A duck ménage?

Today our county has 296 positive Covid-19 cases and 16 deaths. The number of people tested has gone up by more than 1000, but they’ll have to do better than that. A map of the county shows that our zip code has no cases, so that’s good news, but Battle Ground, where we have to go to do our errands, is one of the county hot spots. I noticed posts on Facebook today about people in Yacolt protesting the shut-down orders and apparently trying to work through the mayor to have them removed in Yacolt. However, the people pushing for that don’t seem to realize that just because we have no known cases doesn’t mean we don’t have any cases.

Over the last week, I have continued to work on my novel of short stories. I have added more links between the stories, and now I am working on a seventh story. As the novel moves further back into the past, I feel less confident of my stories, particularly as there is not much information online about the places and people I am writing about. I have had to decide to write it up and do more research after I can get around to some historical societies when this is all over.

On Friday, I got worried about finding vegetable starts, which I had been fruitlessly looking for online, so Wayne and I drove down to the farm store, with Luke in the back. The store had vegetable starts, but compared to previous years, they had almost no inventory. So, I am not going to be able to try growing Siberian tomatoes this year. Maybe next year early in the season I will order them. I did find a couple of early tomatoes, one called Glacier and the other something else suggesting the frigid.

I have a plan for my tomatoes this year. The problem with my garden is that even though I put it in the spot up by the house that gets the most sunshine, it still only gets a few hours a day. The sun comes over the trees in that area about noon or maybe a little before, and then it is down behind the trees on the other side by mid-afternoon. The trees have gotten higher, of course, so that we get even less sunlight than when we planted the first year. And, my husband and niece didn’t put it where I wanted it, exactly in the middle of that space so that it could get the most sunlight possible. That was for two reasons. One was that there was already a sort of patio-like area of somewhat wobbly cement blocks that they decided to put it on, and that area was positioned more to the west than the center of this little yard. The other was that my husband had the propane company put his stupid big propane tank right where I wanted my garden. He could have put it anywhere in that yard, including right next to the driveway, but no. My husband was fully aware of where I wanted to put my garden, since we had discussed it several times, but the propane tank is now literally right where I intended it to go. I should have known not to be away from home when Wayne has a service person coming out, because other things like that have happened. (I also guess I’m not the first woman who thinks her husband never listens to a thing she says.)

Two years ago, I had a huge bunch of tomatoes appear right when it started frosting, so they all got frozen when they were green. Last year to get around that, I planted my tomatoes in big pots, but then right when I was finally getting some ripe ones, a bunny came and chewed big chunks out of each one.

So, my plan is for mobile tomatoes. I have ordered a garden wagon, and I am planting my tomatoes in big pots, the size for small trees, and planning to roll them around to the deck in the morning, where they will get a good six hours of sunlight before the sun goes to the other side of the house, and then I will roll them to the back yard. Even if I keep them on the deck most of the time, they’ll get more sunlight than they do now. We’ll see if that makes a difference. My niece has lots more sunlight than I do, and she has had to put in a greenhouse in order to grow tomatoes. Since I think fresh tomatoes are about the best thing there is, I have been disappointed with my harvest so far. In Austin, they were about the only thing I could grow because of the heat.

I was going to repot them Monday, when it was very nice, but the forecast for Tuesday was also very nice, so I procrastinated and worked on my latest short story instead. Then, in one day, the forecast changed from lots of sun for the next few days to rain, cold, and clouds. I have been debating how much I want to go out in the drizzle and pot my tomatoes. After all, if it’s raining, they’ll do better in their small pots than they would in the sun. And my wagon won’t arrive until next week, so I won’t be able to move them.

My garden this year is sparsely planted. Sugar snap peas are along the back. Cabbages are the plants planted in the middle of the bare spaces except for one bush bean plant. (I haven’t done well with beans, but I keep trying.) The section on the right side that is already coming on fairly well is salad greens that I planted from seed several weeks ago. On the front left is my artichoke plant, which I planted last year, and some rosemary. Obviously, I need to weed whack the aisle.

I did go ahead and plant all the rest of my starts while the weather was nice. I decided to stick with plants that have worked well for me even if they take up a lot of room, so besides the lettuce and some beans, I planted the sugar snap peas again and cabbages. Supposedly my asparagus should come up from last year, although I am worried that it is dead, because I thought it should already be coming up. When I added dirt to the garden this year, the old asparagus plants looked dead. So, maybe I’ve killed my asparagus and will have to start all over next year.

Lukey and I have continued to take walks without a leash, which is very freeing. We can just decide to go for one without any planning. Many times I have been out with him in the orchard and decided a walk would be nice but was too lazy to go back and get his leash. I may have to start carrying cheese with me for a while again, though, because on Monday I wanted to walk down to Katrina’s house and pick up some big pots, but Luke still refuses to walk down the road in that direction, once we’re at the intersection of our three roads. He will go down towards Maja’s house, the opposite way, but not towards Katrina’s. In fact, going toward Maja’s was what we were doing this weekend when we encountered Maja and the little girl who is living in Maja’s barn apartment with her parents. It has been nice for Maja that they moved in, because now that we are all isolated, she has a ready-made family. Even before the isolation, they were all eating meals together and the little girl spent time playing in her house. Maja has tended to give that apartment out to people in exchange for work around her house, but it was not until these people moved in that anyone actually did much work around her house, at least not since I’ve been here. Mostly, the previous tenant just used up her firewood.

Anyway, we took a walk with Maja and the little girl (also named Maja) up to the mailboxes and back. It was nice to see her. When I encountered her before, she said she would text me if she was going again, but she has not, so I assume she usually goes with her little family.

That makes me think how sorry I feel now for people who live entirely alone. That was one reason I bopped by Christine’s house briefly last week, but I haven’t done that often because I don’t want to take any chances with her health.

And speaking of that, another single friend from Houston, Mary Elaine, arranged a Zoom meeting for a bunch of us on Sunday afternoon. I was reflecting that, although I had seen almost all of them more recently—the most recently Mary Elaine, who came out to visit us the year before last—we had not all been together for about 20 years, when we all went on a weekend trip together to Port Aransas during a bird-watching weekend. On that trip, Rosanne and Bob went to a bird-watching festival while the rest of us took a cruise out to look at whooping cranes. It was a fun weekend.

Everyone who took part in the Zoom meeting lives in Texas but us, and I met all of the women while working at the same company. I worked with Mary Elaine and Rosanne in Houston, and then that company transferred me to Austin, where I worked with K. C.

Anyway, everyone is well, although some are suffering from a fair amount of boredom. I have not been bored yet. In fact, I was wondering today whether I should actually paint a picture like I’ve been planning to, or just concentrate on my novel.

Speaking of friends, though, I am very worried about my best friend, Claire, whom I have known since college. She lives in Springfield, Illinois, and she thinks she has the virus. If she does, it is a mild case so far, and I hope it stays that way, although it is also hard to tell if it is the virus or the flu. She spoke to a nurse on Monday, who told her to keep doing what she is doing and she’ll check back with her in a few days. She says she has only been out of the house three times since this all started, so let’s hope she doesn’t have it. I have been out of the house far more times than that.

Wayne, by the way, decided a long time ago that he was well, but I heard him tell a family member that he thinks he had a mild case a few weeks ago. Oh, brother!

The cherry tree that is furthest along in bloom

I took some pictures to show that spring is finally arriving here. All we have had up until now is some daffodils and crocuses, but my cherry trees are finally in bloom, and my apple trees shouldn’t be very far behind. I took a picture of the tree that is farthest along, but somehow it always looks more impressive in person than it does in a photo.

If you have still retained the title of this post in your memory, you might be wondering about it. Well, I have been keeping an eye on the ducks. I have actually seen them a lot more often than I have seen ducks in our pond in previous years. I thought I saw ducklings a few weeks ago, but when you realize that I am usually looking at them from the kitchen, down a hill to a brown pond with brown ducks, you will understand that I wasn’t sure. I just thought that I twice saw little brown things in the water next to the parents. But here is the odd thing. The other day, I distinctly saw two males and a female swimming around in the pond in apparent amity. A few weeks ago, I saw what looked like some ducks chasing other ducks away, fully five ducks flew up in the air at that point. But the male wasn’t chasing this male away. I know that eagle pairs will sometimes have a year-old eaglet still with them when they migrate down to Texas for the winter, but I wasn’t aware of any such situation with a duck. So, that is what I am wondering about with my title. Could this other male duck be their progeny from last year? What other situation would end up with two males and a female hanging out together? It’s true that since that day I haven’t seen the second male again, just the male and female pair, but since our pond is surrounded by trees, I can only see them well when they come right out into the open.

And speaking of wildlife, the other day for the very first time I saw chipmunks in our garden. I know that they live in this area, and I have seen them other places, but not at our house. I like that, because we had chipmunks in Michigan but not in Texas, so it’s a long time since I saw the little guys running around by my house.

Wayne is in a rodent war with at least one very fat squirrel. He’s not trying to keep him out of the bird feeder of our three feeders that he can get into, the one with no safeguards. He instead is trying to keep him from raiding the suet holder and removing the entire suet block from it, then running off with it. Just last week, he announced to me that he had wired it so that the squirrel couldn’t possibly get in (and neither could I, so the suet feeder in front has devolved to being his responsibility). However, the squirrel is apparently more deft than I am, because the other day I saw him sitting on the ground with that big block of suet eating it, and then he picked it up and ran off into the woods with it. That squirrel is really fat, which certainly is explained if he has been eating all our suet blocks by himself for months. The squirrels don’t bother our suet blocks or feeders in the back of the house, for some reason, probably because these ones are such easy pickings!

Hope everyone out there is well and staying safe!

Let’s sit down and gnaw a bone

That’s what I found myself saying to Luke yesterday. That was after I asked him if he would like something better than a cookie, a cue for him to go wild with joy. It means he’s getting a marrow bone to chew on, an activity that is fun for hours and means he isn’t bugging me for attention. Needless to say, our house and front yard look like a charnel house.

The count in the county of confirmed cases of coronavirus is still low, at 16 as of yesterday, with four deaths. However, that is more deaths than Oregon has cases, and it has shut down like Washington. It seems that since last week, we have about three more cases confirmed a day. Again, this seems like a low number, but my understanding is that they aren’t doing very much testing in our area. They’re probably reserving that mostly for Seattle. The Koreans got on top of their problem by ordering tests before the virus even came to their country and testing everyone constantly. They have only a 1% death rate, which is much lower than everyone else. But of course it would be really odd for our government to jump on anything. The local and state governments are reacting much faster. When Trump announced he had turned something over to FEMA, I just said “Jesus, help us,” and I’m not a religious person. But, oh yes, the tests are great, according to him.

I hear stories all over about sick people. My niece told me that half her friends in Battle Ground who were having play dates like normal with their kids while she was hunkering down are sick. And a lady posted on Facebook yesterday that a bunch of her church members were sick and some were on respirators. No word about if they got tested. Luckily, so far no one in my family is sick. The flu being in the area adds confusion to all this.

Wayne is worried about his oldest brother, who lives in Michigan, not because of the virus but because shortly before all this happened, he was supposed to be biopsied for lung cancer. He was a smoker most of his life, although he quit smoking a few years ago. When he went into the hospital originally for a biopsy, they found that he had another condition that they had to take care of before they could do that. He just had his biopsy yesterday, a bad time to go into the hospital. Wayne has been calling him every day.

Wayne and I have stayed home almost all this week. Just Monday, the governor announced a stay-at-home order that says you can only go out for necessary business and exercise. That’s basically what we’ve done the last week or so anyway. On Thursday, I went over to Christine’s and we walked our dogs and then sat outside to have coffee. The only thing that worried me about that was the fear that I could have something unbeknownst to myself and pass it on to her, as she is 80. So far, so good. While I was out, I stopped by the farm store.

On Monday, Wayne decided he wasn’t sick after all, helped along by the arrival of a new thermometer, which says we both have normal temperatures. I could never see that he had any symptoms of anything, although I realize that doesn’t mean anything, and he goes out so seldom during normal times except to run errands that it seemed unlikely he got anything. As soon as he thought he was sick, he stayed home. That day, he went out for the first time for a doctor’s appointment, because he has blood in his urine, so maybe a kidney stone or something, but no other symptoms. On the way home, he stopped and got gas and went to the produce store for fruit. Then on Tuesday afternoon, he took his temperature and decided he was sick after all. A doctor would still treat his temperature as normal (98.4), but he says for him it is high, and now he has taken to his bed. I have been through something like this so many times before that it’s hard to take seriously. I don’t know how many times he’s thought he’s had something and moped around for days and then decided he’s not ill after all. I just hope he isn’t ill this time, too.

We are doing okay for groceries so far, just because Wayne generally picks up things without know if we need them, which leads to a surplus of certain foods, or importantly, toilet paper. As a test, however, I decided to try Fred Meyer’s Clicklist function, where you pick out your shopping list online and then schedule a time to pick it up. My only problem was that when I tried to schedule a time, they were all full. My niece suggested I do it early in the morning, so I left my stuff in the cart and then scheduled it at 8:30 AM on Sunday. I got a 1-2 PM appointment today to pick it up. Of course, as soon as I placed it, I was sorry I hadn’t put a few more things on the list, particularly as it was difficult to get a reservation. Of course, we can always get up early and go shop during the senior hours, Monday through Thursday from 7 to 8 AM. My SIL Nancy reports that she placed an order by getting up this morning at 3:30 AM. I don’t know if it got that much worse in two days or if she is just over-reacting as usual. I think she is reading every virus article she can get her hands on and scaring herself. My niece has gone further for groceries than any of us. She was the one using the Clicklist, but this time she is actually ordering the food from them to be shipped to her.

The only thing we have run out of is all our treats. I have some popcorn left to pop, but we usually have a small stash of chocolate and salty snacks, and they are all gone. Every day I have considered baking chocolate chip cookies, and every day I have desisted. I am not being super rigid about WW right now, but I don’t want to undo all my efforts of the last two years.

Other than my trip to pick up my shopping, I may go hiking with Katrina and the kids on Thursday, assuming Wayne doesn’t have an actual temperature by then, and Christine and I are planning another dog-walking expedition.

Here are the very same daffodils, two days after being covered in snow.

We had gorgeous weather here most of last week. In fact, I took another picture of some of my daffodils, the very same ones that were covered in snow last Saturday. Two days later, they were doing fine. I also took a picture of Luke in the crocuses. My crocuses are gung ho this year. Usually by the time the daffodils arrive, they are about done.

If you look hard, you can see yellow and white crocuses. I didn’t even know crocuses came in white, but I must have planted them, because there they are.

The weather being so nice, I spent several days outside pulling up blackberry vines. They are all over our raised bed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t reach the ones that were high up but lower than the upper ridge, but we did a lot of damage to them. There are still lots more, though. I guess we should have been doing this every spring. I also got some dirt at the farm store last week and turned up the dirt in my raised gardens. I will have to go back to get more dirt, but I was able to prepare two sections of my raised garden and plant my lettuce greens and beans. This will be my third year to try beans, and I haven’t been successful, but the first year I did well with mixed greens of lettuce. Last year, I tried head lettuce, but no heads ever developed. By mistake, I find I have bought foot-long Asian beans instead of regular green beans. Oops!

Now our good weather has passed, and we have been in rain for the past couple of days. It’s supposed to snow today. It hasn’t so far, but we did get a kind of goopy snow yesterday for a few minutes. It was really coming down. It was too snowlike for sleet but slushy. It wasn’t hail. We had two storms of pea-sized hail the day before, one that was big enough to leave slush on the front porch for hours afterwards.

My sister, who is in self-quarantine because she brought her sick grandson over to her house (where she lives with my niece and her family) last weekend, says she’s been painting. I haven’t been so creative, but I’ve been enjoying myself this last week reading the third volume in Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell series. I just finished it yesterday. It’s a great book. Review to come in four to five months.

Now my family is going crazy messaging about particles of virus found on the cruise ship that were more than 17 days old. I bet some of them are going to start cleaning everything obsessively, if they aren’t already. I can hear my phone going ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

Locking down

On the way to art class last Thursday, my sister Sue, who is a nurse, told me there were 21 cases of Covid-19 in Clark County. When I asked her why I hadn’t heard of any more than the one, she said the authorities were lying so we wouldn’t panic. However, she didn’t seem to have any kind of special knowledge, because she said she saw it on the news. What she said didn’t make sense to me, because they are being pretty forthright about the numbers of cases in Seattle, but one disadvantage of living so near to the Oregon border is that our news all comes from Portland, where they naturally talk mostly about Oregon. So, the next day I researched this, and I found that just that day, they had announced two more cases, for a total of three. Where Sue got confused was that I counted 21 cases that had been out for testing, 10 of which came back negative, 9 of which were still out for testing, and the 2 cases they had just announced that day.

Since then, one more confirmed case has been announced, and the two cases they announced last week, a married couple, have died. That, of course, doesn’t mean that there aren’t more cases, just that not many people have been tested.

In any case, things have started to lock down around here. School is cancelled and restaurants are only allowed to serve take-out. Almost all my regular activities have been cancelled, except the dog school. However, since the federal government has asked that people not be in groups larger than 10, I think dog classes will have to stop, although perhaps not puppy play. Puppy play was scheduled to shut down for two weeks starting next week anyway. I kept Luke home this week, and my only outside activities since last week’s art class were dropping him off at the groomer’s and going to visit Christine on Friday and hiking with my niece Katrina and her kids yesterday. I also dropped by the Battle Ground Produce Market to buy some meat, veggies, and fruit.

I was in that market on Friday, by the way, and after I picked up some broccoli, I started to go to the check-out stand but stopped when I thought the guy standing right next to me looked familiar. And by golly, it was my brother, Mark, husband of SIL Nancy, with whom I had a run-in earlier that week. He was pleased to see me and spent some time trying to justify his wife. I thought he was talking about the virus kerfuffle, but he was actually talking about the usual thing, his childhood problems, and the nasty things she said about my brother John. It’s always the same old same old with him. Then she came in the store, probably wondering about what was keeping him, and although she was pleasant, she hustled him out. Although they left quite a few minutes before me, I had to follow them almost all the way home, because she insists on driving, and she drives like a little old lady.

Oddly enough, after throwing a fit when she heard I was dropping my dog off at the dog trainer’s, she asked the family what they thought about her going skiing on Monday. What? I’m going to meet two people I know at the dog place and just hand over my dog, and she’s going to go to the slopes among a bunch of strangers? In any case, the slopes closed down.

She still continues to send article after article about the virus all around to the family. It’s one thing to stay informed, but I think she is scaring herself by being over-informed.

Wayne thinks he might be sick, but if he is, it’s a very slight case and more likely of flu. To confuse everyone, the regular flu is going around right now, too. I hope I don’t get it from him. I have had a drippy nose since September, which means it is more confusing for me to know whether I am sick. I made the mistake a month ago when I thought my nose was just doing its normal thing and then got back from art class and realized I had a cold, which I would not have taken to art class if I had known.

He tends to scare himself about illness, which resulted in a little confusion on Friday. That day, he spent several hours trying to find out how to get tested, even though he didn’t have a temperature that we could tell (our thermometer measured both of us at below normal temps) and had only coughed about three times. As a result, he sent me to the drug store on my way to pick up Luke from the groomer’s to get a new thermometer. Walgreen’s was fairly normal, but the entire thermometer rack was empty. The druggist suggested I try Safeway, next door, but when I walked in, that usually empty store had a line all the way out to the produce section. I walked out and ordered a thermometer online.

When I got home, Wayne had listened to online recordings of people with the virus breathing and decided he didn’t have it after all. And that’s how it goes. One day, he thinks he has it, the next he decides he has the flu. It’s a little stressful, both for him and for me. I tried to make him feel better by saying that if he had the virus it seemed really mild, and that just made him angry. He said I was trivializing his illness. You can’t win around here.

Here are my poor daffodils peeping through the snow.

Our weather has been pretty crazy. On Saturday, we woke up to quite a bit of snow that stayed most of the day. I went down to the orchard and attempted to take a picture of my poor daffodils, peeping through the snow. I’m not sure if you can tell that’s what they are. I also took a nice photo of Luke under the apple tree.

Luke in the snow Saturday morning. He just loves snow and spent some time running in circles that morning.

Then the very next day it turned warm and sunny. We’ve had a slew of really nice days. Yesterday I went hiking at Moulton Falls Park with Katrina, Mischa, and Søren. It was a beautiful day, starting out a little chilly and ending up warm. Luke went along with us.

And that’s about it. We’ve battened down the hatches, pretty much. I hope you all are safe wherever you live.



Anticipation (of both people and the holidays)

My sister-in-law Lucie earlier in their journey, at Tent Rocks National Monument in New Mexico

I sort of worked myself up into a false alarm last weekend. We had messages from my brother John that they had started the drive north from Los Angeles. We got pictures from them of Morro Bay and Carmel. So, when I didn’t hear from them after that, I thought that maybe they were arriving during the weekend. We got the house all ready, but when I finally broke down and asked where they were, they were still in Carmel and heading for Livermore to see our cousin Paul. They estimate they’ll be here shortly before Christmas, perhaps on Sunday.

On Friday, we left Lukey in the doggie hoosegow and went to Christine’s. We couldn’t take Luke because Christine’s dog, Duchess, whom he usually plays with, had injured herself again. Christine was having difficulties accessing Netflix from either her TV or computer. First, Wayne looked at her computer and after some time decided that her keyboard wasn’t working anymore. Her husband had all kinds of dongles and things attached to the computer, so it was difficult to tell what was going on. The keyboard was wireless, so we tried replacing the batteries and restarting, to no avail. The TV was easier to fix. The modem just needed to be restarted. Wayne took her one of our extra keyboards on Saturday, and now she’s all set.

On Saturday, Deb and I had our last tickets at Magenta Theater, and I don’t think we’ll be going there again. Overall, our experiences have been underwhelming. This time it was Miracle on 34th Street, and the first act was really, really slow. This is one of my all-time favorite holiday movies (the old version, of course), so I felt like it was being wrecked. Lots of lines were flubbed. There were some cute characters, but the worst idea was that they tried to update it but still left in some of the parts that are really out of date. You can’t update this script, because you can no longer have someone committed against their will unless they are criminally dangerous, and the supposed psychological tests are just ridiculous. (Touch your nose with your fingers, who’s the first president of the United States?) So, they would have done better to have it be a period piece. At least the second act went a lot faster and was quite a bit better, but then the play ended somewhat abruptly, and they left off the last line, where Fred says something like “I guess I’m not as good a lawyer as I thought.”

The fun part was going for Thai food afterwards, and I always have a good time with Deb.

The play got me in the mood, though, to watch the good movie. Much to my surprise, no one was showing it on TV unless we wanted to pay for it. I found this shocking, since almost every year it is on AMC or TCM. It wasn’t even available streaming on Netflix. I am considering buying it, but it won’t get here before Christmas. I have it somewhere on videotape, but we don’t even have our VCR hooked up anymore. (Wayne would prefer to dig up the tape and hook up the VCR, which he might get around to by next Christmas, rather than me buying it from Amazon for $6.95.)

That’s about all of interest that’s going on this week. I got the lights on my little tree at the top of the slope on one of the few days before it starts raining again. It’s clear this morning, but it’s supposed to start raining very hard around noontime. Of course, since Christmas is next week, we would like it to snow soon. A snowflake keeps going in and out of the ten-day forecast, but right now, it’s on the day after Christmas. That would be better than nothing.

The next week will be fraught with activity. On Friday, Lukey is getting his holiday grooming done and I am picking up cookies for Enzo’s holiday puppy party, which Mischa has asked to attend with me on Saturday. The cookies are for the humans, though. Katrina has designated Sunday as “baking day,” and expects me to go over and help decorate a cake and possibly frost Christmas cookies. She was going to do a buche de Noël, but decided it might be best to bake a regular cake the first time and decorate it with mushrooms, etc. Apparently, rolling the cake without breaking it is the hard part. If John and Lucie arrive while we’re baking, they’ll just have to pitch in.

A few more things finished

The good news is that Wayne more or less finished working on the closet. He says there are parts he would like to redo, but for now, it is usable. We aren’t hiking today, so I’ll put Luke in his crate (also known as the doggy hoosegow) and go down and clean up that room, change the bed, and clean the bathroom, and we’ll be ready for John and Lucie (except for cleaning the house better). The last time I heard from them, a few days ago, they were still in New Mexico. I imagine they want to visit friends in Los Angeles, so I think they aren’t going to get here by mid-December as they originally projected.

Earlier this week, I also put up my outside lights except for the little Christmas tree at the top of our ridge, which depends on Wayne running an extension cord up the hill. It’s raining for the next few days, so we probably won’t be doing that, but also I wanted Wayne to concentrate on the closet.

On Saturday, Lukey got his Canine Good Citizen certification. He was supposed to test this coming Saturday at 8:15 AM, but when Karen said she had some spots after class, I decided to bite the bullet and try it so that we didn’t have to get up so early. Luckily, I wasn’t expected to pick up Mischa that day. I was most concerned about his heeling, which he still sometimes pulls at, because they have to do it without any tools except a leash and a flat collar. But he not only passed, he passed with flying colors, Karen said.

On Saturday evening, my brother Mark invited us over unexpectedly for dinner. At first I was inclined to decline, but he got me with prime rib. Wayne told me he was too tired to come, as he had spent all day on the closet. While I was there, I was telling them what Wayne was working on, and when Nancy realized that John and Lucie are going to be staying with us a while, she implied that they would be cadging off us. She also gave me one of her pep talks that are supposed to be encouraging about how she had to teach herself to be more sociable because of work. I don’t remember what we were talking about, probably something I had no interest in doing because I am not very outgoing, but it’s like she thinks I didn’t work for 30 years. I was perfectly sociable at work. That doesn’t mean I want to subject myself to certain things when I am no longer working.

On Monday I saw the other Nancy, pack walk Nancy, for the first time in weeks. We took our dogs for a walk and stopped for coffee. It was nice to see her again. Unfortunately, Christine and Duchess had another engagement.

That’s about it for this week and no pictures. I am sorry I didn’t get Karen to send the picture she took of Luke with his blue ribbon.


A more ordinary week

This week, Nancy asked if we wanted to go on a six-mile, moderate hike in Yacolt Burn, but I told her we had decided to do something super easy because I was recovering from being sick. Maja had already planned a harder hike with her on Tuesday. But Maja ended up getting sick, so she cancelled that hike and our Wednesday hike. Wayne had been supposed to take Luke to the groomer while I was hiking, but since I wasn’t hiking and Wayne was having back problems, I took Luke to the groomers. He looks very pretty now.

On Thursday, we had our people training for using Luke’s e-collar. It was amazing. One of the things Luke always does on the leash, even with a prong collar, is pull as hard as he can, despite me using the correction with the collar (a short jerk). I spent most of the time after learning about the controls walking around with Luke on his leash. He walked right next to me and didn’t pull on the leash at all. The only problem with this is that he seems to think he only has to do that at Enzo’s, so yesterday I took him down the road on his leash, and he did very well. I will have to do more practicing.

It was my birthday on Friday, and Wayne gave me a backup device (yippee! not!) and a nice Aran cardigan. The only reason I got a nice sweater was that I circled it in the catalog along with the color and size. I haven’t worn it yet, because I want to make sure that Luke has completely stopped jumping on me first. He would have it in snags in no time.

That day, I went over to Christine’s and we walked our dogs and had coffee. I always enjoy visiting Christine. She gave me a little jam container that I can use for tea parties.

My only birthday requirement is not to have to cook dinner, so we tried out a Szechuan restaurant in Vancouver that was opened by some Portland restaurateurs. I had the personal hotpot with lamb and broccoli added (it comes with tofu and leeks, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and wood ear) and for an appetizer, the Szechuan wontons in special sauce, which looked delicious in the picture on the menu. The hotpot was hot without having much other flavor. The sauce needed something. However, the wontons were fabulous. I ended up dumping some of my special sauce into the hotpot, which improved it. We will go there again, because Wayne’s food was also good, and good Chinese restaurants are few and far between here in Battle Ground and Vancouver. In fact, the ones we have been to in Battle Ground are horrible, and before this one we only found one mediocre one and one bad one in Vancouver.

Luke did much better in his Saturday class with the e-collar on.

On Sunday, my niece and her family and my sister took us to Portland for a birthday dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. Yum! I am sure I gained five pounds, but I haven’t checked because there was no Weight Watchers meeting on Monday. After we stuffed ourselves to the gills with Ethiopian food, we went to Powell’s for about 45 minutes before taking ourselves off to Salt and Straw, Portland’s decadent ice cream parlor. Weight Watchers just went out the window. Several of our party tried an a salted caramel ice cream with bits of crispy turkey fat in it. It was really good, even though it sounds horrible. I just stuck to plain salted caramel.

That’s really about all of note for this week except that on my birthday, I also heard from my brother Steve, who lives in Seattle. He said that our cousin Amy, whom he had briefly visited when he took his oldest daughter down to school in L. A., was coming up for Christmas. I haven’t seen my cousin Amy since she was a little girl and I was in college. She lives in Spain, where she is a French hornist in an orchestra. She married an Icelandic man, Petúr, who was also in the orchestra. Sadly, her husband died last year, still young. She was invited to L. A. by a friend whose husband also recently died. So, she’ll be coming to visit Steve and co., and then they will bring her down here, along with her youngest son. Or, since Steve’s family is very disorganized, she may come here and they will come down later. My brother John and his wife Lucie know her, and they will be here, so it won’t matter which way it happens.

Finally, we’re started planning a non-Thanksgiving dinner for the Sunday after the holiday. I am hosting. We’ll see how everything works out.


Getting back to normal

This week was about getting back to normal after my visitors left. We had so many long expeditions, with me driving all day, that it took me a few days before I didn’t feel really tired.

On Wednesday, as I mentioned briefly in the last post, we went over to see my brother Mark’s new house. He and his wife Nancy had moved up from Berkeley very quickly after spotting the house of their dreams online. He said it didn’t fit any of the conditions they had agreed upon for a new house. They wanted a small, one-story house, they got a larger, three-story log house on 13 acres with lots of landscaping. It’s a beautiful house, and I wish I had taken my phone with me when we went to visit, so that I could have taken pictures. The shell of the cabin the original owner had built, but then he himself did all the interiors, and it was beautiful workmanship, with an impressive stone fireplace and planked walls, solid wood doors, and antique furniture converted into bathroom sinks, etc. The only odd touches were a result of the wife’s aesthetic, which was different, to say the least. Pictures of babies laminated inside the bathroom door and filigreed gold switch cover plates. Also, angels around the grounds of the house. Nancy said the first thing that was going to go were the switch cover plates.

My brother was really excited about the house and eager to show us around. Since he has lived on a boat in a marina for years, this is the first house he has owned in a long time. Although my husband didn’t really want to go up and down the stairs and didn’t go on the first trip up with me, Mark got him to go up later to look at the bedroom, with its beautiful views of Mt. St. Helens.

It’s funny that they wanted a house on one floor, because just to get to the front door, you have to walk up a flight of stairs outside. The garage and downstairs bedroom are on the lower, half basement level.

Thursday, I was so tired that after doing the errands that we usually do on Tuesday (but couldn’t because I was in Portland with my friends), I lay down for a nap and woke up just before my makeup art class was supposed to start. I was doing a double that day, but I missed almost half of the first class, because it takes a half hour to drive in. Then, I just missed my teacher. She works her way around the room methodically and had just gotten to the person after me when I came in. I didn’t know what we were going to work on next, so I had to wait until she made it around the entire class, which took about a half hour. My sister and I were frustrated with this behavior on our first class with her, because we came in just a minute or two late and didn’t know what to do so had to wait for her to come around. But having worked with other teachers who were more inclined to skip around, and having been skipped many times, I think it is the fairest way to run that class. In any case, I finally got to start painting my starfish. It is a very complicated pattern of teals, aquas, and yellow, and I did the first coat of the teals. Normally, we would have painted the entire starfish teal and then added in the other colors, but the pattern was too complex to try to draw on top of the paint. I tried that with the sheep in the field on my Mont St. Michel picture, and one of them came out looking more like a cow because of double drawing that was slightly off.

On Friday, I began mowing the orchard. We originally bought our riding mower to mow the orchard, but Wayne doesn’t like the slope. I think that if we had bought a smaller mower, he would feel safer because he’d be lower down and I would feel more comfortable about learning how to use it. My sister, who uses their riding mower all the time, used ours once and said that you feel remarkably unstable on the seat. So, either they come over and mow or I have to do it with the self-propelled hand mower. I worked on it twice that day, once in the morning and once in the late afternoon after the sun had left it, and I got it about halfway done. I finished it on Sunday, being tied up on Saturday. It has a steep pitch to it, so the work is tiring.

In regard to the orchard, I was upset to notice that the buckets that we use to water our trees were all missing. They had been there a day or two before. At first, I thought Wayne might have moved them for some reason, but he did not, so I can only conclude that they were stolen. Whether I can attribute this to the general teasing that has been going on around our house, I don’t know, but stealing is a little different, even if some kids might have thought it was a funny idea. They are just five-gallon paint buckets with a hole drilled in the bottom so that we can fill them up with water and then let it leak out slowly. Last year, we just left them under whichever trees we had done last. I posted a note about it on our neighborhood Facebook page, hoping some parent would find them and make his kids return them, but no such luck.

This year, having replaced them with Firehouse Sub pickle buckets, we are going to have to take them back up to the house and bring them back down each time. Now, at least they have our address written on them. Who would think they had to worry about a thing like that? It’s one thing to be stealing some of our apples, which I think the neighborhood kids do every fall, but another to steal our buckets. We have several times caught them running away from our orchard when we arrived home, but we thought they were just playing by the pond, which we understand they used to do before we moved here.

I watered the trees on Monday afternoon and then gathered up the buckets.

On Saturday, Luke had his first class for a couple of weeks. Our attendance had been spotty anyway, because I hurt my hand a few weeks before that and missed a class. Well, it seems that if Luke misses classes he loses all his brains. We were trying to teach our dogs to put their paws on an object. The practical use of this is to be able to say “Paws” and have them put them up so we can look at them. Luke just didn’t get it at all. He was only putting his paws on his plastic dot by accident. Then, he got so obsessed by the treats that we used to teach this and that got dropped on the ground, that he failed coming when called miserably. He would sit until called, and then instead of running to me, like he knows very well how to do, he would run toward the nearest treat.

I have been really stupid about Luke. I noticed that I was finding lots of his hair around the house lately, but I was so obsessed with preparing for my guests and then entertaining them, that it didn’t occur to me until Tuesday that he was shedding his undercoat and should have had an appointment with the groomer a couple of weeks ago. Instead, because he also has a case of nettle rash, I thought he was pathologically pulling out his hair. He was, but because he’s supposed to! What an idiot! He has an appointment now, but it’s not until next week. We previously had a Keeshond, but he had no undercoat because he had a skin disease and had lost it, so I wasn’t familiar with the idea that Luke has to lose it every year.

I haven’t mentioned Hillary lately, but we are worried about her. She has gone through periods where I think she must have something really wrong with her because she throws up so much, to my thinking she just has a food allergy because we change her food and she stops throwing up. But lately, she hasn’t been able to keep anything down. We have moved her off regular food to baby food after she hardly ate anything anymore, and she liked the baby food at first, but now she hardly eats it. She has gotten really thin, which she never did before, throwing up or not. The other day, I tried her on kitten food, and she seemed to be ravenous and ate lots of it, but that was probably a mistake because after that she threw up, had diarrhea, and wet our bed. Now I’m afraid to try it again even though that was about the only thing she’s wanted to eat in a while. I think I’ll try boiling up some chicken next, as she has occasionally been able to eat something like that without vomiting.

On Saturday afternoon, Deb and I attended our next bad play at Magenta Theater. This one was really bad. It was a comedy about five women who inherit a theater. It wasn’t very funny, and it seemed as though it was also going to be very predictable. I was sitting there wondering what the point was and thinking that they probably got the rights to a very cheap play. At intermission, I leaned over to Deb and said, “What do you think about this play?” and she said, “I think we should leave immediately.” So, we did. Again, it was a British play, and again, the actors weren’t capable of doing the accents. I don’t know why they keep picking British plays. That’s three out of three. The last one of the year is Miracle on 34th Street, which is at least an American play, but I bet we’ll be getting bad Brooklyn or Bronx accents.

Instead of finishing the play, we went for a delicious Thai lunch and then wandered around town for a bit. There was a nice park nearby, but at that time of day it was just full of homeless people, so we didn’t go there. We also stopped at our favorite chocolatier and had some chocolate and coffee.

Yesterday, we took Luke for Puppy Play and Train only to find out that it was cancelled because some of the dogs had sniffles and a cough, although not, we were assured, kennel cough. It is cancelled for the entire week, and some of the dogs who didn’t get the message, like us, were very disappointed. One little Havanese wanted to play with Luke so badly that he peed on the floor. I am going to have to do some special things with Luke to keep him from getting too full of energy. Usually, I just work around the yard and let him run around or sometimes play ball with him. Maybe I’ll take him for a walk in the park.

I have seen quite a bit of the beavers swimming around in the pond this week, and Tuesday morning we saw a deer run across the road in front of another car. Monday afternoon we were sitting on our bench by the pond after watering the trees and the small birds around began making a fuss. I thought two birds were fighting, and I was watching carefully to see what they were, when a large bird of prey landed on a branch not 50 yards away from us. It was either a large hawk or a small golden eagle. I’m not sure how to tell them apart. I was trying to show Wayne where it was, but he didn’t spot it until it flew off again into a tree across the pond. It stayed there for a while, which we knew because of the fuss of the other birds. Then it flew off again toward my niece’s house but behind the trees so that we could barely catch a glimpse of it. Still for about a minute, it was in full view as it sat on the branch. I wish I had had my binoculars with me.

No hike last week because that was the day my friends left, and no picture, either. And that’s about it for this week.




A missing bag, a poltergeist, and snow

Our New Year’s guests left Wednesday to drive down to Oregon, and Wednesday night they texted me a picture of two similar bags, saying, “Is the one on the right yours? You can see they are identical, and we took it by mistake.” I was appalled to see it was my art bag, and okay, the bags were the same colors, but mine had a whopping great STC logo on the front. I’m afraid I got a bit testy with them, but I was wondering what I was going to do the next night, which was art class. Also, and everyone in my art class agreed with me, my art supplies are the one thing I don’t want someone messing with. Luckily, I had mixed a lot of paint colors for what I was working on the week before, and my brush roll was still in my office, so I had my brushes and palette knife. My sister was offering to let me use her paints, but since she had just bought her oil kit and not used it yet, I was relieved to only have to borrow a sheet of palette paper from her.

The other thing was that after Christmas I had looked around for a new art box, because the one I had was stuffed to the gills. The art box the art school gives you is exactly big enough for what you get with it plus a few more tubes of paint. Over the past year that I’ve been painting, I’ve bought a few colors at my various teachers’ suggestion, and I put in all the colors from my old art box that weren’t duplicates. So, I can barely get my box shut, plus my medium leaked out into it months ago, and it is coated inside with sticky stuff. I now keep my medium at the art school. (That’s exactly what happened to my old art box, which I opened up to find that all the paints were stuck to the bottom and each other.)

My new art box. Some of the reviews complained that the box hinges didn’t hold. I hope that won’t be the case, as it really wouldn’t be nice to have my paints fall all over the floor. It is definitely more cheaply made than the old, smaller box of the same brand that I already had. This one, however, has space for even more tubes of paint

So, I had looked around at art kits (the one that was bigger was very expensive), tool boxes, and fishing tackle boxes looking for one that opened up in tiers, like all tool boxes used to, but apparently don’t anymore. The fishing tackle boxes do, but their slots are too small for paint tubes. And I wanted tiers so I could sort my paints by color rather than just dumping them into the bottom of the box. I finally ended up buying a new ArtBin that is larger than the old one I have had for 20 years. That one wasn’t big enough for some of my brushes, so they got bent. The new one, alas, while the perfect size, is more cheesily made than the old one, which uses metal for the risers instead of plastic and has metal hinges instead of plastic ones. I had been excited that it was due to arrive the day of my art class, and I’d been hoping to switch everything over and take it to class, but of course, I had no supplies when it arrived. I got my art bag back on Friday when my brother and family were on the way back up to Seattle, and now I have all my supplies in my new box.

Friday night, we were startled by a rap on the door after dark. There was something odd about it, since we didn’t hear the UPS truck, and we don’t usually get people at the door that we don’t know are coming, so Wayne told me not to answer until he got there. When we opened the door, no one was there. Wayne hadn’t heard it (he is deaf, so of course, nothing he doesn’t hear actually happens), so he was trying to make out that nothing had happened because Luke didn’t bark. Then it came again. We didn’t catch the little brats, but both the kids next door and the kids across the road were outside playing. We could hear them. Wayne, though, said that maybe Nadia, my niece who is 11, had left her poltergeist here, because they are usually associated with girls that age. (For those who don’t know Wayne, that was a joke.) It didn’t come again, so I figure there were two kids and each one had to take his or her turn. I just didn’t think we would have to deal with stuff like that out in the country. It was a little unnerving because, although we aren’t so far into the country that we don’t have neighbors, they would have had to come across our fence or at least come up our long drive or across our orchard to do it. (Just to carry the theme a little farther, though, our valley is notoriously haunted, although I don’t think that rapping on doors is the usual manifestation.)

Everything is returning to normal schedule-wise. Luke had his first adult class of the month on Saturday and did very well. Then we went Monday to the first Relationship Class. This is the one that they say the dog must be very obedient to take, so I was a little worried about Luke, as he usually does well in class, but is a little imp at home sometimes. He actually seemed to do very well at first, better than some of the other dogs who have been going there a while, but then they did a long exercise where the dogs had to be in a down until it was their turn to either come when called or weave through all the other dogs. He was staying down pretty well, but he goes down for treats, and I had forgotten to bring any. A few other dogs got back up, and one had to have someone stand on his leash. However, after about ten minutes, Luke began popping up regularly. When he saw I didn’t have any treats, he was reluctant to go back down. Finally, I borrowed some, but then I think he was getting up just to get more treats. One of the trainers came over and stood on his leash, which made him go frantic. When we originally trained him to go down, you do it by standing on their leashes, and it made him scream. Our original trainer and I were unable to get him to go down that way, and I had to resort to luring him down. It was a mistake not to come to class without treats, but on the other hand, at some point he’s not supposed to need any to do what he’s told. The other trainer said she would work with him on his downs today while he is at Puppy Play and Train.

After that was a pack walk. About a third of the class left, and the rest went on the walk. It just about killed me. I don’t know what distance we walked, but it wasn’t the distance so much as the pace. I am a slow walker. When I pack walk with the women from Luke’s puppy class, I have to walk faster than normal or they have to stop and wait for me, and we are all retired women. These people were younger, and they weren’t trying to walk fast, but they were going about twice as fast as I usually walk. I tried to keep up with them on the way there, but on the way back, I just went at my own pace and was way behind. The nice trainer who said she would work with Luke stayed back with me, and she had her son in a stroller. She even traded Luke for the stroller for a while, because having my arms on something made my back and shoulders feel better. I sometimes have a problem when I am walking for a long time where they hurt, presumably just from the weight of my shoulders and arms. I have broad shoulders that sometimes seem too broad for my body.

So, now I have to consider whether I want to do that again. I was aching all over by the time we got home. Luke was worn out, too. The walk was supposed to last an hour. That’s about how long we take on our mini pack walks, but we stop and gab part of the time. This walk actually lasted about an hour and a quarter. I just measured the distance we went, and it was three miles, with a break in the middle for rest and exercises, so not so far, but fast for me. Many of our hikes are longer, but one of my hiking companions is even slower than I am, and we never go faster than the slowest person.

As for the weather, it has been rainy and cold most days, with an occasional clear, colder day. Snow was not forecast on Sunday, but for about half an hour on Sunday afternoon, we got some. It didn’t accumulate, but at least we saw some coming down. At least we had that little bit if we don’t get any more this year. Snow was forecast for Monday, but we did not get any, and none is forecast for the next 10 days. It’s a big contrast to our past two winters.

Today, I am going on a hike for the first time in over a month. One of my hiking partners has been in Europe for the past month. The other one ended up substitute teaching every week but one, and that week she got sick. One of them can go today, though, so that will be good. I’ll be getting some exercise this week, what with the pack walk on Monday, the hike today, and another mini pack walk scheduled for Thursday.


Getting ready for another visit

This last week I spent a lot of time communicating with the other Classics Club moderators and getting the house ready for a visit with my brother, who is arriving tonight from Madison.

On the Classics Club score, we were deciding how to break up the work and what we wanted to do differently with the blog. I had some trouble, still not resolved, because I am supposed to be the Classics Club moderator for Goodreads, but I have been unable to get access to the Classics Club page on Goodreads. We can’t figure out what is going on. To join the page, I have to submit a Join request, which does not arrive in the Classics Club mailbox, so we don’t know if the mail is set to go to another address or if something else is going on. Since I have no access, I can’t check it myself.

My usual day to work the blog will be Friday, but there is a backlog of new reviews submitted by members, so I spent several hours on Sunday working on these posts. There were reviews as far back as March, but I am happy to say that I at least made it into July. Some of the emails sent by the tool that collects the review information contain as many as 30+ reviews, so it’s no wonder the previous poster got so far behind.

On Friday, I went on an outing with my niece Katrina, her husband Ares, and their kids. We plan an Indian meal for when my brother gets here, so we went shopping at an Indian market in Vancouver. I got the spices I need for the marinade for tandoori chicken. My portion of the meal is to make the chicken and naan in my Big Green Egg. This will be interesting, as I haven’t actually tried to make these yet. I originally intended to practice before I was cooking for just me and my husband, but I ran out of time.

After shopping, we went out to eat at Lapellah, a favorite restaurant of my niece’s. Then we took the kids to a park for an hour or so before going to my great-niece’s tae kwon do class. During the time in the park, I spent a lot of time telling Katrina stories about our relatives while Ares watched the kids. We have decided to work on a genealogy chart for her house, the fancy kind you hang on the wall, using the information I have collected over the years. We also talked about the need to write down stories about our relatives before it is too late. I am sorry I didn’t start asking questions of my grandmothers until they really couldn’t remember anything anymore. Now, we are in danger of losing our memories of my parents and grandparents, let’s not even talk about those farther back, who I never met or heard much about. I remember tantalizing comments by my mother, such as that her grandmother was a saint, but I have no idea why she said that.

My first harvest of shelled peas

On the gardening front, I harvested my second cabbage and more broccoli and snap peas. I also harvested my first bunch of shelled peas. I only got about a cup of peas, but it was the perfect amount to put into pelmeni soup, which I made last weekend. That reminds me, I need to go out and look at the peas today to see if there are more. I think the peas, both shelled and snap, are almost over with. On the other hand, I have a nice looking tomato coming along, as well as four or five little ones. My pole beans are still very short, but they should get more sun after I pull up all my peas.

My brother John’s visit has been a little hampered by the antics of my younger brother’s family. We have all found them to be very unpredictable, and they are living up to their reputation in a predictable way. That is, they are predictable about being unpredictable. Last year, when John and his wife came, we had all made plans when they announced that they wanted to do things differently. The same thing has happened this year. They were consulted about what was a good time, and they said any time. Then my brother told everyone when he would be here and when he would go up to Seattle, where they live, so Ares and my sister made plans to take off work accordingly. Since then, Katrina and Ares have had several conversations with my younger brother’s wife trying to talk her out of completely rearranging John’s trip. First, they wanted to send their kids down to stay with Katrina and her family for a week and have John bring them back, but Katrina says she wants John to get to know her kids, which he has been unable to do when they were running wild with their cousins, which has been every time he has seen them. Then they said it would be better if John came up to Seattle first and then came down here next week, because of their daughter’s work schedule. But if we did that, my sister and Ares couldn’t spend any time with John, as they would be working. Finally, they announced that they had rented a house on the Oregon coast for next week. (I don’t know what happened to their daughter’s work schedule.) There was no mention of this three weeks ago when we began talking. Now it looks like John will be going to Oregon instead of Seattle. We are all confused, but it looks like we will be able to keep to our plans on this end.

Our hike was cancelled for today because now Shawn is going to the dentist. I hope I’ll still take a hike with my family this week so that I’ll have something to report on for The Fat Girl’s Guide to Hiking. I also skipped tai chi this week, attending deep water exercise instead, because my husband had a doctor’s appointment for the day I usually do that.

In art class, I almost completely finished the second coat for my background.