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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A week of frivolity

A view of the Columbia from up high, taken on our failed hike

I didn’t post last week because I was in the midst of a week of frivolity, entertaining my friend Ray, who came to visit from Denver. The week before, I didn’t do much except clean the house and take my weekly hike with my neighbor. She suggested we go out to Beacon Rock State Park, which is on the Washington side of the Gorge. We didn’t go up the rock but up a hiking path across from it. The hike was supposed to be a short one, a little over two miles round-trip, but I was unable to do it. The path went straight up with no leveling out or going down so that I could catch my breath. Our goal was a waterfall, but after seeming hours of trying to get up the hill, I had to give up. It turned out we had hiked a very short distance, because it only took about 10 minutes to go down. I guess I’m just not ready for so much up. The scenery was beautiful at times, though. Either we were in dense forests or we saw views of the Gorge.

The tae kwon do demo team. My great-niece is the tall redhead in the front row of kids dressed in red.

The Saturday before last, I went to a parade. My great-niece was chosen to perform in the demo team for her tae kwon do class. Of course, I dressed wrong. It was cold in the house, but it was hot down in Hockinson, where the parade was. My niece made the same mistake, and my poor great-niece had two layers of clothes on. Boy, was she hot when she got finished. The kids did a great job, of course. They had to stop periodically and go through a routine. My niece’s husband, whom the red hair came from, walked with the parents behind the team. He came back with a sunburned neck!

My friend Ray arrived last Monday. The first night, all we did was go to the movies, but that is unusual enough. The only movie we could agree on, it being summer and therefore time for movies for 14-year-old boys, was Ready Player One, also for 14-year-old boys, but at least witty. After that we went out to eat at a 24-hour diner. My diet was shot from then on, so I didn’t really try that hard. The damage has yet to be assessed.

My friend Ray on the bridge over Moulton Falls. They’re not really falls, just some rapids, and in this picture, you can’t really see them.

Our hike was moved to Tuesday morning because we were going to the beach on Wednesday, so my neighbor decided not to go. Ray and I went over to Moulton Falls. It was a beautiful day, and we walked about three miles on an easy trail.

Here’s a really bad picture of James Taylor. To give you an idea of how bad it is, he’s the man sitting down on the far right who seems to be dressed in white. In actuality, he was dressed in black. Of course, you can’t see his face at all in this picture. As you can see, though, we had very good seats.

That night was one of the highlights of Ray’s visit. My sister had invited me months ago to attend a James Taylor concert with her. When I realized that Ray’s visit coincided with our concert, I checked to see if tickets were still available and then called Ray and had him buy one. The three of us went out to dinner in Portland and then went to the concert. It was great! I was astonished that his voice seems just as good as it always did. We were disappointed to miss Bonnie Raitt, who was supposed to perform with him but had to cancel. However, the concert was excellent with all the old favorites plus some songs we weren’t familiar with. We got home after midnight for the second night in a row.

On Wednesday, we left for a three-day trip to the Oregon coast. We tried hard to talk my husband into coming, but he decided not to (no surprise there). It seemed contrary to Ray, but we traveled north on I-5 and then cut over to Astoria, where we stopped to go up to the tower and eat lunch, and then drove along the coast most of the way down. Once we got in the Tillamook area, we were inland, and the views were more pastoral. We ended up in Lincoln City. There, Ray had found a great hotel. It is called the Shearwater Inn. Because we thought there were going to be three of us, he got us the Grand Suite, a two-bedroom suite. It was really nice, and a great deal. This entire suite, which was about the size of three normal hotel rooms, cost less than my motel room in Ashland last spring. The hotel was clean and elegant. My bedroom and bathroom alone were the size of a regular room. Then we had a living room with a fireplace and a full kitchen, another bathroom, and a smaller but still nice-sized bedroom with windows on two sides. Our suite had two balconies, although we really only used the one off the living room. The other one was off my bedroom. We felt like we were in the lap of luxury. It didn’t do my diet any good that they filled up a small bowl of salt water taffy every day. I love salt water taffy.

We went for a long walk on the beach, which was a mere 50 feet or so from the door of the hotel. Then we ate dinner at a very good seafood restaurant that was just across the parking lot from our hotel.

The next day we were booked for a whale watch in the afternoon, so we spent the morning driving south from Lincoln City along the coast. We saw some spectacular scenery. The weather was a bit blustery, and we were supposed to have confirmation on the trip by 9:30, but they didn’t really confirm until about noon, and then they wanted us there by 1 instead of 2. So, we had to jump in the car and drive back up to Depoe Bay. I was surprised to find we were going in a very small boat, a rubber launch that only held six passengers. Before, I had gone whale watching on large boats. We were able to go very fast, but I think being lower in the water made it harder to see the whales. We saw one and followed it along for a while, but our captain claimed to see another one that we never saw. One thing that happened on that boat that I never saw on the larger ones was that both of the other women in the boat got seasick. One of them spent the entire trip kneeling over the side. We were supposed to see a movie before the trip, but that was moved to afterwards. However, by the time we got back, Ray and I were so hungry that we skipped the movie and went straight for lunch. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening exploring the coast.

I took this picture of a bridge and the beautiful rugged coastline when we were down below near the Spouting Horn. It was too difficult to get a picture of the Horn when it was spouting, so I didn’t try.

The most interesting sights we saw that day were along Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. There, the sea comes in on a rocky coastline, creating some really interesting phenomena. One is called the Spouting Horn. The sea comes in a channel called Cooks’ Chasm that has a cave at the end. If the water hits the cave just right, the water shoots a spout way up from a hole at the top of the rock. Another feature is called Thor’s Well. It’s a hole in the rocky shoreline. Every wave that comes in, water bubbles up in a huge bubble that comes up several feet above the edge of the rock and then gets sucked back down the hole when the wave goes out. We were told to view these an hour before high tide, and we stayed there an hour watching them. These sights are spectacular but can be dangerous, because people can be sucked by the waves back out into the ocean.

The next morning was the only little glitch of our stay in our hotel. I woke up really early that morning. We had had an interrupted sleep, because the city electric department was working all night outside our windows. Ray said he got up in the middle of the night to watch them for a while, they were making so much noise. In fact, they cut the power to our hotel from 11 PM to early morning. I would have thought I would sleep in after that, but instead I woke up shortly after 5 AM with the idea of taking a last walk on the beach before we left that morning. Once I had the idea in my head, I couldn’t let go of it, so I went out and walked on the beach for about 40 minutes. It was perfectly peaceful. I only saw another woman with two dogs and a lot of sea birds. I would have stayed out longer, but I was afraid Ray would wake up early and wonder where I was.

However, when I got back to the hotel, my badge had stopped working. This small hotel doesn’t man the desk all night. Instead, the desk doesn’t open until 7:30. There I was with no money and no phone outside at 6:15 wondering if I had to stay out there another hour. Of course, I hadn’t been able to decide whether to stay out longer, but since I couldn’t get in, I was determined to get in. Luckily for me, a maintenance man was there right in the lobby when I went to the main door. He had been checking the hotel systems ever since the power went back on at 4:30 AM, so he let me back into the hotel and into my room.

That day we had tickets booked on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railway in the afternoon. Before our train trip, we explored the coast north of Lincoln City. This drive we took was supposed to have the most spectacular scenery, but what we saw was a little disappointing. Of course, we didn’t make it all the way around the top of the cape to Pacific City, because we had to make our train trip. It was raining all day, so it was nice to just sit on the train, but otherwise, this trip was a little disappointing as well. It went from one seaside town to another, Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach, but in between, we mostly saw the backs of houses. Rockaway Beach seemed like kind of a sad little beach town with a muddy beach and mostly tiny cottages. However, they have a great bakery right across from the railroad depot. We went across and had a treat and coffee then got back on the train.

After that, it was time to drive home, which we did in pouring rain. This was the first time to use my GPS, which gave us such a wacky route home that we ended up using Ray’s phone. The entire way home it was pouring, and we didn’t get home until about 7 PM. My neighbor and I had concluded that the preferences for the GPS were set strangely, so we had several times tried to figure out how to get to them. As a test on Friday, when we were sitting patiently in Portland next to the I-5 ramp (which would take us almost straight home), we told the GPS to Go Home, and it said, “Cannot go there with your preferences.” We then made a plan to go out to the garage before our next road trip (to Mt. St. Helens) to check the preferences when the car was stationary. Sure enough, we were discussing this plan the next morning when my husband, who had just said he didn’t change the preferences, said “I know how to do that,” and left for two minutes to change them. Since I didn’t know how to change them, it was clear who had done it in the first place and who had listened to me complaining that I couldn’t use the GPS on numerous occasions because it had routed me so strangely, and yet had said nothing. I don’t remember if I told you that the morning my friend and I went to Ashland, it tried to send me four hours out of the way to pick her up. She lives an hour away. The GPS had a Highways check box, and apparently, my husband had unchecked it, so it was trying to route us without using major highways.

The mask is open to show the other mask inside, but the side parts, when closed, make the beak of a bird that juts out maybe five feet in front of the dancer’s face.

But that’s neither here nor there, there is more frivolity to relate. The next night we did one of the most interesting things of the trip. We went to a summer ceremony at the Lelooska Foundation. The Lelooska family created the foundation to preserve the arts of the native people of North America. The ceremony takes place in a long house and consists of stories, dances, and the display of the masks representing the characters to which the Lelooska family has earned the rights and privileges, as he explained. These masks are extraordinary, and the ceremony and stories are interesting and funny. Chief Lelooska explained the meaning of what they were doing first and then told the story while the characters came out and danced. The masks are fantastic. We were not allowed to take pictures, so my picture is from a card that I bought in their gallery. This mask is one of a bird, and you can see that the person wearing it (most likely a woman, as almost the entire family was made up of women) has huge claws on her feet. This picture shows the mask opened up to show another mask underneath, but when the mask is closed, the beak projects about five feet in front of the wearer. It is truly spectacular, and then she makes a snapping movement, and it opens up.

Our final outing was on Sunday, when we drove up to Mt. St. Helens with my sister and my great-niece. It was a rainy day, and when we got to the mountain top, the mountain was covered by a cloud, so we never got to see it up close. However, my great-niece was delighted, because she said she had never been in a cloud before. The movies they have at the Johnson Observatory are great whether you can see the glaciers and the caldera of the volcano or not. I was delighted to find that I could easily tackle some hills that I had not been able to go up last October when my friend visited. It was cold and sleeting at the top of the hill across from the mountain, and we had a wet drive home.

My friend left on Monday afternoon, and after we returned from the airport, I fell asleep for three hours!

By the way, my painting is finally finished. I forgot to take a picture of it, but I’ll post a picture of it next week.

 

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.

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.

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.

 

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!

The weather guys get it wrong

Our driveway at 8 AM Thursday. You can see the snow is still coming down.

Snow was forecast for Thursday night and all day Friday last week. When I got out of bed Thursday morning at 8 AM, I thought to myself, it is light out, good. That means it isn’t raining, and we can go for our walk. Then I opened the curtains to see that it was snowing. Even the more recent forecast for our area showed that it wouldn’t snow until 11 AM, and our local weather station in Portland was saying there would be snow at 5,000 feet and up. We are at almost exactly 1,000 feet.

At first, my neighbor seemed reluctant to walk in the snow, which tempted me much more than the usual drizzly weather, but after I suggested we go walking farther down in the valley, where there probably wasn’t any snow. She said, “Oh, let’s just go.” In any case, at the park by Moulton Falls where we chose to walk, there wasn’t any snow, just puddles. I guess it is just far enough lower in altitude that it didn’t get snowed on.

It was a gray day, and drippy, but it was a nice day to walk. There weren’t very many people in the park until we met a group of about 30 who were in a Portland hiking club for seniors. I told them we were the Yacolt hiking club for seniors.

The view from the walking bridge over the East Fork of the Lewis River in Moulton Falls Park

We didn’t pay any attention to how far we walked or how long, although we were getting a little tired on the way back. What was my surprise to find that we walked nearly five miles and were gone more than three hours!

Here is a picture I snapped on our way back to the car. You can see that it’s a gray, foggy day. We got wet but only had to walk through a few puddles.

Today we are going walking again, I hope. So far, the weather is gloomy but not raining.

Another thing that happened Thursday was that the chimney sweeps were due out. In the morning, I asked my husband whether we shouldn’t call them and tell them that we had snow, as often we have it when the valley containing the larger towns and cities doesn’t, and workers arrive to be unpleasantly surprised. He said rather scoffingly that they didn’t care about snow. Well, the first thing they said when they arrived was, “We can’t go out on your roof. We’ll have to come back.” Our roof is rather steep, after all. So, Friday they came back, and we have had our stove burning merrily ever since.

Also on Thursday I went with my sister to Weight Watchers. I belonged years ago and managed to lose quite a bit of weight, but never gained my goal weight and just maintained my weight for over a year, which got discouraging. As soon as I quit counting everything I ate, I gained all of it back and more. Since I had almost weighed the same for many years, that scared me into thinking I shouldn’t diet again. But since then I have gained a lot of weight, so I’m trying again. We’ll see how it goes.

On Saturday we had plans to meet my Portland friend by taking the train into the Gateway station. She was going to pick us up there and take us on a tour of Russian grocery stores. However, I felt sick all Friday night, and my husband woke up complaining of being sick, too, so I cancelled. I had a runny nose and sore throat from stuff going down it, and I was worried about the flu. However, after several doses of hot lemon and some Nyquil the next night, I woke up on Sunday feeling fine. My nose still runs sometimes, so I can only think it might be an allergy. Our expedition to Portland is postponed to this weekend.

On Sunday we were invited to my niece’s house for dinner to help consume the prime rib that came with the beef they buy in bulk. I think my niece and sister divide a half steer, and that feeds them beef for quite some time. Dinner was delicious. I brought roasted beans and asparagus.

Finally, last night we met our new art teacher. She is not Theresa, as I had feared, but a new teacher. So far, it’s difficult to tell how good a teacher she will be as she was just observing. I spent the evening trying to paint my bird. I felt fairly frustrated, as my bird has lots of brown markings on whitish feathers. I thought I was just painting blobs. It’s at times like this that require patience that I fall down on the job, having no patience at all.