained in detail on the outside of the door.

As I was going into the room, this woman came up right behind me and said “Thanks.” I thought that was odd, and I shut the door behind me, as I’m supposed to. Now, Luke has been with me almost all the time for the past three months, and he doesn’t want to go into the crate because he knows I will be leaving him. He was okay before, when I handed him off to a person, because he really likes it there, but he would always kind of look back at me like he wasn’t so sure he wanted me to go. So, I was having difficulty putting him into the crate when this woman walked right into the room. I told her she wasn’t supposed to come in there. She said, “They told me to come to this door.” I said, “You need to wait until I’m finished.” All the time, I’m struggling to get the crate door shut with the dog inside it and the leash outside it. She says, “But I’m supposed to come in here.” I said, “Wait until I’m done. No contact!” She says, “Between the dogs?” I said, “Between the people!” The whole time she was standing not too far away from me and I didn’t have my mask because I don’t usually encounter anyone there.

So, she went outside, and then she came right back in and opened up the inside door! The girl who was waiting at the door for me to ring the bell again told her to go back out. I finally had to pass Luke off to that girl, because I couldn’t get him to stay in the crate. (I might have been able to if it hadn’t been for the interruptions of that woman.)

When I got back outside, the woman was waiting, and I said, “I’m sorry I was grumpy, but I was having trouble with my dog,” and then I started to explain to her what she needed to do, as she still obviously had not read the door and was probably going to stand there in front of it all day. She said, “I’m not going to talk to you. You’re rude,” and then she proceeded to berate me the entire time I was walking away from her down the sidewalk.

At least Maja and I had a nice hike on a lovely day. It started out cool and warmed up, with quite a breeze off the lake. I keep thinking that would be a great hike for the fall, because you are walking with a steep cliff on one side with trees above you and the lake on the other, far below. There are lots of deciduous trees around, so it would probably be colorful.

Then on Friday, Christine and I took our dogs to Whipple Creek Park. We had been talking about going, because she had never been there and was curious. Apparently, her daughter walks there quite often. I was surprised by how many cars were there when we arrived. I have been there many times, and usually there are only a couple of horse vans and a few cars. This day, the parking lot was completely full, and we had difficulty finding places to park. However, the park is so big that we didn’t meet many people, two family groups and a couple of couples. A couple dog walkers. We saw several horses being loaded back into their trailers when we arrived and one horse was out being ridden when we got back to our cars, but we didn’t see any horses in the park. It is a beautiful park, so wooded and hilly that you wouldn’t know you were right next to a suburban area.

Luke had an eventful week, because Wednesday he also had his first appointment with his groomers since the state shut down. He was due to have one the week everything closed, so he was in bad shape. At the groomers, they just have the Dutch door locked, so you have to wait until they come and open it. Then you can come in. He looked quite handsome when he was done.

My first batch of peas

For my vegetable gardening, I was able to harvest my first batch of peas. They are supposed to be snap peas, but they don’t seem to be developing their inner peas, so they look like snow peas. They taste like them, too, so we’re good. I like both. Maybe since my radishes were mislabeled, my peas were, too.

Here are my yellow dahlias, back in bloom.

As for my raised decorative beds, I still am waiting for some flowers to bloom besides the ones that I planted already with flowers. The first blooms on my dahlias are all gone, but more are coming out, which cannot be said for my carpet roses. Otherwise, I have a lot of green in the beds, so it’s looking good for having more flowers soon.

Today, Luke and I were supposed to go hiking with Maja, but she rescheduled because of rain, so we will go on Friday. It actually looks like it’s going to clear up, even though my phone says it is supposed to rain all day. But we’ve gone hiking in pouring rain before and today it’s just been drizzling. Oh well.


Opening up a bit

This week our county shows 647 total cases of the virus, up almost another 50 from last week. It occurs to me that this might be because of more testing, now about 1000 more tests a week, but it also might be because people around here are just basically ignoring it. We have gone to level 2, which I only know because our dog groomer called us, but although I think it’s silly that the dog groomer couldn’t open up earlier, because I never see other humans in there and it would be really easy to do the social distancing, I think it’s not good timing to open back up generally. Anyway, back to my statistics, we now have had 28 deaths, which is the same as last week so that’s good, and 13,788 people have been tested.

We have basically continued to do our usual things, ordering groceries online and picking them up, staying home most of the time, only visiting Christine and Duchess and Katrina’s family but with social distancing, and wearing masks and gloves when we have to shop anywhere. I had been wearing some paper masks that Wayne had for doing shop work, but now I have some cloth ones. They are fancier, but for some reason they keep popping off my ears, a problem I didn’t have with the paper ones. I think the maker thought she was doing a good thing by using sturdier elastic, but it doesn’t stretch as well. If a person had ears any further apart than mine, they wouldn’t be able to wear these masks at all.

I know that opening up is being done as one size fits all, but in some cases it is ridiculous. For example, my groomer has to cut her work load in half, but as I said before, I never encountered anyone else in her shop anyway, and it would be easy to regulate that. You see someone inside, you stay out. She also has to work at half staff, which makes a little more sense because their grooming area is small.

Similarly, my friend Claire said that she has been called back to work at the museum. Now, she works in a museum warehouse where the exhibits that aren’t on display are stored and analyzed. It is humongous. About ten years back, we went to visit them and they toured us through it, and it was absolutely fascinating. Exhibits were everywhere, on the floors of the hallways even, bones, native artifacts, rocks, just everything you might think of being in a state museum. About five years ago, the governor of Illinois tried to close all the museums and succeeded to the extent of getting most of the employees dismissed. Claire says they have to go back to work at 50%, and she reckons that they will each have about 17,000 square feet of space, so the 50% thing just is silly for them. Even with all the employees back, they would have 6500 square feet of space for each person because since the layoffs only 12 people work there. Also, because her husband is retired, he cannot go in to use their lab facilities anymore because no visitors are allowed, and he still does lots of faunal analysis for different organizations, including them.

On Saturday we had a memorial service for Wayne’s brother Carl by Zoom. It had been planned by his brother Ken and wife Sandra and the technical details were handled by their daughter Sierra. It had a few technical glitches, in particular, when one person spoke some kind of feedback made it hard to understand her (that was probably caused by the environment around her, though), but it was really nice and touching. They had made a program of people who wanted to talk about Carl, and Wayne had prepared something, but he apparently hadn’t told Ken and Sandra he wanted to speak. As it was, he hardly opened his mouth. I always thought Carl was awfully nice, but the service made me wish I had known him when he was younger, because he was quite the character and sounded like he was lots of fun when he was young. Wayne wasn’t a part of most of the stories because apparently when lots of the hijinks were going on back in Michigan, Wayne was in the air force. It was things Carl was doing with his friends and his youngest brother Ken, like blowing things up and running a hot air balloon business (small ones with lights in them that they sent up into the air and apparently sparked reports of UFOs). Carl was certainly scarily intelligent and had all kinds of things to say about just about everything, an interesting talker. I only was around him a handful of times, unfortunately, because we lived so far away, and certainly since we moved out here, Wayne has shown no disposition to travel at all. (He doesn’t even like to go to the beach, two hours away.) I know that Wayne is going to miss his long phone calls with him. I think they got closer while he has been sick this spring, because Wayne called him almost every day.

Another much more minor death around here was of a baby bunny. It made me so sad to find a drowned baby bunny in what is supposed to be our fountain. We haven’t run our fountain since we moved here because it needs to be drained and refilled with clean water, or the engine will be ruined when we turn it on. It was just on once, showing us that it at least works. There is a pit at the bottom about a foot deep and maybe two feet square that feeds a waterfall in a circular, closed system, and it’s that pit that has to be emptied. Wayne has been procrastinating emptying it, including buying one new pump, losing that one, buying another one, and then deciding it wasn’t powerful enough to do the job. It’s been four years now that we’ve planned to empty it during the summer. Anyway, it looks like the bunny must have been playing on the ridge above it and fell in, and either it hit its head on the way in or just wasn’t able to get back out and drowned. I wish we had seen it fall, because we probably could have saved it, but the first we knew of it was when I was outside playing with Luke and he went over to the fountain and just stood there, and it was already dead. Luckily, the bunny was on the far side so Luke couldn’t get it out, because of course it took Wayne a couple of days to remove it. Poor little thing. As far as I know, this is the first death caused by the open pit, but I’m wondering if we should put a grate over it or a screen. We usually have frogs in it, though, and that would keep them out. We see rabbits running around our property chasing each other all the time, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a small one except once on the road when we were afraid one was too silly to get out of the way. It didn’t move until we were right next to it.

Speaking of wildlife, just yesterday I glanced out the kitchen window and saw a deer right below the house, grazing in the grass we haven’t yet cut on the slope. He was a young buck, with little one-inch nubs on top of his head. He seemed to be alone, but we wouldn’t have been able to see another deer that was closer to the house. The young does tend to go around in pairs, but I don’t know whether he was old enough to be normally out on his own or not. Maybe he has lost his sibling (or maybe his sibling was right there, and we just couldn’t see her). While he was back there, we also noticed three rabbits chasing each other around the wolf pen, which at this point has grass about three or four feet high.

Because I haven’t been able to take Luke out much this last two weeks, we decided to put him into doggy day care one day a week so that he could have some fun running around. His first day was last Thursday, and he certainly was pooped on Thursday night. It was also really nice to have a whole day in which I didn’t have to think about taking him out and feeding him and most of all, paying attention to him. I got a lot of work done on my novel and the laundry. I’ve been working on the same two stories, one set during World War I and the very last one, which is the earliest in time. I know where they’re going, but I’m finding them harder to write than some of the others. Those will be the last two, then I’ll do some polishing and try to find an agent or a publisher. I have a local publisher in mind that doesn’t work through agents but also appears not to do much publicity, so I might try an agent first, because I am horrible at self-promotion.

On Sunday, I took Luke for his first walk in two weeks down the road. We popped up Katrina and co’s driveway to see if anyone was outside, but only Søren was. I wanted to consult someone about our anonymous note about our fence line, so I walked around the house to my sister Sue’s side, and she was outside sweeping her patio. I started to tell her about the message and was surprised by how she acted. First, it was almost like she knew all about it, even though I don’t think she did, and then she seemed to get impatient with me and almost angry about it. It turns out that the sharp angle on the main road by our pond has been a bone of contention because it gets overgrown and causes a visibility problem on our one-lane road. But we don’t drive down that way very often, and especially not since the virus, as I’m not driving down to pick up Maja for hiking or Mischa for taekwondo, or anything like that. Yes, I do walk down that way, but when you’re walking, you’re not thinking about the visibility from cars, and you see differently. I had no idea about this issue, because no one ever told us. When I said something about that, Sue almost yelled at me, “But you just walked right past it!” It also turns out that both Sue and Ares had been trimming it occasionally and had been talking about doing it again as soon as it stopped raining and dried out a bit (it had rained almost nonstop for a week by then).

Maybe we’re just stupid, but I don’t know how we’re supposed to know this stuff if no one tells us, so it doesn’t seem fair for her to get irritated with us about it. She also got upset when I expressed our reaction to the anonymous note and she said it was what she would have done. We didn’t exactly have an argument, but maybe I hurt her feelings when I said it was passive aggressive and the rudest way to inform a neighbor that there was a problem (that was before she said it was what she would have done). Then Katrina, Ares, and Mischa came out of the house, and I said something to them about it. They were much nicer about the whole thing, and Katrina said if it had been her, she would have explained exactly what the problem was and signed it. I said, “Exactly,” because how can we ask them questions if we get an anonymous note?

So, now we knew the problem patch, and Wayne went right down that afternoon, because it was miraculously a little nice out, and whacked it down. I took out my new weed whacker that Wayne bought me (such a touching present) and whacked down the weeds along the front of the house. Everything has just shot up because of an unprecedented combination of lots of rain alternating with several days of sunshine and then back to rain. Starting Tuesday afternoon, we are finally back into the sunshine phase, so more mowing and weed whacking is on the agenda, because we still haven’t finished the back slope and now the wolf pen is deep in grass.

My vegetable garden also went crazy. There is little sign of pea pods, but my salad greens have gotten so huge, that I think they are probably in the bitter stage and there’s nothing to do but to pull them out. I planted way too many this year. The first year, I put my seeds in seed by seed, using up about a quarter of a packet, and I got about enough for one salad, only at different times so that I just added them to regular lettuce salads. Then the next year I tried head lettuce, but it never made heads. So, this year I planted two whole packets of salad greens, which turns out to be way more salad greens than two people can keep up with. Next year, I will do one, and that will be about right. I guess I am gardening by trial and error.

Here’s my bright pink dahlia, which for some reason likes to face toward the blue spruce.

For my pictures today, I bring you the progress in my raised beds. First is a picture of a dahlia. I bought it as a plant, but it had not bloomed before. It bloomed this week into a lovely bright pink. I know you’re supposed to take dahlias out in the winter and replant them in the spring, which is why I’ve always avoided them, but I only have two, so maybe that won’t be so hard to remember to do. My other dahlia bloomed yellow already, and that bloom has died. Now it is working on another one.

Here are my peonies coming up.

My other pictures are of sprouts coming up. The first one is of my peony sprouts, which are coming up from their rhizomes. I have three different plantings of them, one in each of the beds. They are pretty tall, but I don’t know how long before they’ll bloom. I know I planted everything a little late this spring.

These are mixed flowers. I should have kept the packet or at least read it more carefully, because I have no idea what they are.

Finally, the plant people sent me a free packet of mixed flower seeds, and although I didn’t pay a lot of attention to where I planted them (I’ll do better next spring!), I am pretty sure these are them, because the only other seeds I planted were different types of poppies, and those ones are coming up very very slowly.






A sad event

This week in Clark County we have a total of 605 cases of the virus, so an increase again of almost 50 people for nearly 100 more people in two weeks. And three more people have died, for a total of 28. We had such a slowing of these numbers for several weeks before last week that it’s depressing to have them go up by so much. Only 12,577 people have been tested.

By the way, I think I forgot to mention last week that it turns out my friend Claire in Springfield does not have the virus. Yay for that, although she still has no idea what’s causing her recurring fever. After trying several times, she finally got tested, and the result was negative.

It’s been a sad week for us here, because Monday we learned that Wayne’s older brother, Carl, had died. I think I mentioned earlier that he had been having some health problems. He went in some time ago to have a mass removed from his colon and had a heart attack. They put in a stent and then tried to send him home, and he had another heart attack. I think they thought they had it finally taken care of, because after a long rest, they had him back in to finally get rid of the mass. They removed it, but he had a heart attack and died in recovery. He was 83.

They are a strange family, because it appears that Wayne has no interest in trying to make it to Michigan for the funeral. In fact, he said to me they weren’t having a funeral, just burying Carl. Huh? I thought that was a funeral. I asked him if anyone else in the family was going, and he said maybe his brother Ken. I think that’s just sad. His sister Yvonne died a few years ago in Oregon when we were still in Texas, and we waited to hear about a service, and we never did. I kept asking Wayne about it, and he would just say he hadn’t heard anything. Now, he says he could have found out about it if he wanted to. No wonder we never hear from Yvonne’s husband!

Over the years, I’ve tried to figure out how to get to several of my own family funerals with no cooperation from Wayne. Each time, a plane ticket turned out to be too expensive, so I just gave up and didn’t go, whereas if he’d been willing to drive up with me, I could have attended. I think he has a weird attitude about attending funerals, and it’s hard to tell whether anyone else in his family shares it, or it’s just him. At least he went to his parents’ funerals.

After our anonymous message last week, we got a confusing message from SIL Nancy suggesting it would be really nice if we whacked down our fence line across from our back door neighbors. I didn’t think she had sent the anonymous message because that wasn’t her style, but it freaked me out for several days that we had received notes about the same topic from two different people. Of course, our fence line isn’t any of her business. But the way she wrote the message was like she just happened to drive down that road to go look at the house that she and my brother looked at when they moved here and noticed our fence line.

We actually got into the car to look at our fence line, and what we saw was that the neighbor’s fence line on that road was actually worse than ours. In fact, they had a few tree limbs out in the road. That made me dismiss the idea that the anonymous note came from them. We also noticed that although our neighbor across the street trims his fence line, well, his kids do, they only do it in front of the house, not on the wooded sides. In fact, no one does it on the wooded sides, which is basically all of our property. Wayne went out to do a little trimming, but he came back because it started raining.

Finally, I figured out that the connection between notes was this blog. Nancy has sent me corrections to my interpretations of the virus data, so she reads this blog. Apparently after reading it, she decided to hop into her car and inspect the fence line for herself. I’m sure she thought she was being helpful. We don’t need the help that pokes its nose into our business.

My knee injury from last week has shown no signs of getting any better, so on Monday, I gave up and made a doctor’s appointment. Of course, by Tuesday, when I went in, it was feeling better. I got it x-rayed, and there’s nothing unusual wrong with it besides the swelling and bruise, oh, and I have a little arthritis. He recommended that I wrap it, and I’ve done that this morning, but it’s really bothering me now because it’s pressing on the swollen part. That supposed to help the swelling go down, but I felt better without it.

Because of the knee injury, I really haven’t been doing very much. I feel bad because Luke isn’t getting much exercise. The most I do with him is go out and throw the ball a few times, but because it’s been raining almost nonstop since last week, we don’t even do that very much. The rain is crazy. Already we were up to our ears in grass. Even though we spent three days last week weed whacking behind the house, there are huge areas that are above our waists! And now the blackberry vines are making their way across the lower drive, even though we whacked them away a week ago.  Usually we only have to mow our orchard two or three times a year, but already it looks like I’m going to have to do it again as soon as I can handle strenuous exercise.

Here’s a picture of Luke right about at his second birthday. He is looking confused because I am pointing my cell phone, which he hates, at him. You can also see what a nice job he’s done on our floors.

On Friday, my Literary Wives book club had a Zoom conference to discuss the book The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (which is going to be on my best of the year list, I’m sure). Not everyone could attend, but we hadn’t done that before (usually the book club is all online), and it was nice to talk about the book in person. On Friday also, Christine invited Luke and me over so that Luke could play with Duchess. We had a nice, socially distanced visit, and she even served lunch.

Because I haven’t been doing very much this week except reading and looking at the wood stove, I don’t have any pictures, so I thought you might like to see a recent one of Lukey.

Oh, one more thing. A breakthrough with Luke! We have a tendency to eat our dinner in front of the TV, a bad habit, I know. Because of this, we have been training Luke to go sit on place while we eat. If he does this without too much fuss, he gets a nice treat, often something from our plates. If we have too much fuss, he gets to sit in his crate for a while instead. Usually, I have to herd him over there, but a couple of times last week, as soon as I went into the kitchen to serve the dinner, he walked over and got on his place, all by himself! I didn’t even say the word. What a good boy!

Lots of dirt

As of this week, we have had 412 people test positive for the virus in our county and 25 deaths. At least the deaths are slowing way down. There have only been about one a week for a few weeks. Now, they have tested 7,613 people, which still seems inadequate. I just looked and our county population is just a bit less than 500,000, so they have tested just over 10% of us! I don’t know how they are going to know what’s going on that way. Our map information is still confusing, showing 0-40 people with the virus in our zip code but then in the chart version of the map, showing N/A for our zip code. I think someone just accidentally colored our zip code on the map and hasn’t noticed the mistake, although usually these maps are generated from the data, not manually.

On Wednesday afternoon, the truck came with our dirt in it, and we spent the next couple of hours shoveling. We managed to fill one of the three planters with dirt. On Thursday, we took a break from it, because it rained all day long. In any case, I had a regular six-month appointment that day with my doctor. On the way back, I stopped by Christine’s to give her a present. I saw  a program about a Portland company that offers a unique product. You can put together a seven-picture slide of your own photos for a ViewMaster slide, and then buy the ViewMaster and slide from them. Since I discovered this, a couple of years ago, I have been sending them to friends and family if I have enough pictures that apply to them. I could just barely get one together for Christine. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a picture together, probably because I hate having my picture taken. I had already had slides made for the rest of my family, who have their own ViewMasters.

On Friday, Wayne and I resumed our dirt moving and managed to fill both of our last two planters by the end of the day. Wayne did a lot more work than I did, because my arm muscles aren’t used to that kind of activity, but I did plenty of shoveling. I just had to fall out every once in a while and he continued by himself.

My anchor plants for the three boxes are a baby blue spruce, a lilac bush, and a Japanese maple. Besides those plants, I bought a kaleidoscope abelia, two blueberries, a dwarf Sitka spruce, a , carpet rose bush, and two begonias.

On Tuesday, I made plans with my sister to go to the nursery. She brought Ares’s car and trailer so that we could buy large plants and trees if we found any, and I drove behind in my car. As it turned out, I couldn’t afford really large trees. I ended up with quite a haul, maybe not the best choices in the long run, but I don’t know what I’m doing. It turned out that because I paid more attention to how tall the plants would become, I ended up buying quite a few things that are going to get wide. I included a photo of my haul. I also intend to plant bulbs, perennials, and annuals. I was going to buy the bulbs locally, but I looked online and decided it was quite possible everyone would be out of bulbs, so I found a spot that still had some ranunculus, peonies, poppies, and some other flowers. I am a little alarmed, though, because I made the order yesterday and have not yet received an acknowledgment of it, which is usually automatic. Since hardly anyone had any bulbs left, I am worried that something happened to my order. It may just be, since I placed my order after their closing time, that they don’t acknowledge it until they are sure they have the plants. However, that was yesterday, and they haven’t even answered my follow-up email, asking if they got my order. I didn’t see anything on their website about being closed because of the virus. I guess I will wait another day and then place another order.

Here’s my tiny tomato.

Placing my tomatoes on the back deck seems to be working out wonderfully well. I already have an inch-big tomato coming in, something that has never happened before at this time of year. I have usually had to wait until the end of the summer before I got anything resembling a tomato.

There has been a big breakthrough with Luke. It has long been our practice, except occasionally or for special events, to eat dinner in front of the TV. (I know, what a bad habit.) Since he was small, we have been telling Luke to go on his place during dinner, and if he does so without too much fuss, he gets a little bit of what we’ve been eating. It’s almost always a struggle, though. Sometimes he’s had to retire to his crate, and most times, I have to walk him right up to his place and turn back around to make sure he has all his paws up on it. (At Enzo’s, he was known for having at least one paw hanging off place at all times.) Just the last two nights, though, as I started serving up the food in the kitchen, he went to his place all by himself, without even being told, and got on it. What a sweet dog!

This week I have finished another story for my novel and started working on the last one. I am not sure whether I will have to write more stories or not. My book will not be a very long one, I don’t think, but then short stories often aren’t long volumes. I don’t have any more ideas for stories, but my latest idea was a pretty good one, I think. I also worked again on the story I was least happy with, but I decided it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

On Monday, Wayne did my grocery run with me so that he could stop in Vancouver clinic and get a lab test done. I think I’m not going to continue trying to place a weekly grocery order, because it is now a lot easier to make a reservation. My last order was very light. I will keep a running shopping cart and place my order when it becomes more substantial or we need something right away.

I found a disturbing thing on the house this week. I noticed that the glass of one window for the upstairs guest room has a smashed circle, as if something round hit it. It is not broken through, but it is pushed in. I know it was not like that when we bought the house or when we were doing all the work on it. I was trying to think if I hit the windows when I was first learning how to throw the ball for Luke with the chucker. I did hit the house once, but I don’t remember hitting the window. If I did, I suppose I might have made that spot, which is about the right size. Of course, Wayne thinks those kids did it. It is not a bullet hole. I had a couple of those in my windows in Austin.

Pretty much all week it has been rainy and dreary. Friday was the exception, and we spent almost all of it outside working on the garden. This morning it is very wet out, but it looks like it could turn nice.


A spoofing attempt

As of today, our county had had a total of 393 cases of the virus and 24 people have died. Only 6,286 people have been tested. I guess I should be happy that the number of people tested finally seems to be going up by about 1000 a week. The map showing our zip code now says that we have up to 40 people in our area with the virus, but the corresponding chart says N/A for our zip code, so that’s confusing, as if they have no data. If they have no cases, I’m not sure why the zip code isn’t shown in white like it used to be.

I reported that my best friend in Illinois thought she had the virus. She seems to have it, because she gets recurring fevers and headaches, but it also seems to be a mild case. I’m hoping that soon she’ll stop getting sick just when she thinks she is well.

This week, Christine came over to our house for social-distanced dog activities. My original plan was to have coffee at either end of our outdoor table so that she wouldn’t have to come inside, but she was worried that Duchess, who is very small, might slip under the deck rails and fall to the ground. The deck is one floor up, so we didn’t want that, plus the slope is right under it, so a falling dog could fall quite far. So, we had coffee inside, which might have been a bit risky, but then we took the dogs down to the wolf pen so they could run around and chase each other, and took them for a walk on opposite sides of our road. It was a nice time for her to come, as several of our trees were flowering. The azaleas had also just started to come out but aren’t fully bloomed yet.

On Friday, I caravaned with my sister and her family out to a road we have hiked before, north of Cougar. It is a seven-mile walk along an old logging road that runs next to Yale Lake. However, this time we took some side trips and discovered a couple of nice, unoccupied beaches. Since the state had opened its parks, we wanted somewhere that wouldn’t be full of people, and on this walk, we only met two other people. The first trail off the path led down through bright green forest to a narrow green ledge next to the Lewis River, just before it goes into the lake. It had a large rock next to it where the kids enjoyed playing.

Here are Luke, my sister, and my niece relaxing on the green beach by the Lewis River. Luke has forgotten his social distancing.

We returned to the road and took the next right, which led us down to a broad sandy beach. The kids hadn’t wanted to leave the green beach, but they were delighted with the sandy beach. We saw another couple there, who came up in a kayak and landed but then got back into their kayak immediately and went on. It was a bright, windy day, and at one point we got blasted with sand. The kids and Luke were especially having fun.

It was a very nice day. The only other outing I have made this week was my usual Monday morning grocery pickup and stop by the coffee booth. This time the owner was not there, so she finally managed to hire a helper. Just before this all happened, she was telling me how difficult it was to find someone reliable.

Luke inspecting my beautiful boxes on our skimpy front lawn. They are just pine, but after Ares researched the matter, he said that the newer cedar doesn’t last much more than a year longer than pine.

On Saturday, Ares, my niece’s husband, came over with wood and built my planters, which he told me he would build three years ago. Because all of our land has rocks underneath it, it being artificially formed after they dug into a hill to build the house, I have had nowhere to plant ornamental plants except for a few things I put into the orchard. In Texas, despite my difficulty keeping things going in the heat, I used to plant annuals every year at minimum. The original plan was to have two 4 x 6 x 3 beds, but when he finished the first one, he suggested that it was too tall. I had not wanted to do much bending, which was why I asked for three feet high, but I could see it didn’t look right. So, he nicely took it apart and told me he had wood to do three 4 x 6 x 2 beds. So, that’s what he did! Now I am waiting for my garden soil to arrive, which is supposed to happen this afternoon. Then much dirt moving will ensue. And finally, the fun part, going to the nursery.

I had assumed we would make the boxes out of cedar, but Ares researched this topic and found that only the old-growth cedar, which is no longer available, lasts much longer than pine. He said my pine boxes might last one year less than cedar but would cost a lot less. He also put them together with screws so that it would be easy to pop out a rotting board and replace it.

Today and yesterday were cold and rainy, but leading up to them we had some hot days. Just last week I stopped wearing the two shirts I began wearing every winter since I got here. Then suddenly, I needed a short sleeve t-shirt for a couple of days, and now I’m back to two shirts.

If you are wondering about my title, I have also been receiving attempted spoofing messages this last week. I got a message purportedly from a seller on Amazon about the toaster I bought a few months ago. I had given this toaster a bad review, because two months after I bought it, I put the lever down to toast a piece of bread, and it broke right off! Although Wayne says the break looks like metal fatigue, to me it looks like the part, which feels and looks like metal from the exterior, is just plastic. We had been using the toaster for two months, so I just gave it the bad review, thinking we wouldn’t be able to return it.

Anyway, I received this message offering me a gift card if I would remove the review and telling me how to do it. This message also had buttons at the bottom that said “Yes, I Agree,” or “No, I Don’t Agree.” The message looked really fishy to me. First, the description of the product I bought was in Spanish, while the actual product description on Amazon was not. The links to my purchase were clearly Amazon links and they were to my purchase, but the email addressed itself to my great niece, who is only 11. Finally, there was no company name on the emails, just a person’s name. I ignored the first message but I kept getting them, and each time they offered me more money.

I thought it could not be from the seller, because they would only have the information I used for the sale. There was no way they would know my great niece’s name. At one point, I was ready to push the button, because I couldn’t see what anyone would gain by asking me to remove a review, but of course, it was the buttons they wanted me to push. I did not and finally reported this to Amazon, and they are assigning it to their fraud team. However, I am concerned, because these people must at least have gotten into my buying history and my address book, and I’m not sure I conveyed that very clearly to Amazon.

I have been mentioning our ducks now and then, but I don’t think I mentioned that one time Wayne said they were too big for ducks, they were geese. However, the next time I got a look at them, I looked them up in my bird book and they were mallards. (Keep in mind that I see them from the house, which is far up above the pond.) Then, on Friday on their way over to caravan for the hike, my niece and sister reported that they had seen two Canada geese and three goslings coming from our pond. So, I thought, gee, how could I have mistaken geese for ducks? Well, just yesterday while Wayne and I were sitting on a bench by the pond, a female duck landed in it, so apparently we have both a duck and a goose couple staying in our pond this spring. In fact, if we hadn’t gotten the spoofing messages, which I thought was more interesting, I would have named this post “Duck duck goose.”

Lately, too, we have seen a lot of the rabbits and the chipmunks in our front yard, the chipmunks usually under the bird feeder. They are driving Luke nuts!

Finally, a discovery from the depths of the basement. Quite a few years ago, I put together a small collection of turn-of-the-century (20th) boys’ books by W. H. G. Kingston. I had only read one of them and was meaning to read the rest but never got around to it. Then during the move they were misplaced. Wayne finally found them in the bottom of a box of his unpacked books. I read one, and it wasn’t as good as I remembered, but it’s nice to have found them.

And that is about it for this week! I hope everyone is well.



A new normal week

This week the county reports we have had 368 positive cases of the virus, 22 deaths, and almost 5000 people tested. Things seem to be slowing down here, except for the pitiful number of people tested, which tells me we don’t know. Also, our county map showing where the cases are has always shown no known cases in our zip code, but just this week it shows 1 to 30 cases. That’s not many, but it means the virus is just making it into our part of the county. All this opening up that’s going on in the rest of the country is making me very nervous. I can’t help but think that we’re headed for a resurgence.

Here on the home front we have made three trips out this week. On Friday, Wayne suggested we go get an ice cream cone, so we drove up to Amboy to a mom and pop coffee/ice cream stand and got a cone at the drive through. Not very Weight Watchery, but supporting our local business.

On Monday, I did my usual pickup at the grocery store and by the way made sure to buy a cup of coffee at my favorite drive-up stand. I used to stop there frequently before all this started, but now I’m not out as much, so when I am, I try always to stop there. The owner is almost always there these days, and she has had to cut her hours.

On Tuesday, we went to Costco for the first time since all this started. They have things organized pretty nicely there, but I was shocked by how many people paid absolutely no attention to how close they were to other people. At one point, I was walked down an aisle, and their aisles are plenty wide enough. Another cart was passing me on the other side, and we were far enough apart, but then a woman shot right between us, right past me, about a foot away from my arm. At another point, I was picking up a package of toilet paper, and a woman came up right next to me to get hers instead of waiting until there was space. Even though the store was relatively uncrowded, there was more of this kind of behavior the later it got. We went in for what we understood were the senior hours, but I think they’d been going for a while when we got there, because we thought we were early, but people were already leaving. I looked at Costco’s site beforehand, but their hours information was confusing.  On the way back, we went to the farm store to buy dog food and bird seed, and I picked up some asparagus roots. Five of the eight I planted last year are coming up, but five asparagus spears does not make a meal, and my sister says you can’t pick them all. Next year, I am going to devote an entire square of my little garden to asparagus.

Here’s my tomato unit in all its glory.

That was it this week for going out. However, my garden wagon arrived, so after Wayne put it together, I got my rolling tomato unit up and going. I haven’t actually moved them back to the front of the house since then. They’ve been on the back deck. But there, they are already getting a couple more hours of sunshine than they usually get in the garden. I think they might do a lot better this year. We’ll see.

Also on the garden front, my bed of mixed greens has progressed so well that last night I made salads from it. A nice change from the old iceberg lettuce, which Wayne has been buying like crazy lately.

The weather has been warm then cold then warm. Today it is supposed to be cool and rainy, and tomorrow it is supposed to get up in the 70’s. We had several very nice days toward the end of the week, so I mowed the orchard for the first time this year. It’s quite a job, about an acre and on about a 30-degree slant. I wish Wayne would mow it with his riding mower, but he won’t. All he mows with that blasted thing is the wolf pen, which is flat, and our pitifully small front yard, which I can do with the regular mower in about 15 minutes. He says he always feels like he is going to fall off the mower in the orchard, which leaves me to walk up and down it with the regular mower, an effort that usually takes me two days. The one time he did it with the riding mower, it took about 20 minutes. About once a summer, Ares comes over on his riding mower and does it for us. I suppose I should learn to use the riding mower, but I can hardly get up into it, although he had me do that a few days ago when he charged the battery, and I got up into it easier than I had before.

And speaking of Ares, he put in an order for some wood for projects for himself and also for my landscaping boxes. I am finally going to have boxes to plant ornamental trees, flowers, and bushes. He said he would do them for me our first winter here, but he obviously forgot. When I asked him if he might have time for them now, his work finally having slowed down a bit, he said he was just about to order wood and would put in an order for us, too. I saw him (from a distance) on Monday when I went by to drop off the check, and he said he was letting the wood sit until it was supposedly virus free and would be over to our house this weekend to build them. I’m so excited!

My exercise this week has been solely devoted to walks with Luke. On Tuesday, I took some cheese along so that I could bribe him to go in the direction of Katrina’s house, since he usually refuses to go that way. We popped up there to see if anyone was in the orchard. My sister was, and she gave me a tour of the garden. Then Katrina and Mischa came out of the house, and we all had a talk in the driveway. Mischa said it was really exciting to see someone else for a change. Søren was also out, but he was obsessed by not being touched by Luke for fear of getting the virus. We kept telling him that it would only be a problem if he petted Luke, but he mostly stayed away from us. I tried to get him to give Luke a command so that he would feel more in control, but he wouldn’t do it. However, Mischa told Luke to go down, and Luke did, and he stayed down until I let him up. Everyone was impressed, but Katrina joked that it only took us two years to get him to do that. (Actually, he could do that a year and a half ago.)

I worked a bit with a story that I wasn’t happy with, and then I got an idea for another story, or at least one friend suggested something to help with a problem with the story I was working with. So, I started that one, and I’m not happy with it either, but I figured out yesterday how to fix it.

On Friday my Literary Wives blogging group had a Jitsi meeting. I didn’t think Jitsi worked as well as Zoom, but maybe everything is just more overloaded now than last time we used Zoom. One person’s audio kept falling out, and I was unable to see myself in the video, just a static picture, so I wasn’t sure how well the others could see me. The last time Literary Wives did this was so long ago that only two of us were there at the time. It was nice to see and visit with everyone, and we are going to schedule another one after we do our posts. Our next posts are June 1, and we’re discussing The Dutch House by Ann Patchett.

And that’s about it for this week.

Continuing with the new (ab)normal

Today, our county has 343 known cases of Covid-19 and 21 deaths. They have tested nearly 4,000 people, which still seems ridiculously low. There has been more talk of loosening restrictions, but it seems early. We don’t exactly need another breakout. I am getting sick of Trump’s wildly inconsistent messages on this subject. But then, when has he ever been consistent? I find it interesting that in our county at least, there have been nearly twice as many cases in women as men, but three times as many men have died.

The spring continues to spring. My cherry trees are both blooming, and I have noticed some trees on my property with small red flowers that I didn’t realize were ornamental before. My azaleas are just starting to come out. By next week, I should be able to take a pretty picture. And my rhodies have huge buds on them. It looks like my magnolia tree, which I planted last year, might get two flowers on it this year. It’s still only about 5 feet high. No sign of blooming for my lilacs, though. Christine has told me sometimes it takes many years for them to bloom.

I’ve been going around my property taking pictures of a few flowering trees to see if I can find out what they are. Here’s the most interesting one of them. It’s the red-flowered tree I mentioned above, totally nondescript and  kind of wispy-looking most of the year, and it’s being overshadowed by a grove of alders, and I just noticed last spring that it had these small red flowers. They have opened up a lot since two days ago, when I first noticed them, and now instead of being bright red, they’re a more purply pinky shade.

I have no idea what this tree is. It’s about 12 or 14 feet high with a long thin trunk and branches. I see my picture is a bit out of focus.

I haven’t seen the female duck in ages, but there are still the two males hanging out together. So odd. I kept seeing a male, and I wasn’t sure if I was seeing just one or two separately, but the other day, they were both together. I also spotted the beaver twice this week. Last spring, I saw a lot of him, but this year, I have only glimpsed him the two times. I was beginning to wonder if he had moved on to my neighbor’s two ponds.

Since last Wednesday, I have only had two outings. On Friday, Wayne, Luke, and I drove to a small country butcher shop where I buy my marrow bones for Luke. To see him go absolutely bonkers, you just have to say, “Would you like something better than a treat?” He bounds all over the place and then runs to the freezer, and I give him another bone. I usually try to save these treats for dismal, rainy days, when neither one of us wants to go out much.

This Monday, I made my trip to the grocery store. When I was talking to my Texas friends, they said that their app for the store pickup system allows them to state for each item whether it can be substituted. I wish the Fred Meyer app did that, because there are some things I don’t want substituted. For example, we keep trying to get orange vanilla fizzy water, and they always substitute tangerine lemonade, which I don’t like. This week, they tried to give me another carton, but I sent it back. Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer, has awful-tasting tomato juice, but a couple of weeks ago, that’s what I got instead of Campbell’s. At least I got eggs this time. Now I have a plethora of them. As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t get any and had been out of them for a week already. Now, I have several dozen in my fridge. I’m beginning to understand how people start hoarding.

It sounds like the system HEB uses that my friends told me about has more downsides than ours, though. Not the first week, but ever since, I have been able to make as many changes as I want to my order. So, I put my order in with just a few things on the day I’m picking my last one up so that I can reserve a spot, and then I add things to it through the week. Apparently, the number of times you can do this on the HEB system is limited, so I guess the substitutions thing is something I can live with.

After my grocery outing, I dropped in to see Christine, keeping careful about touching things and getting close. This time I took her some slices of buttermilk lemon Bundt cake that I made the day before. It’s not very Weight Watchery, but I’ve found myself doing a lot more baking. Well, I had hardly done any baking at all since I went on Weight Watchers, just made a few pies during peach and berry season.

Christine and I talked last week about her bringing Duchess here, so that we could walk the dogs on the opposite sides of my road (it’s more difficult to walk on the city streets in her neighborhood and keep a distance), let the dogs play in the wolf pen, and sit on opposite ends of my eight-foot-long outdoor table. However, the weather did not cooperate. The weather has been a little better since then. Most days have been rainy, but Sunday and yesterday were very nice, warm and sunny. I think it got up to 70 on Tuesday.

Last week, Wayne finally burned the burn pile, which was mostly the blackberry bramble we had cut down a few months ago and the blackberry vines we had been pulling up for months. I saw he had it going really good, in fact it was almost out, when I asked him if he’d brought down all the bags of yard waste. He said no, so I went back up to the house and got the wheelbarrow and hauled them all out of the garage. It’s a good thing I did, because there were eight of those big paper yard waste bags. There were a bunch more, actually, but they seemed to be full of wood chips. I had a fun time getting all eight bags down the steep driveway, across the orchard, and into the wolf pen, where we were burning the pile. The orchard is sloped fairly steeply, so as soon as I started across that, two of the bags kept falling out of the wheelbarrow. I finally left them there, delivered the other bags, and went back and got them.

The only thing bad about using the wolf pen was that now there is a dark charred spot in the area where we were going to bring the dogs to play if Christine can come over again. Wayne has covered it with dirt and put grass seed on it, which tells me that he’s going to be cross if the dogs run through it, and they’re going to get dirty. But Christine’s dog is used to a fenced yard, so she can’t run free at our place. I remember one time when we were first walking dogs, Duchess’s leash unsnapped, and she ran around and around us in circles. We were at the side of the high school right near the street, and Christine was really frightened that Duchess would run out into the street. She wasn’t responding to commands at all, she was so happy to be loose. Finally, she ran up near me, and I was able to grab her fur. She yelped, but at least she didn’t get squashed by a car.

Luke and I have taken several walks down our road, although when we get to where it comes to a T, he is happy to go down to Maja’s, but I have to bribe him to get him to go the other way. I’m not sure what’s up with that, because he and I used to walk that way with his leash most of the time. We have also gone the other direction up the road several times so he can cavort for a while with Rosie. He doesn’t like to stay there long, though. I think after he gets flipped over a couple of times, he’s ready to leave. She is a lot bigger than him and plays rough. Reportedly, he is a rather reserved player who, when he is at Puppy Play (which obviously he hasn’t been in six weeks) watches the other dogs for a while and then picks out a dog to play with.

And speaking of exercise, not that I’ve had much recently, my Fitbit broke on Monday. I just started flickering like crazy, starting Sunday night, and then it stopped working. I tried charging it and resetting it, but no luck, and it is no longer reporting to its app, because I did way more than 1000 steps on Monday! That’s frustrating, because I think I’ve had this fancy dan model of Fitbit only a year, whereas the cheapy ones I had before that lasted several years each. I got this one because I realized the others weren’t waterproof, and I’d been washing dishes with them on, taking showers, and swimming. And yet they lasted longer than the fancy waterproof one. I ordered another one, but unfortunately, it’s the same model as the one I had.

I have finished an eighth story for my novel, but I don’t think I’m happy with it. I figured it would be better to pound it out and then go back and try to fix it. I made a change to the narration that I thought would be more effective, but then it made it much harder to convey some things, so I might rethink that. Then, today, I returned to a story that I started last year, which is going to be the last story, no matter how many others I might add. I have a clear idea of the arc of the story, but I’m having trouble getting there.

Other than those things and some more blackberry vine pulling and bush trimming and gardening, I managed to finish another jigsaw puzzle. It appears to be the only other picture I have for you this week. This is Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland. Everyone keep well!