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!

 

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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.

 

 

Ducks and dirt

I noticed this morning that there were two ducks fishing in our pond. My sister says we have a duck family there this year, but I don’t know how she can have seen them because she said she saw them on the way home from work, and the pond isn’t very visible from the road. I have not seen any chicks at all, but the house is up on the hill with the pond at the bottom, and you can only see about eight feet of the pond from the house. However, the adults seem to be mostly white with black heads, so maybe some kind of scaup. They have white or yellow beaks. I don’t think they have white patches at the back of their heads, so they’re not buffleheads.

The other day in town, we saw a couple of Canada geese just standing next to the road. I thought at first they were waiting to cross the street, but they stayed there after we drove by. I finally decided they were just watching the cars go by. They were big birds.

This morning is a kind of dismal day for our walk, but we always go unless it is pouring rain. Last week my sister and I picked up my neighbor and took her along to our Weight Watchers meeting, and then we all explored the Burnt Creek greenbelt in Vancouver where it comes out near our meeting. It is a nice, paved path with wildish landscaped scenery, but after a while, it became very suburban, so we turned around. We went 2.7 miles, according to my Fitbit.

That day and the four days after it were beautiful, cool and sunny. That was good, because my garden blend dirt arrived on Thursday morning, right on time. I thought I’d be shoveling away all weekend, but my husband came out and started working on it. That had its good points and bad points. The good points are, of course, that he was helping me, and it was unaccustomed work for me, so I had to keep resting. The bad news was that I felt I couldn’t go at my own pace. It took us a while to find a good method of working. I started out filling a wheelbarrow, wheeling it over, and emptying it, but in the time I did that, my husband could fill a bunch of loads of those big plastic buckets that painters use and fill a lot more dirt in than I could with the wheelbarrow (it was too fat and the wall of the beds too high to dump it, so I had to shovel it all out, which turned out to be much more tedious than filling it). So, after trying that, we bought a few more buckets and I started filling those while my husband emptied them. But it turned out I was too slow, so I lugged the buckets over and emptied them while my husband filled them. But I was still too slow. He could fill three buckets in the time I could empty one. So, he ended up using the wheelbarrow while I did buckets all by myself.

This is what we did most of the day, with a break at noon to go into Amboy, buy the buckets, and eat hot dogs for lunch.

Anyway, after a while, I went inside to rest and fell asleep. It is unusual for me to sleep during the day, so I must have been bushed. When I woke up, it was six PM and my husband was just finishing up. The beds were full! What a guy! We will probably have to fill them up a little bit more as the dirt subsides, but as of now, I am ready for planting season. I’m actually champing at the bit, but it is too early to plant until later in May.

We had a beautiful weekend, although our plans to go to Portland on Saturday got postponed because my husband kept changing his mind. It’s too bad, because it would have been a beautiful day to go. I ended up mopping our floors instead. We had a quiet Easter, just a nice dinner in the afternoon, during which we watched lots of TV mysteries.

We also were going to see Ready Player One on Tuesday, but my husband changed his mind because he didn’t feel well. We might go today or tomorrow.

In art class, I finished working on the ocean and started painting the land. I am painting a scene of Cannon Beach.

No photos for you today. I’ll try to think of something for next week.

 

Yep, it snowed

Starting with the weather report, after some beautiful days earlier in the week, it snowed on Friday and Saturday. We just had a dusting of snow on Friday, but on Friday night to Saturday morning we must have had at least two inches. That didn’t stop my niece and her husband from coming over to put together my raised bed kit that day. They worked in the garage while I baby sat their kids inside. They didn’t want our help because they said they were so good at putting kits together by themselves. They are so sweet to us.

My niece and her husband building my raised beds. Note the snow.

We had a debate about exactly where to place the beds. The general placement was always to put it where the old shed thing used to be at the edge of the driveway. But half of that space was covered by patio bricks. Originally, we planned to remove all the patio bricks except those down the aisle of the beds, but my husband thought we could put it right on the bricks. We also had a debate about which direction to face it, because the bricks were situated perfectly for the beds to go sideways on them, but I wanted to maximize their exposure to sunlight, which meant putting them the other way. However, my niece and her husband thought the bricks weren’t level enough, which would put pressure on odd points of the beds. So, we put the beds behind the patio bricks directly on the bed of gravel, facing the way I wanted them to go and putting them even more centered into the space with the most sunlight, which leaves a nice patio in front for a couple of chairs.

My completed raised beds with the patio in front

Anyway, I think my beds look beautiful. They are solid cedar. I have already ordered the garden mix dirt to be delivered to my house tomorrow, so I guess I’ll be shoveling for the rest of the week, which is supposed to be clear.

For our walk this week, we tried a trail through the Salmon-Morgan Creeks Natural Area. To our surprise, this area was smack dab in the middle of a rather prosperous suburban development. However, once you got into the thick cedar forest, there was almost no trace of the houses except for a few glimpses. The cedar forest was beautiful. The trail, although nicely kept in some places, was very muddy in other places. I had to share my neighbor’s hiking poles again to keep from falling down, which was enough to make me order some of my own as soon as we got home. That trail wasn’t very long. It was supposedly only 1.3 miles. We originally planned to walk it twice, but it took so long to navigate the mud that we did not.

In art class, I finished working on the sky for my landscape and began working on the sea. The class seems to be getting too full of children, but I know from experience that the number of children varies wildly from time to time. Next week is spring break, so there will probably be hardly any children there.

 

Getting back to normal

Earlier last week, it was so snowy that a few of my regularly scheduled activities were cancelled or I didn’t go. By Friday, however, the roads were almost back to normal. We dropped my sister off in town to pick up her car at the shop and then drove to the airport to pick up my great niece and her father from their trip to Disneyland. She was still flushed with excitement. They had a great time. When we got them home, my niece had just arrived back from the water park, where she took my great nephew.

Here is my bird from back last year with just the first background layer.

When I arrived at their house the next morning to pick up my great niece for tai kwan do as usual, though, she was in her pajamas. Everyone had forgotten, so she had to rush to get ready.

That afternoon, the Northwood Pub in Battle Ground had its annual Crab Feast. We all went. We love crab. It was a good time. They had a band there playing some kind of old fashioned music. Usually live music bothers my husband, who has tinnitus, but this wasn’t as loud. We enjoyed it.

My neighbor and I rescheduled our walk from Wednesday to Tuesday. We walked roughly four miles at Moulton Falls Park. It was a gorgeous day, one of the few sunny days we have had all winter. There was no snow left in the park, although we still have some in patches around our yard and in the orchard.

Here is my finished bird.

I got back about a half hour before it was time to leave for my art class. In art class, I finally finished my picture! My instructor had me dabbing at this and that all during the class time until nearly the end. Then she told me to sign it, which is the indication that it is done. Here’s a photo of it. I believe the last time I showed it, I had just finished the first coating of the background, which was purple. You can see that coating that purple with a warm brown glaze turned it a beautiful gray. I would never have expected it, which tells me I have a lot to learn about colors.