A new normal week

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

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

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

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

Here’s my tomato unit in all its glory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s about it for this week.

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!

Critters and paint

My husband went to bed early the other evening, so around eight I went down to the pond. I walked down very quietly so as not to disturb any wildlife that may be down there. Over the past few days, we’ve noticed a pair of woodpeckers who have their nest in a hole up high in the dead tree near our bench. One day when we were down there, they were taking turns popping in and out of the hole. The next day, though, they wouldn’t trade places while we were there, so we left them to it and went back up to the house.

I had barely sat down on the bench that evening when I heard a sound. I couldn’t tell if it was munching or drinking. It sounded like it was just over to my right, so I stood up with the idea of walking down the path closer to the pond to see what it was. As soon as I stood up, I could see a sizable animal at the place where the path meets the pond eating ferns and other greenery. He was concentrating so hard on his eating that he never noticed me, even though I watched him for about ten minutes. He was in full view, and it made me wish I had my phone with me, although a picture probably would have looked like a brown blob in a green blob.

I didn’t have a picture for you today, so here’s a picture from the Canadian Encyclopedia of a beaver. I haven’t actually seen ours head on, just in profile or in the water swimming far out in the pond.

What I was trying to do was see whether he was a beaver or a muskrat, but I couldn’t see his tail for the longest time, until he slipped back into the water and started to swim away. Then I crept down the rest of the path and was able to see his wide tail. A beaver! He swam away to the left side of the pond giving no indication of whether he knew I was there or not.

Most of this week I have been working on painting the bedroom. I have one more wall to go and then part of the bathroom. Each day I have either taped the next wall or touched up the last wall and painted the next wall. I’m slow, I know, but there have been some days I haven’t had time to work on it.

One of those days was last Sunday when I thought it would be a nice break to help my husband stain the railings for the outside steps that were put up last year. We have three sets of steps: one from the main house level up to the ridge above our house, one from the main house level down to the lower drive behind the house at basement level, and one from that level down to the bottom of the orchard and the pond. We decided to start with the lowest set of steps, which is also the longest.

We had a little spat before we started. We had driven in to town that morning to buy sand paper and stain. We got home around 11. It was supposed to be a hot day, in the high 80’s, but at 11 it was still only in the 70’s. My husband decided to eat lunch then, even though he usually doesn’t eat it until 1 or 2. An hour and a half later, I had been waiting for him for an hour while it got hotter and hotter outside, and he was still sitting there doing a crossword puzzle. I told him I was going to go down and get started but I wasn’t going to sand because I hate sanding. He got upset and started lecturing me about my “work standards” (which, by the way, I was known for when I was working, my good ones, not my poor ones). I told him it wasn’t that I didn’t want to do the work right, just that I wanted to do it before it got to be 100 degrees outside. So, we got the stain and went down.

This was a different type of activity than painting walls, to be sure, but I hadn’t reckoned with how much bending there would be. I have never been diagnosed with a back problem, but I have a very stiff lower back and neck. I think this is because my family has a big problem with rounded backs and dowager humps (my dad’s spine looked almost like an S), and I have been conscious of my posture as a result. My neck is fastened to my spine at an angle, so I already know I have a tendency toward it, and I have been forcing myself to stand up straight my whole life. As a result, as I am older, my back hurts after certain activities, and apparently bending over to paint railings is one of them. After I had only finished one railing section, my back was hurting.

My husband sanded the rails in about 10 minutes and then he began staining higher up the steps ahead of me, I guess with the idea that when I got to where he started, we would be done. However, of nine sections of railing, he gave me five to do. Then he began staining at an incredible speed. I had barely finished two of my sections and he was almost done. I couldn’t figure out how he could go so fast, except that I was occasionally stopping to rest my back (but not that often!). I still had more than two sections to do when he announced he was finished and left! Remember, I was helping him. I was upset about this, but I decided I was going to finish my sections and then go lay down and rest my back. After I had finished the third section, my husband came back down through the orchard, moved up past me and started on the last section. So I only had to do one more.

The mystery of his quick work was solved, though, later in the day after the stain dried. I walked down the steps and saw that he had completely missed large patches of his part of the rail, including half of the back side of one section. That’s how he got done so quickly. He has not yet gone down and fixed those patches, and I’m beginning to think that after I finish painting my room, I will have to do it, because he’ll forget. My part of the railing was covered completely. So much for work standards.

On the walking front, my sister and I had an eventful outing, although we didn’t get much walking done last week. She had an idea of where we could walk in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. So, we drove out there looking for a trail head she thought she knew of. We never found the trail head, and we drove and drove through the forest and eventually ended up on state land. All around the national forest are large patches of state land. I’m not sure which one we were in. Finally we found a trail head for the Tarbell trail. At that point, she acted as if that was what she had been looking for, but later she showed me a trail on a map that turned out to be for off-road vehicles. She has misread the map and thought it was a hiking trail. We got out a couple of times and did a little hiking, but only about 20 minutes each time because we had done so much driving. Finally, we decided to go back to the Tarbell trail this week.

After that, we drove up to Chelatchie, where there is a ranger station for Mt. St. Helens, with the intention of getting hiking maps. We ended up with some maps, but we found that neither of them was very good for hiking. One of them was strictly for vehicle use, although it was very detailed, and the other showed the hiking trails but hardly any of the trail heads. My sister knows there is a better hiking map available because she used to have one. We may have to go to the ranger station in Stevenson to find it.

Last week, my niece gave me some starts for squash, cherry tomatoes, and an artichoke. The next day, I went out and found an eggplant and two tomato starts and then I planted all the rest of my plants, including some pole beans from seed. Everything is doing well. My peas are now about four or five inches tall. One of the tomatoes already needs a tomato ladder, so I put one up. I expect I’ll be putting up the other tomato support and the eggplant support next week. The beans haven’t peeked out yet, but it hasn’t even been a week since they were planted.

My niece and sister have invited us on a family outing in late June to the San Juan Islands. Of course, my husband has refused the invitation, but I am going to go. I have always wanted to see the San Juan Islands. After the kids go back, my sister and I are going to dawdle around on the Olympic Peninsula for a bit.

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.

 

 

Sunshine! Plants and burnt sugar

We have had a week of the most gorgeous weather, sunshiny and cool most days, even getting hot yesterday. For the first time I was able to have my windows open during the day, and it was cool and breezy all day inside. In fact, it was so cool in the house yesterday afternoon that I overdressed for my art class when I could have been wearing a t-shirt. However, it was cold in the room, so that was just as well.

Last Wednesday, my neighbor and I planned to go to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge to do our hike. However, when we got there, we discovered that the hiking trail was closed until May 1 because of breeding birds. They had another hiking trail up through town that we could have gone to, but we saw that they had a one-hour driving tour through the refuge, so we decided to take that instead.

We must have seen thousands of birds, mostly water birds. We really regretted not having our binoculars or bird books with us. We saw Canada Geese, and a subspecies called Dusky Geese, lots of different kinds of ducks, an egret (we think—it was far away), lots of red-winged blackbirds, swallows, and so many other birds we couldn’t identify. A large rodent came out of a pond right next to our car. my neighbor thought he was a muskrat, but after listening to our audio CD about the refuge, we decided he was a nutria. We had nutria in the river in Austin, but all you ever saw was their heads, poking out of the water far away as they swum. This guy was big, and he stood there right next to the car! He couldn’t be bothered.

The Great Blue Heron checking out the grass

A little further on, we encountered a great blue heron, who was walking along the road, apparently hunting for something in the grass. We followed him quietly down the road with our car for quite some time. He never paid any attention to us until we decided to try to slowly pass him. Then he flew away.

The Canada geese with their chicks. I don’t know if you can tell, but on the other side of the water are hundreds of birds.

Later on we came to a point where the road ran between two huge flocks of Canada geese. On the left were the regular Canada geese, and on the right were the Dusky Canada geese, a smaller and darker subspecies. With the Canada geese on the left, we were able to see some chicks! I’m sure there were a lot more there, but most of the geese were hiding their chicks away on the side of an embankment.

(I’m afraid I might have zoomed in too far on both these pictures, but I only had my phone.)

We decided we were going to come back again with our binoculars and our bird books. It’s only an issue of when.

On Friday night, my nine-year-old great niece had a talent show at her school. This talent show has history for our family, because of how it is run. Last year, my niece didn’t think to invite us to the competition, and they were all very upset when they came home. I have never actually heard of a school talent show that has prizes, but apparently this one does. The audience votes for the winner, and as many of the families in the area are very large, what happens is that the children from the large families win the prizes. My niece said that several of the kids who were actually talented did not win anything, including my great niece, who has a very good voice for her age and bravely sang Leonard Cohen’s difficult song “Hallelujah” to no reward. My niece said it was painfully embarrassing, because so many of the parents were shocked that my great niece didn’t win anything and came up and said so, or just stared at them. The little girl who won first prize last year stuttered out a few bars of her song and then quit. My niece said that one girl playing a cello, who sounded almost professional, also didn’t win anything.

When my niece explained to me how the show was run, I was shocked that it would be handled that way. It turns out the show is organized and run by the high school students. I think they need some suggestions from the teachers.

My great niece with her trophy after the performance. We are at a restaurant buying her a piece of cake to celebrate. The elbows belong to her parents.

This year, they set up the voting a little differently. Instead of giving the audience three votes and the judges only one, they did it the other way around. Also, I think the judges waited to see who the audience voted for before picking their winners, so that the prizes could be spread around more fairly. My niece also made sure that we were there, as well as both grandmothers, and an uncle. We’re not sure exactly which of those tactics worked, but my great niece won the audience choice award. She was so happy! My niece said that she was the only one of the talented kids from last year that actually came back and performed again. My niece sung “Rise Up” by Andra Day, which is a difficult song. I may be biased, but I think for her age group that she was one of the most talented performers.

My husband said the whole thing was excruciating, and he would not go again. He was nice enough to stay for the whole thing, though. Both grandmothers and the uncle left during intermission, after the younger kids had performed and they could vote. My niece also commented that far fewer people were there this year than last year, which was the first year of the talent show. I’m sure that there were lots of hard feelings after last year.

On talking with my sister and my niece, I found out that I could actually plant some starts at this time, ones for plants that are more cold hardy. So, on Saturday, I went out and bought starts for the cold-resistant veggies, and on Sunday I planted them. I think I made a beginner’s mistake, though, because I have a small garden, and I devoted too much space to large vegetables that only produce one plant, that is cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower. Although I only planted a few apiece, I have very little space left for beans, eggplant, and tomatoes and peppers, which produce more veggies. Luckily, they grow upward, so I will squeeze them in. I planted some herbs, green and red cabbages, peas and snap peas, brussel sprouts, Walla Walla onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach. I may have planted the spinach too soon.

In a few weeks, I’ll plant tomatoes, beans, and peppers, and my niece said she had a zuccini plant I’ll have to try to squeeze in. She is also starting me an artichoke. That will take up a lot of space, but I have saved some for it, and I love artichokes.

On Saturday, we also had a little incident. I had started cooking some sugar water for hummingbirds on the stove when my husband came in and we decided to (finally) plant the plum tree. I got so excited that I forgot about the sugar water. We must have been outside for about a half hour or forty-five minutes, and we were on our way back in when I heard a funny noise that sounded like it was coming from the neighbor’s house. Suddenly, I realized it was a smoke detector, and it was coming from our house! Yes, my sugar water had gone up in smoke. I don’t know if you have ever seen a lot of burnt sugar, but it is not a pretty sight. It sort of makes a black, shiny structure in the middle of the pan, which of course was ruined. (It was an old pan I should have thrown away long ago anyway.) However, this was the final straw for the smoke detector.

The geniuses that installed our smoke detectors put one at the very top of our very high ceilings. My husband had the contractors install all new smoke detectors last year, but he made the mistake, he said, of not changing out the factory batteries for new ones. The smoke detectors are wired into the electricity of the house, but apparently they are required to have batteries, too, in case of a power failure. Well, that top smoke detector decided it needed a new battery, and it beeped all night long. My husband is somewhat deaf, so after we closed our bedroom door and he put on his C-PAP device, it didn’t bother him, but it kept me awake all night long.

We have a 12-foot ladder, which isn’t tall enough to get up there. Our niece’s husband, Ares, said that his stepfather, who was our tenant before we moved here, used to lean an extension ladder up against the ceiling, which must have been very dangerous. My husband had already called about renting a 16-foot ladder but then realized that it wouldn’t fit in our car. Ares came over to help, because my husband thought we might be able to get the battery out using his grabber and the 12-foot ladder, but Ares couldn’t get a grip on the battery with the grabber. Finally, Ares got up on the stepladder with the grabber and a powerful magnet and was able to get the old battery out and put the new one in. What a relief!

 

The play’s the thing

After a week of cancellations, there was a big one on Friday. As I reported last week, first my husband said he wanted to go to Portland on Saturday, then he wanted to go to Harbor Freight instead. Then he wanted to go to Portland on Sunday, then he didn’t. Then he wanted to go to the movies on Tuesday, then he didn’t. Well, this was the pattern all week until we got to Friday.

Unfortunately, Friday was the day we planned to leave for Ashland, Oregon, to attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. My friend Deb and I have had tickets since January or February. I was initially surprised when my husband said he would go with us and visit his friend from Air Force days in Medford while we went to the plays. I should have known something was up on Thursday because he was mopey all day and at one point he asked me if we had already paid for the tickets. (Of course I had, and they were very expensive.) But I did not pay attention.

So, I got up on Friday and started to get ready to go, and he told me he wasn’t coming. I had some choice thoughts about that, as you can imagine, but I just packed up and left. In fact, I was able to leave early and tell my niece she didn’t need to worry about feeding Hillary. We didn’t get off to a good start. There was my husband’s cancellation and the rainy, dreary morning, and then we got a half hour away from Deb’s house when I realized my purse was sitting in her living room, so we had to go back. Thank goodness I realized then, though, rather than later, and after that things went fine.

We stopped for lunch on the way down and ate at a place called Addy’s Diner in Springfield. I was trying to behave myself for Weight Watchers and found we had picked a place where that was almost impossible. At one point we saw a guy receive a pancake that was served on a platter-sized plate, yet was too big to fit it without being folded in half. My guess is that the pancake was a good two feet in diameter! Deb said I should take a picture of the pancake, but I didn’t have the nerve to walk over and take a picture of his food.

We passed a huge accident on the north side of the freeway just outside Grant’s Pass. First, we saw the wreck. Then we both remembered, after the initial backup, a gap. But then we suddenly saw cars everywhere, parked all over the exits, parking up the freeway, and people getting out and walking around. The cars stretched back for miles and miles. We learned later that the traffic was stuck there for at least four hours.

We arrived in Ashland at about 4 PM and checked into our motel. It was the Bard’s Inn, an old-fashioned roadside motel that has been remodeled and is comfortable, clean, and quiet. Not fancy at all, but it was just fine for us. The Bard’s Inn has other, fancier accommodations, and we looked at a lot of B&B’s when we were trying to decide where to stay, but many of them were already booked, and most were expensive. Because we thought my husband would have the car, we were looking for something right near town, and this place was just a few blocks from the theaters.

The first thing we did was go to the box office to pick up our tickets. We had bought tickets for two plays on Saturday, Sense and Sensibility in the afternoon and Henry V at night. Deb suggested we see if there were any tickets left for Othello that night. Now, if you read my review of Othello, you’ll know it isn’t one of my favorite plays, because I don’t like the main character. However, we asked, and they had the last two seats together for $34 apiece (cheap), so we bought them.

The Elizabethan Theater on the hill behind Lithia Park

Then we had time to look around town and have something to eat. Ashland is a small town tucked into the side of foothills, with a mountain nearby. It isn’t super picturesque, but it is a nice town. It has a lovely park right next to the river downtown, with the Elizabethan theater on a hill behind it. The park offers lots of woodland walks, and is beautifully landscaped. It was a little rainy on Friday afternoon and evening, but most of the time we had perfect weather.

The pastry case at Mix. A little problematic for someone on a diet

We ate dinner at a nice restaurant called Greenleaf and then made our greatest culinary discovery of the trip—Mix, a bake and coffee shop. We split a lemon meringue tart, and it was delicious! We returned there several times during the course of the trip, buying bread, coffee, lunch, and delicious pastries.

In the evening we went to Othello. The town has three theaters devoted to the Shakespeare Festival, during which they perform all kinds of plays and musicals. Othello was in the middle-sized theater, which seats about 600 people. The play was performed in modern dress with most of the men in military uniforms, but it was otherwise done fairly traditionally. However, doing it in modern times provided some opportunities to use media. For example, instead of having servants deliver messages, the characters got calls on their cell phones, which raised a laugh.

I have to tell you, Othello was terrific! It was really dramatic at times, funnier than I thought it was when reading it, just a revelation. I was really glad I went. I have often had it demonstrated to me that theater so much depends on who is doing it and how they do it. I have had occasion to see the same play be, when done by one company, depressing, and by another company, hilarious, for example.

The Elizabethan Theater from the inside during our tour. That’s our guide’s hand on the left. The Elizabethan theater, which is an open-air reconstruction of a theater in England, is not open until June and only for evening performances.

In the morning we went on the backstage tour, which was very interesting. I heartily recommend it. Our guide was enthusiastic and knowledgeable. He took us all through all three of the theaters, backstage and underneath, talked about the history of the festival, told us funny stories. It was a great tour. I told Deb that if I lived within an hour of Ashland, I’d be volunteering to work there.

Ashland on the way to downtown from our motel. Of course, it would have been nice if I’d found a shot without so many streetlights in it. I was trying to get the mountain, which is just barely visible in the middle of the picture. That hump with the clouds over it.

The play I was looking forward to the most was Sense and Sensibility, being a major Jane Austen fan. I had very mixed feelings about it, though. It was performed in the middle-sized theater again. The set and costumes were of the period, but they did the play as a farce! Now, if you like Austen, like I do, because she is funny while being very delicate, as reflects her culture, this is not the play for you. I think  that some viewers were shocked by it. I had to admit it made very good theater, though. The audience shouted when it was over. But was it Jane Austen? It was not. They just used her story. Still, I had a good time, so the whole issue was very complicated for me.

Our last play was Henry V, performed in the smaller theater, which was configured in a horseshoe. This theater seats 300 people. It was very intimate, and they tried a lot of symbolism in the performance, not all of which worked. For example, the play started with players turning this huge wall around and around for quite some time. It must have symbolized something, but we didn’t know what. The only scenery for this play was that wall and a bunch of boxes. For the fighting, since Henry V is mostly about a war with France, they had red undershirts that they flapped vigorously or wrapped around themselves to signify wounds. Hmm. The acting seemed a little less practiced than in the other plays, and Henry was uneven. Of course, he has all the best speeches. Still, we enjoyed the play very much, but we both decided that Othello was our favorite. In fact, after the first play, we were already talking about when we would come back and saying that we would like to see a play in the Elizabethan Theater.

After breakfast in the morning, we skipped down to Mix to buy bread to take home with us, and that bread was yummy. If you ever get to Ashland, do not miss going to Mix!

The carousel in Albany

On the way home, just as a topper to our great weekend, we stopped for lunch in Albany, Oregon. The lunch was fine, but on the way back out of town, we happened to notice a building with the word “Carousel” on it. That made us both remember that we had seen an article and program about a historic carousel that had been thought lost but had been discovered in pieces stored away. The town had raised money to restore it, and this was it! Needless to say, we had to stop and look at the carousel. I’m sorry I didn’t get good enough pictures to show you that the animals are very imaginative. Instead of just being colorfully painted, they have crazy touches. One horse has a mermaid tail, making it a seahorse. Another animal might have a monkey crawling on its neck or fish on its side. It is all beautifully done and restored.

So, that was the highlight of my week, and I’m champing at the bit to go back. We are already planning a trip back next June, and my friend from Denver said he would like to go with us. My sister has also expressed an interest and my husband says he’d like to go to the Elizabethan theater (I’ll believe that when I see it), so if we all go, we may have to caravan next year!

In other news, my neighbor and I found a beautiful trail last week. It’s in Whipple Creek Park, which is right jammed up next to Vancouver. It is very close to where I go for my art class. We didn’t expect much from it, but in fact found ourselves in a lovely oak forest. The trail had ups and downs and was mostly in very good condition. It is a park used by horses, and although we did not see any horses, we saw lots of things to walk around, if you get my drift, and lots of hoof prints. I got very tired in the 3.1 miles, because of all the ups and downs, but I’ll improve.

P. S. After I published this post the first time, Deb sent me the attached link to an article about the carousel with much better pictures than the one I posted.

 

 

 

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.

 

We think it’s spring, but maybe not

I’ll start out by telling you about something I forgot from last week. It was a date with my nine-year-old great niece for a sleepover in “her” bedroom. She wanted to bake, and although this did not accord with my Weight Watchers regime, we made mug cakes and peach pie. We started with the peach pie, which she claimed she had never had. I had her help with every step, including making a lattice top, to show her how easy it is. We used peaches that I bought last summer and froze. Then while it was baking, we made the mug cakes. Since she made me one, I of course had to eat it, and then we all had pie. I just had a narrow slice of it, no more than an inch wide, although it pained me to do so, and then we sent it home with her the next day (although by then my husband and great niece had eaten half of it). We finished off the evening with some brisk games of dominoes.

By the way, I joined Weight Watchers with my sister, and we are both doing well. I have lost more than 15 pounds since late January.

For our walk last week, my neighbor and I used the Trails app to try to find a loop around Battle Ground Lake. There were two, actually, but the start of the outer loop was hard to find, so we inadvertently ended up on the inner loop. The outer loop is actually the one that is reviewed in the app as fit for walking dogs and taking strollers. The inner loop is a forest path with lots of ups and downs and rough terrain that went right along the lake. That would have been okay except it was very wet. Almost the first thing I did was slip in the mud and fall down. I don’t do down very well, usually, but we had my neighbor’s hiking sticks, and that helped me get back up. Later, we had to crawl under some trees that had fallen across the path. Altogether, it was way more rough than I was used to, still being a beginning hiker. As we exited the loop, we came upon the other end of the outer loop, with people with their strollers walking along! According to the app, we walked (climbed, crawled) about 2.5 miles.

This could get interesting, because while I primarily care about getting more exercise, my neighbor used to be a hearty outdoors woman and sees us eventually hiking rugged paths in the Gorge. (The kind of paths I never hiked even when I was young and slim and fearless, although I probably would have liked to, I just never did.) Although I would like to hike in the Gorge, I have much more modest goals in mind. When I commented on the rough path, she said, “If we are going to hike in the Gorge, we’ll have to hike paths like that.” She already told me one story about being a speed hiker and how one time she was hiking so quickly in Yosemite that she hiked right past a bear without seeing it. Luckily, she has since slowed down to look at the scenery.

Thursday is the day for our Weight Watchers meeting, and my sister and I usually celebrate afterwards by going out to eat. We didn’t think we would be going that night, because my sister had to work after the meeting. But she got put on standby during the meeting, so we went to this really wonderful Greek restaurant in Battle Ground called George’s Molón Lavé. I had moussaka (not having had any for years) and my sister had the delicious lamb chops that I enjoyed the first time my husband and I went. All things considered, I vote for the lamb chops.

On Friday, I happened to ask my sister if she wanted to go in to the Crafts Warehouse with me, where I needed to buy a frame for my bird painting (my husband decided we should frame it—now I just need to find somewhere insignificant to hang it) and some linseed oil. She said it was her errand day, so we spent the entire day out. We bought dirt, chicken feed, stuff at Costco, veggies and fruit at Chuck’s, and linseed oil and a frame. At the art store she picked up some kits, because she has art class with my great niece every week and likes to do different things.

Saturday was very busy. First, I went with my sister and my niece to the Japanese nursery in Woodland. They bought several trees and some tropical plants for a terrarium for my great nephew’s new pet corn snake. (The kids’ pets tend to be unusual, because their mother is severely allergic to cats and dogs. They have a lizard, a snake, and two ferrets.) I bought a bare roots lilac bush to replace the one my husband mowed over last spring and a plum tree for our orchard.

Later in the day, we all (except my husband, the party pooper), went to see A Wrinkle in Time. It was fairly good, although much more of a kid’s movie than one for an adult. But it was for a particular age range of kids, as we found when my four-year-old great nephew ended up having to be taken out of the theater by his dad. His dad later said that he said, “I wish this movie was over!” Of course, it was full length, so it’s also probably the first full-length movie he’s ever seen, his previous experience being with animated movies, which are usually shorter. My great niece, however, thought it was wonderful although “not as good as the book.”

One thing that struck me right away, although my memory of the book is not very good, was that they went a long way to make the movie inclusive, even having Charles Wallace be adopted just so he could be oriental (he wasn’t adopted in the book, was he?), but the setting was Southern California all the way. Hollywood, big news flash—the entire population of the United States does not live in suburban Southern California. My recollection, which could be faulty, places the original story in New England. But I DO remember that they lived out in the country. One of the first things my great niece said when she came out was “They lived on a hill way out in the country. That wasn’t right.” So, if you want to be inclusive, Hollywood, how about including a few other parts of the country in your kid’s movies?

My new little lilac bush next to the small daffodils. In the top right corner of the picture is the very start of the pond. You probably can’t tell from this photo that the lilac is at the edge of a steep slope. Over on the top left are the stairs that lead from the lower drive down to the lower orchard.

Sunday was the start of a run of beautiful cool but sunny days. I went out and planted my bare roots lilac bush, trying to choose a place where my husband was unlikely to run over it with the lawnmower. I chose to put it next to the daffodils near the lower drive on the edge of the slope that goes down to the wolf pen and the pond. That little swath of land next to the sidewalk and drive (outside the lower level of the house) gets more sun than the orchard, because my daffodils are up there and the ones in the orchard are still hiding their flowers.

Over the last few days, we have planted some more trees (two blue spruces and a maple tree) and cleared off the area where my raised beds are going to go. I hope to begin putting them together soon. My niece said she thought her husband could help on the weekend, but they are very busy, so I would rather start doing it than wait for their help.

In art class, I finished tracing my landscape and spent the class painting sky and clouds.

But what does my title to this post mean? It means snow is forecast for Friday and Saturday. The forecast has been pretty steady, too. Over the winter, we often had snow forecast for a week later only to have it turn to a forecast of rain by the time the day came. But for the last week, the forecast has been snow on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and only today did it change to just Friday and Saturday. The Portland forecast says snow at 1500 feet and higher, and we are at 1000, but the local forecast on my phone is usually more accurate for us than the one from Portland. We’ll see.

 

 

Spring is sprung(ing)

Small signs of spring are appearing this week. My sister said her crocuses and snowdrops bloomed, so I went out in the orchard to look for mine. There were none, but there were some suspicious small holes where I planted them. I think a mole or raccoon must have eaten the bulbs. (Do moles eat bulbs? I know raccoons do, as years ago a raccoon dug up and ate every bulb I planted one winter back in Austin.)

Look closely and you can see some tiny daffodils. I don’t think these ones are supposed to get much bigger.

However, my daffodils are coming up. I planted some tiny ones along the edge of the basement level before the slope down to the septic field, and they had already bloomed. My larger daffodils, which I planted under the orchard trees, are showing the blades of their leaves.

Soon these nice green stems will be daffodils.

Down in the valley, though, spring is blooming ahead of us. Clumps of large daffodils wave in the breeze here and there, and the cherry trees are starting to bloom in gorgeous shades of pink and white.

We had three beautiful days in a row, warm and sunny, during which my husband and I both did some outside work. I went around with our wheelbarrow and picked up sticks that had fallen during the winter, and I also took the covers off the patio furniture. My husband put together a garden shed. I hope we’ll be putting together my raised beds on our next fine day, because soon will be time to plant. We will also need to build a fence around the garden, or the deer and rabbits will get everything.

Although the weather had returned to rain and gotten colder again, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more snow.

On Sunday, I was relaxing in the house when I heard a loud, reverberating bang that sounded like it was in the garage. I looked out in the garage but could see nothing wrong. Later, my husband came up from the basement and I asked him if he had heard it. He did not, but he was on the other side of the house, so it’s not surprising. He, too, looked in the garage and saw nothing.

Coincidentally, he had driven the car out of the garage earlier in the day when we were both working outside and not put it back, so he went out to move the car into the garage. When he hit the button to open the garage door, we heard a horrible grinding noise. It turned out that the spring to the garage door opener had snapped, and that was the noise I heard earlier. It’s a good thing he left the car out, because until the guy came to fix the door, two days later, it was impossible to open the garage door! We would have been stuck without a car to drive.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that we were forced to find another doctor. You may remember that when we first moved here last year, it took me more than a month to find a doctor who would take us, between the Medicare and the type of secondary insurance we had. We really like our doctor here, but in January, our clinic announced it was closing. Our doctor was not able to find another local practice, so he was planning to work in urgent care for up to six months while he looked. Originally, we were told that we should be able to sign on with his coworker at the Salmon Creek branch of our clinic, which is about 1/2 hour away.

However, the Salmon Creek clinic decided it would not take any of our doctor’s patients, because our doctor had too high a load of Medicare patients. His assistant told us that the Fishers Landing clinic was accepting a small number of Medicare patients, so we called them immediately and got on there. Unfortunately, Fishers Landing is about an hour away. We like our new doctor, but the plan is to switch back to our original doctor when he gets settled in a new local clinic, provided they will take our insurance. We have an alternate, sneaky plan, too. Our new doctor has office hours in both Fishers Landing and Salmon Creek, the same clinic that refused all of our doctor’s patients. Once we get established with the new guy, I’m going to find out if we can see him at Salmon Creek. I don’t see how they can turn us down when we are already his patient. That will save us a lot of driving.

Last week my neighbor and I returned to Moulton Falls on the East Fork of the Lewis River and walked about four miles. We were actually trying to find a path my neighbor thought linked the Moulton Falls park to the Lucia Falls park, but there was none. I think she just got confused by the confusing park map. We have still to walk the Lucia Falls loop, but it is very short, only a mile.

My niece told me about a trails app, which we will probably use today to decide where to go. So far, we are only doing easy trails, though, and it seems that most of them are very short. I suppose we could pick a short one and go around it more than once. The longer trails are the two we have done already. It doesn’t bother me to continue to walk the same trails—after all that is what I did in Austin, walk the same loop around Lady Bird Lake every morning for years—but my neighbor wants to branch out and eventually tackle harder trails.

This picture of pelmeni soup is from the recipe I used.

A few weeks ago, I reported that my Portland friend and I had done a tour of the Russian markets in Portland. I was fascinated by the different types of little frozen dumplings called pelmeni, but I was afraid to buy any because of the train trip and car ride home, a total of more than an hour’s time, during which I was sure they would melt. So, last week I visited our local Russian market and bought some a bag of lamb and a bag of cabbage pelmeni. I served the dumplings for one dinner, but my husband didn’t like them. However, I still had three pounds of dumplings, and I had noted references to soup, so I looked for a recipe. I ended up making a simple pelmeni soup, and it was delicious! My husband said he liked it much better than the dumplings by themselves, so I have gone farther and found recipes in my Russian cookbooks.

As I finished my painting in art class last week and brought it home this week, it is time to start another one. This new painting will be a landscape of the Oregon coast. I am a little trepidatious about it, as it is a complex landscape. I had been picking out simpler landscape photos to copy, but I selected this one because I had been there. My teacher picked it because she loves the Oregon coast, but she says it will be easier to paint than I think. In my art class, we draw the picture on tracing paper and then trace it onto our canvases or paper. This method makes our pictures neater, because the erasures are not on our canvas or paper. I got my picture drawn, but it turned out I had the carbon paper backward (it is quite worn, and it’s hard to tell which side is up), despite my neighbor in class and I checking to see it was right! Oops! I will start from there next week!

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.