A mild week

A view of our pond on this beautiful day. I took the picture from our deck.

We are feeling for the rest of the country, which seems to be suffering this winter. I hear from a friend in Michigan that she and her husband have about used up all their firewood, and another storm is due in this week. We had some snowy winters the last two years, but this one has been really mild, and we think a bit too dry. During the last week, we have had hardly any rain, although we had several foggy days, and since Monday we have had beautiful, clear but chilly days. Still, our chilly days have only been in the 40’s or 50’s most of the winter.

Oh, my gosh! My brother just sent me a picture of his dashboard showing the temperature. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and it is -22 there! My niece sent him back a picture of her kids playing in the greenhouse yesterday with their shirts off. What a contrast!

We have gotten a bid on financing our roof from the roofers, and now we have to go visit our credit union to see if they can do better. I hope so. We are also having to have our satellite dish moved. It is supposed to be mounted on a proper mounting on the side of the house, but there are actually several satellite dishes on the roof, from services gone by. All of them have to go.

In fact, the satellite guy was scheduled to come out to our house yesterday. We had dentist appointments at 10 but thought we would be home by noon, which was the beginning of the time period during which he was supposed to come out. What would the odds be that he would be on time? However, our appointments lasted longer than we expected and in fact when we arrived home at 12:20, we had missed him.

Our dentist appointments were rescheduled from last Thursday, when we drove into town to find that the doctor was out sick. He did not have measles but stomach flu, he told me yesterday. If you are paying attention to the news about the measles, you have heard there is an outbreak in Washington. What you probably don’t know is that the hotbed is here in Clark County, which has a large percentage of unvaccinated children. My great niece and nephew have had their vaccinations (my great nephew is only partially vaccinated because of his age), but I know that my niece is worried they might get sick anyhow, as the number of vaccinated people who got sick is “unconfirmed.”  The first children to get sick attend a school that my great niece’s school shares its parking lot with. The kids were sick last week but not with measles.

No hike last week but one is set for today. My sister has said she wants to go with us, but as usual, her sights are set on a more challenging hike than I can probably do. A couple weeks ago, we went on one of our easy hikes that we do when it is raining, and I found it a lot tougher than I had done in the past, because I have gotten more out of shape since we have been missing so many hikes.

Oh, now we have made our plans, and we are doing an easy hike that we have never done before. Interested readers will be able to see my write-up in Friday’s Fat Girls.

Last week, the women whom Luke and I go dog-walking with were supposed to come to my house so that their dogs could play in the wolf pen. However, this outing completely fell apart. Instead, I took Luke over to the house of Christine, Peter, and Duchess, as Wayne had promised to help Christine and Peter with their computer. Luke and Duchess played in their backyard, and they had a blast running around in circles. The only problem with this was, that during their next class, Luke was sitting next to Duchess and clearly wanted to take up where they left off. He concentrated poorly during that class. I would like to see him do well in front of the trainers so that he can graduate to the next class. He is clearly bored with adult class. I don’t want to quit going entirely, because I think the socialization is good for him.

 

Disastrous lead-up to a dinner party

Well, maybe not exactly disastrous but not really as planned. But first, our hiking day.

Lucia Falls

Last Wednesday because I had to get home and clean, we decided to go hiking nearby. We picked Lucia Falls Park, which I wouldn’t have necessarily thought would make a good hike because the trail is very short, but Shawn said she’d seen pictures posted of salmon jumping, so we thought we’d go there and try to see some.

In fact, it was a beautiful day. I have only been in the park when it was pouring with rain, so it was a revelation to see how pretty it is on a crisp autumn morning. We didn’t see any fish, but we managed to get some exercise by exploring the park thoroughly. Before, I had only just gone down to see the falls and back, which is a very short walk.

In the afternoon, I came back and cleaned my bathrooms, but I’m afraid I never got around to the dusting.

That night we took Lukey to puppy class, and our class had expanded from nine to eleven dogs! So much for the perfect class of five! Even worse, when we took him to puppy class on Saturday, there were 13 dogs! And they had it in their new facility, which I found freezing, overcrowded, noisy, and very distracting. Lukey had a much harder time concentrating with all the new puppies in the class and the confusion.

On Thursday, I had determined to clean our hardwood floors. This was one job that had to wait until the last minute because of wet puppy footprints. I managed to procrastinate until after lunch, and then just as I was getting started, I got a call from my oldest brother, wishing me happy birthday. I don’t think he has called me for about 20 years. I had an entertaining conversation with him, but he is a talker, and after an hour I had to tell him I only had a couple hours to finish my floors. I finally got them done. Then in the late afternoon, my sister Sue picked me up and we went for Greek food at George’s Molon Lave in Battle Ground. We both had lamb chops and asparagus. Yummy.

Then to art class, where I began painting my newest painting. My last one is still not dry enough to take home.

Friday was, by bad timing, the day for our dinner party. I was so concerned about everything I had to do that when I woke up at 4 AM I couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I got up. Wayne got up about an hour later, and we decided to go to breakfast, returning about when everyone else was going to work. Then we relaxed with coffee for a while, and I found myself nodding off. So, we all went back to bed.

I got up around 11:30 and started to cook and set the table. I should probably have said that since most of the work done in our house before we bought it seems to have been completed by idiots, we have had lots of trouble with the plumbing under our kitchen sink. You can tell just by looking at it that an amateur installed it, as the angles are all wrong. Wayne has had to fix it several times, and ever since we got our new dishwasher, we’ve had lots of trouble with it because the installers obviously didn’t put it back correctly. A couple weeks ago, we started having leaks under the sink after we used the garbage disposal. I suggested that we hire a plumber to come out and replace everything and install the new garbage disposal that we bought when we thought ours was on its last legs. But Wayne said no, he could do it. And he did, but a few days before our dinner party, I discovered that now it leaked when we ran the dishwasher. As one of the secrets of a successful dinner party is to have an empty dishwasher ready and waiting, this was not good. Of course, Wayne didn’t get around to trying to fix it until I started cooking.

So, he thumped around under the sink for a while and then pronounced it fixed. About that time, my friend Deb arrived to help me get ready. All went fine, with her peeling the pumpkin while I chopped up carrots, until I ran the garbage disposal, at which point water squirted out from under the kitchen sink, the doors for which were still open, and sprayed all over my jeans.

So, we had to put the sink out of operation for the duration of the meal, and we were unable to run the dishwasher so that I had a huge pile of pots and pans sitting on the counter all during our dinner party. Luckily, the house has a small sink in the corner of the kitchen that I don’t usually use, or I don’t know what I would have done.

The dinner party was a success, though. I served pumpkin/lamb couscous and tomato and cucumber salad and a selection of olives. We ordered hummus, baba ganoush, and pita from Pita House, and Deb brought homemade baklava. A good time was had by all. Deb was staying the night, and I found that by the time Shawn and Randy left, I was just about falling down with tiredness.

Unfortunately, we had to get up early to take Lukey to puppy class and even earlier to make the quiche that Deb brought for breakfast. It was delicious, though. Sweet potato slices instead of crust, and the insides a mixture of brussell sprouts, sage, and the usual quiche mixture of eggs, milk, and cheese. Very thoughtful and yummy.

After puppy class, Deb and I dropped off Wayne, who had run to the hardware store for parts to fix the plumbing (all fixed, I think) and then picked up Shawn, and we all drove to Washougal for the Pendleton Woolen Mills sale. We went the back way from Shawn’s, which involves driving through the forest and over the mountains. It was a nice day, so we had a beautiful drive, and we ended the day by eating lunch at a restaurant in a marina right on the Columbia River. The restaurant wait staff was incompetent and the food mediocre, but the view was wonderful.

By Sunday, I was so tired that I was grateful to have nothing scheduled. I just collapsed on the couch, and since then our week has gone on normally, with us doing our usual things.

Everyone napping together

It’s nap time for everyone but me. Hillary is a little black blob up against the red pillow.

First, I have to start out with my picture, which is of life co-existing in the Robart house. Here are Wayne, Luke, and Hillary all taking a nap together. You can just barely see Hillary up against my pillow on the right side of the picture. Ah, bliss, when they are all asleep and I have the house to myself!

We have had some bright spots in the story of Luke’s house training. Yesterday, we were working on three full days of no accidents in a row until a little glitch right before bedtime. The problem is that Luke likes to go out in the evening, so there had been a series of false alarms when he rang the bells (yes, he finally got that) to go out and we took him out only to watch him trying to catch bugs. It’s too cold out now for bugs at night, so he waited in vain and so did we. To be fair to us, at some point he stopped ringing the bells and just stood near the doorway and hinted. He does this a lot when he’s not serious about it, so I kept an eye on him, but didn’t take him out after I had done so four times in a row. Next thing we knew, he was peeing on the carpet.

But our breakthrough came when our trainer told us that it was nonsense about not scolding your dog after he’s had an accident because we didn’t see it. She said “He knows what he’s done. He can smell it.” We had been following that “wisdom” and just taking him out after he had an accident, and he was so sneaky about his accidents that we hardly ever saw him. But he sees going out as a reward, so I feared I was teaching him to go in the house to get to go outside. Now, when he has an accident, he gets scolded and goes straight to his crate, which he dislikes, and interestingly enough, we have had much more success since then.

We have also started letting him go off leash a few times. He is already getting brave enough to wander far away when we are out with him but too timid to stay out if we are in. However, I know that at some point he’ll want to wander off our property, so I don’t think we should do this too often until he learns to come when called. He isn’t very good at that except when he has his training collar and leash on, when he is a star at coming. Yesterday, when we walked down to the pond with him off leash, it didn’t take too long before he was up to his knees in mud. If I hadn’t captured him, he probably would have gone right into the water.

Last week I didn’t go hiking because my hiking partners weren’t available. I tried to talk Wayne into taking Luke for a walk in the park after Puppy Play and Train on Wednesday, which is when I’m usually hiking. But that morning it was so cold and gray that I was shivering and Wayne complained of his knees hurting (although he complains of that whenever he doesn’t want to do something, which is often). We decided to go the next day, which was beautiful, but predictably enough, Wayne cancelled on me.

I am almost done with my painting, I think. My teacher told me to start thinking about what I would like to do next, but I have no idea. I painted the base coat of all my flowers this week. Some of them need more work, but she said one was done, so after that it is just whatever improvements we want to make.

Other than a trip to Costco, nothing much happened this week. The weather has been unseasonably beautiful. It is gorgeous today. Many of the leaves have changed colors, and it is sunny and bright and a little warm.

Tomatoes, berries, and puppies!

Well, I certainly have a surprise to start out this week, for me, too. I don’t know if I told you that my husband and I had an argument last week or the week before about getting a puppy. I actually preferred not to get one, especially as my cat Hillary is older now and deserves to spend the last few years of her life in peace. Also, frankly, my husband is older now, and he wasn’t much up to taking care of his last dog. He started out wanting a labradoodle, but I represented to him that it might be a good idea to get a smaller dog. At the same time two weeks ago, we ended up contacting a labradoodle breeder and a Keeshond breeder. You may know that we had a Keeshond rescue dog that died several years ago of cancer. He was the sweetest dog ever, our Luke.

I didn’t hear anything back from the Keeshond breeder, but Wayne heard from the labradoodle breeder and filled out an application. However, his policies gave me pause (not to pun). I have bought a couple of purebred cats and a purebred dog before, and the breeders don’t usually take money from you until your pet is born. This one wanted a deposit just to put us on a wait list, and then he wanted to keep our deposit if we didn’t get a dog. I asked Wayne how he knew the guy even had any dogs. At least the Keeshond breeder, bad business people or not, had pictures of puppies on their Facebook page.

Here’s our new Lukey looking confused about why I called his name.

So, Wayne was having second thoughts about turning in the application for the labradoodle puppy, and I hadn’t heard anything at all from the Keeshond breeders in a week. Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon after our hike, I got a message, “Do you want a male or a female?” It turned out they had exactly one puppy left, a little boy dog. By that evening, we had him in our possession. And he is a cutey, although he is at the stage where he bites everything he sees. After batting around a few names, we decided to name him Luke Too. He shares so many expressions and characteristics with his namesake!

That, as you can imagine, has taken up a lot of our time, and our sleep, since he isn’t quite house trained yet.

Baskets of blackberries!

Then on Sunday Deb came back and we picked a lot of blackberries. She was also charmed by Lukey. A good time was had by all, and we even went to the farm store to buy her a straw hat.

My first two tomatoes (a few cherry tomatoes got eaten already)

Finally, this week I harvested my first two tomatoes! I had a small red Early Girl come off the vine first, shortly thereafter followed by one of my golden tomatoes, so far the only one that has actually appeared.

And that’s about it for this week. I am continuing working on my painting of my grandmother’s vase, and I have helped my niece a little on her project to scan all of our family photos and make a family tree. I have an extensive family tree that was begun by my maternal grandmother, and I’ll be able to help her fill in the relationships and names when she gets to that point.

A new blog and other news

During our hike last week I tossed around an idea with Shawn that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I originally had this idea for a book, but it occurred to me that a blog would work just fine. So, after our hike in the lovely Salmon-Morgan Rivers Natural Area, I wrote up the first entry for a new blog, The Fat Girl’s Guide to Hiking. My idea came from my experience hiking trails that are rated by experienced hikers, especially their rating systems. My blog is designed for people who are not fit and will tell them all they need to know to decide whether the hike is for them. Each time I go on a new hike or do a new portion of an old hike, I’ll post an extensive review.

And that reminds me that I did two hikes this week, one at Salmon-Morgan, which is a beautiful old-growth forest, and the other on the promenade above Oregon City. I did that with my friend from Portland, Deb, and if you want to read about it, you know where to go. More about that day later.

One thing that happened last week before I even wrote last Wednesday’s blog was that I was selected to be one of four new moderators for the Classics Club blog. A few weeks ago they asked for people to apply, and I did so on the spur of the moment. I have the time, and it should be fun. We new moderators have been discussing how we will break up the work and what new ideas we have. The official announcement is coming out Friday, and we begin Monday.

That is probably not a great week for me to begin, because my brother is coming from Madison, Wisconsin, for a visit beginning next Wednesday. My day to work on the blog will be Friday, but maybe I can sneak in the first week on a day that one of the other moderators isn’t going to be on the blog and start my work early. If not, I get up early and can probably do some work over the weekend.

In art class, I got a lot done because I did a makeup with Oksana and my regular class with Sarah, so I was in art class for four hours. I finished the first coat of my background for my painting and painted a table in the foreground. It is nice being back in Sarah’s class. I understand that my sister is next on the waiting list, but she is still undecided about whether she wants to start again.

On Sunday, I took the train into Clackamas and met my friend Deb. We took her car to Oregon City, where we first explored the McLoughlin Promenade. It was a nice hike above the city, but then we went down some old iron stairs to the road below, where the path was right next to the busy Highway 99. You can see more about this hike on my new blog.

After lunch, we went to the Clackamas Community College for a performance of Sense and Sensibility. Yes, it was the same adaptation that we saw in Ashland early this year, and we were curious to see what it would be like. The production was much lower budget, but in some ways it was more appropriate as an Austen adaptation. Still, it was modernized, and there were some places where for humor they went places that were really inappropriate for the 19th century. The actresses that played the two main parts were much closer to the right ages than the actresses in Ashland, but we thought that Elinor would never have chosen the actor that played Edward Ferrars. Still, we enjoyed ourselves and found the production less shocking than the Ashland one.

This week I followed my new program of attending tai chi and deep water exercise. I’m trying to get my husband to try the arthritis water class. I asked some women in my deep water class about it, and one of them said that she had hardly been able to move before taking it a few years ago. I’m hoping that will encourage him to go, because his walking is getting more and more unsteady. He has been doing yard work around the house but otherwise not much else, and the yard work comes in spurts.

My basket of raspberries next to my gardening hat

Last night, I went over in the evening to pick raspberries at my niece’s house. She said that they already have picked enough for their use for the entire year. She cans and freezes, so she can accommodate more than I can. I think I might make a pie.

Today we are not doing our regular hike because of a dentist appointment, and so I must go brush my teeth.

 

A lazier week in some ways

The flowers on our pond. There are some in the foreground and some at the back, too, that aren’t quite as obvious.

This week, I noticed that the flowers on the pond have come out. I am not sure if they are water lilies or lotus flowers, but they are beautiful. In the spring we have yellow skunk cabbage flowers, and in the summer we have these lovely bright pink flowers.

We haven’t been down to the pond for a while, but we went down twice last week. The woodpecker family has left the hollow tree, but the woods around the pond abound in woodpeckers, and some of them look young. We saw the beaver carrying around a long leaf of grass in his mouth as he swam across the pond, and I saw a fish jump right out of the water. It is lovely here in the summer. We are finally in outright summer weather after the climate couldn’t seem to settle during the spring. First we would have a day or two of sun and warm weather, and then a several days of overcast weather and cold. Today it is supposed to be hot, up to the 90’s, perhaps, followed by a string of days like that. That is early for this area, I think.

This week I missed doing some of my usual activities. For one thing, I missed my hike. My neighbor is away for a month participating in Native American ceremonies. She is not a Native American, but it’s a long story. However, I planned to hike with my ex-tenant, who is my niece’s husband’s mother. However, I cancelled because my husband wanted me to help him work on the fence around my garden. As I might have mentioned last week, the deer finally discovered my garden, so we have started, but not finished, putting up a fence. Of course, I should have known better, because we did not end up working on the fence that day. So, I missed my hike for nothing.

My first cabbage

But speaking of gardens, here is a picture of my very first cabbage. I have picked most of my broccoli and picked all my spinach and uprooted the plants. Every day I go out and pick a handful of snap peas, and my shelled peas are starting to develop. On the down side, my red cabbage is crushing my one eggplant. Also, my sister suggested I replant my cherry tomato into another container, as it was being pushed out by the peas. I did, but it doesn’t look very happy.

What I did this week physically speaking was go sign up with the Y in Vancouver. Earlier this week I had a tai chi class, and yesterday a deep water exercise class. The tai chi class was sort of odd, not exactly what I remember from tai chi years ago, but the deep water exercise class was fun.

Otherwise this week I helped my husband work on the fence and we watered the trees in our orchard. We hauled five-gallon buckets with a small hole in each down to the orchard and ran a hose down. Then we filled each bucket at the base of a tree, moving them around to different trees as they emptied. One of our trees has small cherries on it! I can’t tell if they are sour cherries or unripe bing cherries. By the time I looked at this tree last year, the cherries were all gone.

I went to art class on Thursday night expecting to have my second class with Oksana, and Sarah was there! One of the women I met in my very first art class was in her class already. It turned out that the main office arranged for her to come back and didn’t tell our office manager, Angie. Angie said she hadn’t had time yet to figure out who from the wait list could make it into the class, because she didn’t know Sarah was coming back. I was just getting ready to go into Oksana’s class when she said she had an opening, and I could have it. I know I wasn’t at the top of the list, but I was on the spot, so I took it. I am so happy that Sarah is back, although Oksana seemed to be a very good teacher. I have just begun painting the background for my latest picture, a still life of my grandmother’s silver pitcher.

And that’s about it for this week. Shawn, my ex-tenant, will soon be here for our hike.

Getting briefly back to normal

This week just ordinary things to report, briefly, because next week we are going on vacation to the San Juan Islands!

Art class was really wild last week. The kids were out of control. This made me ask the receptionist, Angie, when Sarah was coming back from maternity leave, as I had always been resolved to switch into her class when she came back. I like Alina well enough, but we have too many young children in our class, and she is only 21 and doesn’t know how to handle them. Angie told me she had already put me on the waiting list for Sarah’s class and that they could open up the third classroom when she came back. They have a list that will fill the class up already of older women like me. Then she told me that if I wanted, Oksana, who has a class at the same time, has openings and she would put me in one. Oksana is one of the few teachers who does watercolor instruction, so it is hard to get into her class usually. I went home and thought about it, but I finally decided just to go for it. It is a late class on Thursday, and I had been hesitating because it would mean I wouldn’t get home until after 9 PM. But I will be on that same schedule for Sarah’s class, so I thought, what the heck. I start this week. I finished my painting last week, finally, but forgot to take a picture of it. I will post that next week.

Here is a picture of Moulton Falls on the other side of the highway. There is another falls to the side and above this one, but I did not think to take its picture.

My neighbor did not go on our hike this week. Instead, my sister and my former tenant went. We decided not to do anything out of the ordinary, just go back to Moulton Falls. Since it has a very easy path with few ups and downs, I left my hiking poles at home and regretted it. That’s because Shawn, my tenant (who is also my great-niece’s other grandmother), took us to a part of the park we hadn’t been to before. We took a side trail down to the highway and across, then took some old stone steps down and down and ended up on a bridge at the base of the actual falls. If you’ll recall, in my last post I said there weren’t really any falls, just rapids. But these are falls, if smallish. The stone steps go across to the other side and up, then there is a path through the forest and a substantial picnic area, and finally you go back across the highway to an area where we had been many times. We ended up getting most of our exercise in the area where we had been before, about 3.4 miles down and back. It turns out this park is much bigger than I had realized.

Other than that, I spent some time weed-whacking the slope again. We have spent a couple of days working outside, but it was very hot yesterday and is supposed to be today (hot for the Pacific Northwest, that is, which is not at all hot for Texas). So, I’m suspending the yard work until it cools off later this week. It was supposed to be hot during the weekend, but instead both days we got a late-afternoon thunder storm, which cooled it down nicely.

I put out another hummingbird feeder and bought a large hanging fuschia plant and put both out on the back deck a few weeks ago. Now we have hummingbirds everywhere back there, flying around, doing acrobatics over the empty area in front of the deck, and squabbling with each other. I love it!

Oh, yes, I only gained 0.6 pounds during my week of dissipation. Yay!

 

First harvest

The bathroom with its painted walls and tile back splash

My guest room and bathroom are finished! I finished painting the bathroom late last week, and on Saturday my husband and I installed the self-adhesive tile. It was really easy to do, and it looks good. The wall board behind the sink looked really messy (actually, the walls in that room don’t even feel or paint like real wall board, but I don’t know what else they could be), but I couldn’t figure out a way to paint just that part of the wall without it looking bad, since the cabinet and the back splash do not line up exactly. I took a look at the self-adhesive tile in Home Depot, and this is what I found that did not require us to actually cut tile. All we had to cut was the backing that connected the small stone tiles together. My husband helped me install it, and it took us about 30 minutes to do it.

On the garden front, I was afraid last week that my bean plants weren’t going to come up. I told my sister that, and she said that she goes through that every year, because the bean seeds take a long time to germinate, but then they grow very quickly. Sure enough, the very next day I saw one poking out of the ground. That one is now three inches high, and the other two are two inches. It looks like one of the seeds is not going to come up. Still three bean plants should give two people plenty of beans.

My first harvest! A basket of spinach

I just harvested my first vegetables for dinner. I cut some spinach for a salad the other night. I don’t know what I was thinking. I could have been eating spinach any time the last couple weeks. I just had it in mind that nothing was ready yet and wasn’t paying attention to the evidence of my own eyes.

Also, I am just beginning to see evidence that my lettuces and salad greens are coming up. A few are just peeking up from the dirt.

This week I am concentrating on getting the house good and clean for our visitor from Colorado next week. I sent Roomba down to sweep the guest room and big room downstairs, but Monday after dusting I went down and vacuumed anyway. Roomba did okay in the guest room, but the big room is so big that he didn’t get it all clean before he ran out of juice. Yesterday, I swept and mopped all the Marmoleum and vinyl floors in the house, and tomorrow I will do all the wood ones.

Sadly, my husband and I think that some animal might have gotten the ducklings. I never saw them, but my husband did. The other day I was going to go down there, but before I did, I checked the pond from the deck, because I have scared away the female duck before despite walking down very quietly. I could see the mallard couple swimming around by themselves, so I decided not to go down there. They seem dejected and haven’t been doing much eating. My husband has seen them since but no ducklings. My husband is talking about building an island in the middle of the pond where they can raise their ducklings safely next year. I’m not sure how he thinks he’s going to do that. Maybe we can float something.

I have also spotted the beaver many times since I first identified it. Sometimes in the evening I can see him from the kitchen window swimming across the pond with leaves in his mouth. He almost always gets out of sight before my husband can get to the window.

For our walk last week, my neighbor and I went back to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge because the hiking trail opens up the first week of May. Unfortunately, it was closed again for hiking or biking because a cougar had been spotted in the park! In any case, all those thousands of geese and ducks were gone. I’m sure we still would have seen lots of birds, though, if we had been able to do the hike. Instead, we drove up to the northern part of the park, which was not closed to hiking, and hiked around it, about 2.5 miles. Because the park is in a marsh, there was not much shade, and it was very hot coming back. I told my neighbor that when it gets farther into summer, we’re going to need to leave earlier, because I can’t handle heat. The rest of the week, of course, it’s been cool. In fact this morning it is in the 50’s.

Finally, I am almost done with my painting in art class. I won’t be attending next week because we have a guest coming, or I would have expected to finish it then. I have to admit that the changes we made this week made it look a lot better. In particular, the photo I am copying shows a bunch of leafy undergrowth in the foreground of the picture, which in a painting looks rather amorphous (unless I was prepared to paint all the leaves, which I was not and which aren’t even really visible in the original photo). The instructor suggested I vary it a bit more, and I decided to turn it into grass, which looks a lot better.

I keep considering switching to the later class (only would get home so late at night), because we have so many children in our class now, about 10 really young rambunctious ones. It all started with two little boys who began taking the class a few months ago. They were fine by themselves and one of them continues to be well-behaved, but now their friends and relatives are in the class, and some of the boys, particularly, are very disruptive. They can’t stay in their seats and they make lots of noise. We had two new ones this week who were just as active. My new teacher is a better art instructor than the one whose class I quit, but she is young, just out of art school, and she isn’t very good at keeping these kids in order. Yesterday, two little boys were running around and I told them to sit down. They did, but when she tells them to, no one pays attention. There are too many of them, and they are too young to be in art class.

One little boy who sits by me is serious about his art. He draws quietly in his seat and I sometimes see him watching me. I heard his mother say this week that he likes to sit in that seat, so I can’t help thinking he likes to watch me work. I occasionally give him little suggestions. He is only about six, so it’s hard to tell if he will turn out to be talented or not, but at least he is trying to learn.

Most of the noisy kids are about six or seven, and they have a talkative little girl of five who sits with them and speaks very little English. (She speaks Russian.) Then we have a few slightly older girls in the class who are much better behaved, one little girl who comes with her very talented mother and who loves to draw owls (does a good job, too), and a teenage girl who quietly sits and minds her own business. I asked my teacher if she thought the kids would quit coming after school is out, as most of the home-schooled kids just come for a month or so for school credit. However, she answered that, sadly, none of them are home-schooled. I had been hoping I could hold out in this class without switching until Sarah comes back from maternity leave, at which time I will switch to her class if I can get in.

Painting progress

This morning about seven I sneaked down to the pond hoping to see some ducklings. My husband has seen them, but I have not. Even though I was very quiet, I got about halfway down the last path and the mama duck took off from the pond. I sat on the bench hoping she would return, but she did not, so I went back up and watered my garden.

Here is my garden with tomato and eggplant supports and a bean tower just visible in the back.

My neighbor told me last week that I could plant salad greens around my cabbages and so maximize the space. So, last week I bought some seed for a lettuce and a spring mix and I planted them around the cabbages. The package says to sow the seeds every two weeks. In just a few weeks, we should have salad greens!

I spent some time last week putting up tomato and eggplant supports and a bean ladder. So far, though, there is no sign of my beans, and I am beginning to wonder if all four of my bean seeds failed. Everything else is doing well. We took a gamble that the deer don’t know about the garden yet and planted everything without putting a fence up. We did this mostly because of an argument about the type of fencing needed. My husband is gung ho to move some of our chain link fencing up from the wolf pen (but not gung ho enough to actually work on it). I don’t think anything that permanent is needed. I  just want to put up some stakes and chicken wire as a visual barrier against the deer. The fact that the beds are raised and have a short fence as part of them will keep the rabbits out. There is also the question, should I just go ahead and buy some fencing, of whether to fence in the little patio. That seems unfriendly to me, but the beds are abutting right up against the paving stones in the front, so it doesn’t seem like there will be an easy way to put the fencing in the front. If we had thought to move the bed back an inch there wouldn’t be a problem.

In any case, I hadn’t seen a deer on our property for about a year, when last night my husband and I stepped out onto the deck to see if we could spot the ducks in the pond. On the slope below our house was a young deer in the grass, which unfortunately at this time is about two or three feet high. We still haven’t figured out a permanent solution for keeping it cut down, as the slope is too steep for the lawn mower and even for us to weed whack it. I was sorry that we scared the deer away. I would have liked her to eat more of the grass. I immediately went over to the garden to see if deer were up there, but they were not. It was odd to see a lone deer. Usually the doe has them in pairs. There were four sisters that were running around last year, and she had two more this spring. My guess is that the one we saw was from the pair born last year.

Here is one corner of the newly painted guest room. The furniture was my mom’s before she died.

Actually, we are starting to talk goats to take care of our grass problem. Our tenants used to have goats, and he kept the property very neat by just herding them around, tapping them with a stick when they tried to eat something that they didn’t want them to. I told my husband that if he got the wolf pen back in some shape to receive them, we could have both goats and chickens in that enclosure. Right now just the entrance is down, but our intention is to move the pen over to the right so that it doesn’t impinge on our view from the deck everywhere you look. Of course, I can’t see either of us herding goats around the property like Randy did, but maybe we can get some movable fencing or something.

Here is another corner of the room, near the sliding door that goes outside.

As for my painting, I have finished the guest room, and it looks very nice. It is a bright spring green, just as I planned, and it makes me feel cheerful just to look at it. Although I made some mistakes, the painting job isn’t too bad for an amateur. It took me some time to reinstall all of the socket and light switch covers. I counted, and there are 15 of them in that room! Not only that, but it’s difficult to remember which switches turn on which lights, because the switches are located with absolutely no regard to where the light is. You can go around the room trying to find the switch for a particular light and it will be clear across the room from the light. In only one case does a switch actually work the light that is nearest to it.

I also started the bathroom yesterday by taping the two walls I’m going to paint and putting on the first coat. If I have time today, what with our hike, I will put the last coat on. Then all we have to do is install the tiles that I bought to finish the wall above the sink. It’s a good thing I’m almost done, because my friend arrives the Monday after next.

Last week, we had a fun hike. My sister invited my niece and her family, and we went an hour later than usual because my niece home-schools the kids on the mornings that they don’t go to school. We went back to the Tarbell Trail and took it toward a camp ground. It was quite steep in places and all the way down at one point, which of course meant I had to walk all the way back uphill. However, I didn’t do too badly. Elevation is still something I have trouble handling. On the way, we did a lot of plant identification, as my great-niece has been having lessons in it every week, my niece is knowledgeable about native plants, and so is my neighbor. Even my four-year-old great-nephew knew some of the plants. The most ignorant person on the hike was me! My problem is someone tells me the name of the plant and the next time I see it, I have no idea what it is.

I keep thinking I am going to finish my painting in art class. I have gotten to the point where I am tired of it, but my teacher keeps finding little things to touch up. I can’t really tell whether I am finished or not. My teacher dismayed me this week by telling me I would be done in one or two weeks! I thought I was going to be done this week!

A quiet place

We had tenants in this house for four years after we bought it, until I was able to retire and move from Austin. One of the things our tenant suggested once we moved here was that we install a bench down next to the pond. I frankly didn’t pay much attention, because I have spent very little time down by the pond, most of my time last year being taken up with the contractors but also because I felt so unsteady walking down there. I used to go around and weed whack a bit, but we have so little flat land that I often felt like I was going to fall down. However, my weight loss and walking have combined to make me feel stronger and more steady, and we have also put in safer steps to all the places downhill.

So, last week my husband and I lugged the parts for a new bench down to the pond and started putting it together. It was so hot we didn’t get very far. Then we had a series of rainy, cold days, and we just left the extension cord down there but did nothing. However, starting late last week, we had a long series of cool, sunny days. So, over the weekend, we finished the bench.

Our bench by the edge of the pond. The pond looks very small in this picture, but it goes off toward the left for some way. It has a creek running into it from the left and running out of it on the right. Right now on the way down are wildflowers, bleeding hearts and little yellow star-shaped flowers that might be cowslips or Texas yellow stars. And we have found lots of budding flowers that look like they could be wild strawberries.

And it has surprised me how much time we have already spent down there, several hours every day. It is indeed peaceful and quiet. There is a pair of nesting mallards down there (whom unfortunately we’ve scared off twice by talking just as they arrived to land), and I have seen the head of some furry animal swimming around, either a beaver or a muskrat; I could not see his tail. Birds are everywhere, and fish jump every few minutes. We assume we also have turtles and frogs, but we haven’t seen or heard any. Each day we go down when it is shady (all morning and late afternoon), either alone or together, and we sit there and be quiet, sometimes with our binoculars.

In fact, it is becoming very beautiful around our house, although it is shaggier looking outside than it was last year. Our tenant had goats and used to herd them around the property eating down everything that wasn’t supposed to be there, so it looked more groomed than it does with us. We are also talking about getting goats, since there are places on our property that are very difficult for us to keep looking nice. I was fretting about all the volunteer alders that have decided to root themselves in our landscaped ridge in front of the house on Sunday. (Alders are like weeds around here.) My niece and her husband came over to look at the colors I was evaluating for the guest room, and he ran up the ridge and started pulling the little trees out by their roots. I got the clippers for the bigger ones, and in half an hour, he made it look so much better. He said he wanted to come back and take out some more plants and trim some of our others. I will probably start the trimming the plants I can reach sometime later, but there are others I cannot. While my niece’s husband was pulling out the volunteers, his kids dressed themselves up like trees with the ones he had pulled out. They really looked cute.

Here are the azaleas next to our water feature. We need to pump the water out of the bottom of this and clear it out, then put new water in. But we know it runs, because we had it going last year. We don’t have it working yet because of procrastination.

Anyway, the ridge looks much better, and the azaleas are in full bloom on one side with the rhododendrons coming out on the other. It looks really nice right now except for some shaping I need to do.

On Monday, I slowly started painting the guest room. It was one of the few rooms we didn’t have the painters repaint, and I’ve been sorry I didn’t. We originally didn’t plan to paint any of the rooms downstairs, but after the staircase was rebuilt, they had to paint part of the big room by the stairs. Then, the more I looked at the guest room, the more I regretted not painting it, particularly because it seems to me that some former occupant used to walk around with a cup of coffee or tea in his or her hand and spill it down the walls and doors. Almost every door had a spill down it (I spent lots of time washing those off), but I occasionally find marks on the walls that weren’t painted that look like someone threw a cup of coffee at it. The guest room is no exception.

Here’s the bedroom with part of one wall painted. The color of the paint looks brighter and lighter when you are in the room than it does in this picture, but it is still a distinctive color.

I wanted to paint the wall a bright spring green because even though it gets a lot of light for a basement room (it has a large window and a sliding glass door, but on the other hand the deck is overhead), it is still darkish. I picked among four colors, and on Monday I started taping the ceilings and woodwork on one wall. Then on Tuesday, I painted the first two sections of the wall. (Every wall in that room has either multiple doors and windows in it or a bend or both.) I am taking it easy because it is unaccustomed work, but so far I think I am doing a good job. Since today is the day for my walk, I am not sure whether I will have time to work on it. The walk takes a couple of hours and then we usually go out for lunch, so that takes up most of the day. The next step is to tape the next section.

My niece said not to worry about separating my peas, which, by the way, are about two inches tall now.

Last week for our walk we returned to Lewis River park and took the circle around the park. It goes fairly steeply uphill for a little while and then circles around next to the river. For some reason, we always lose the path in this park, I think because part of the time you have to walk through parking lots. We did that again for the final part of walk, taking a side route instead of the main circle back up to the parking area. This walk is about three miles long.

Today, it looks like I will be walking with my sister instead of my neighbor. My sister has come along one other time. Yesterday she told me she wanted to come, then my neighbor let me know she has a cold, so she probably won’t be going.