A fruitful week

Gosh, it’ll be nice when I can stop mentioning the coronavirus statistics every week, but I thought it would be good to have a record, week to week. This week is looking slightly more hopeful, because we are only up about 150 cases for the county versus 200+ last week. Hope that is a trend. So, the total number of cases this week is 2121 with 42 deaths. I think it is interesting that more and more people in the area seem to be behaving as if it is all over when actually all the statistics have gone way up. Just this morning, several people on the local Facebook page were berating someone who was trying to tell people that their children weren’t supposed to be playing on the playground equipment in Lewisville Park and trying to remind them that they could be taking the illness back to their grandparents. One person’s succinct reply was “Shut up,” while other people told her to mind her own business. Well, that is exactly what she’s doing. People don’t seem to get that. I don’t know where the idea of civic spirit went. Anyway, to continue my statistics, 36,605 people have been tested, and the rate of new cases per 100,000 is back up to 88. It seems to go up when cases have gone down and vice versa.

Wednesday was my day to water the orchard, which I wrote a bit on last week. I found that Wayne had continued to make my task a little more challenging. Having taken care of the hose issue, I found that he had moved all the watering buckets. Usually, I put them inside the fence of the wolf pen, but he locked them inside the little shed in the wolf pen, about a football field’s distance from where I usually leave them. (The wolf pen is big, as it would have needed to be to house wolves.) It’s true that someone stole all our buckets two years ago, but that was from the orchard, which is right next to the road, and moreover, I think it was a prank. The little jerks would have to have a lot more nerve to go across the orchard and open up the wolf pen to get them. In any case, I am moving them from that shed as I use them and just leaving them where I used to. If he wants to, he can move them back, and they’ll go back and forth all summer. We can put them in the shed at the end of the summer to store them for next year.

Thursday night my class met our new art teacher, a young man named Ryan. He showed us some of his work, which was really good, especially his portraits. He said he’d been working in animation until recently but quit because he wasn’t finding enough time to work on his own projects. Now he is working as a commercial artist. I learned two new things from him just that first night. I have been painting hairs on my pigs for weeks, something I started doing before the virus and am still doing, but they are too thick, and I didn’t feel as if I knew what I was doing. He showed me a different brush to use and a way to make them thinner. I guess I will continue with the class at least for the time being.

I was supposed to go hiking with Maja on Thursday but first she postponed it a few hours because it was raining, and then she cancelled altogether fifteen minutes before we were supposed to leave. I think it’s rude to cancel unless there is some emergency, but on the other hand I didn’t really feel like going. If we had left when we planned, we would have been outside when it was pouring rain.

That was the only day of rain we had, and now we are alternating back and forth between really pleasant temperatures and hot ones. But the evenings are getting quite cold, so I feel that fall is coming on even when we are in the month when summer is usually hottest here. So far, the last weeks of July were hotter than August has been.

Luke and I dropped by to see Christine and Duchess on Friday after picking up groceries at Fred Meyer. While we were there, her friend Renee dropped by. I liked her a lot. She had just gotten back from a short trip to Anacortes, and her description made me want to travel.

On Saturday, Wayne and I had to go load and move a bunch of firewood. First, we had to borrow a trailer from my niece’s husband. When we found the house, we saw that the wood, although good, was in much larger chunks than usual, so we’ll have to split it several times. In addition, loading and moving that much wood is a lot of work. It took all afternoon, which thankfully was quite cool. We were supposed to buy two cords of wood from that guy, but on our first trip home, we saw that the guy we bought firewood from last year was selling it again. He not only supplied really good wood, but he delivered it, it was cut to the right size, and it cost just about the same. So, we just took one cord from the guy on Saturday and put a call in to the other guy for two more cords from him. Wayne’s plan was to try to stack the firewood as we unloaded it, but because it isn’t in shape to be stacked, that plan went out the window.

It’s a strange thing about Wayne. You can’t make any suggestions for doing something differently than he has planned, or at least I can’t, or he’ll get very angry. Before we left, he tied straps on the sides of the trailer, planning to strap the wood down. I was reflecting that I’d seen people driving all over the county with loads of wood and none of it was strapped down. While we were loading our first load, I mildly suggested that the wood was heavy enough that we didn’t really need to strap it down, at which Wayne got very heated and told me we were doing it the way he planned it. Then, about ten minutes later, as if I had never said a thing on the subject, he remarked that he saw no need to strap down the wood. I don’t know if this is just his normal reaction to me or to anyone. I have to say that he is normally very kind to other people, just not to me, but on the other hand, other people aren’t usually doing projects with him. Whenever I try to help him with anything, it seems, I get yelled at. Sometimes when he does that I just walk away and let him finish by himself, but I couldn’t have done that under these circumstances. This from the guy who once told me that everything in our house had to be done my way. I’d like to know just what that everything is.

My haul from my niece’s raspberry patch. I also fed raspberries to the chickens.

On Monday, I went over to my niece’s house to pick raspberries as she had told me that they were done picking and wanted other people to come over and get the rest. It would be nice to have my own raspberries, but I know that they always get so many berries that they don’t know what to do with them. On the other hand, I often miss raspberry season because I don’t know when they would like me to come pick. I got about half a basket of berries that day, but it was very hot out, so I didn’t stay long. When I am picking, I always think about people whose job it is to harvest fruit and get every ripe berry off the bush. I don’t have enough attention span to do this but pick sort of haphazardly. Every time I move, I see different berries in the same area where I thought I had taken all the ripe ones. It would be a hard job.

While I was picking, I heard my niece’s chickens begging for raspberries from their pen on the other side of the fence, so I occasionally shot a berry or two over the fence at them. One of them actually sounded like the horn on a little car. He (I think it was a rooster) kept beeping at me.

Here are my admittedly small tomatoes. Still it’s nice to have fresh tomatoes, small or not. My tomato has a shape problem, too, but I’m sure it will taste just fine.

The other picture I took this week was of the tomato I picked a few days ago. It isn’t large, but it’s the largest one so far out of the ones I’ve been growing, and all I can say is, at least I am getting tomatoes this year. Last year, I only had one and it had a hole eaten in it before it got ripe. The year before, I got a whole bunch of green tomatoes just in time for frost. So, the idea of putting them on the back deck has worked out, and I just need to figure out what to do to make them larger. Maybe I need to water them even more than I have done. Here is a picture of my largest tomato, which is about half the size of the kind in the store, and two of the tomatoes from my other plant, which seems to be producing cherry tomatoes even though it’s not a cherry tomato plant.

I have finished the first draft of my novel, but my friend Claire, who is a historian, came up with a bunch of sources on a topic I couldn’t find much on, so I am reading that material in order to make sure that my final story is accurate.

 

A bit more exercise

This week our county shows a total of 843 case of the virus, up a shocking 140 cases since last week. That’s the biggest rise we’ve had, I think, during the entire time. We’re still sitting at 29 deaths, and 14,996 people have been tested. Our rate of new cases per 100,000 population number has gone down, 15.4, which makes me wonder how that number can be correct, since our new cases went up this week from about 50 a week to almost 150. The map showing our zip code seems to now be incorrect, because the color for our zip code has changed to show 80-120 cases (whereas last week we supposedly had less than 10), but the chart corresponding to the map still shows N/A for our numbers, implying they are less than 10. Very confusing.

Our weather was really nice for the last 10 days until yesterday, when it got a little misty, and today when it is downright rainy. We got a lot of yard work done, and our yard, for a few minutes anyway, looks pretty good. Yesterday, we were gathering limbs and sticks from our lower drive. I usually do this every spring, but this year, I just sort of shoved the limbs off to the side. Wayne wanted to pick all these up and put them in the burn pile, because they are fire hazards.

Last week was one for reviving our hikes. Maja and I did a socially distanced hike up at the Yale Lake logging road on Thursday. Unfortunately, because it was Luke’s Doggy Day Care day, he could not come. And speaking of which, I had an unpleasant encounter while dropping Luke off. The way they have it set up now, one person at a time, you ring the doorbell at Enzo’s and then walk into an empty room and put your dog in a crate. Then you walk back outside and ring the doorbell again, and someone comes through an inside door and gets your dog. They have this explained in detail on the outside of the door.

As I was going into the room, this woman came up right behind me and said “Thanks.” I thought that was odd, and I shut the door behind me, as I’m supposed to. Now, Luke has been with me almost all the time for the past three months, and he doesn’t want to go into the crate because he knows I will be leaving him. He was okay before, when I handed him off to a person, because he really likes it there, but he would always kind of look back at me like he wasn’t so sure he wanted me to go. So, I was having difficulty putting him into the crate when this woman walked right into the room. I told her she wasn’t supposed to come in there. She said, “They told me to come to this door.” I said, “You need to wait until I’m finished.” All the time, I’m struggling to get the crate door shut with the dog inside it and the leash outside it. She says, “But I’m supposed to come in here.” I said, “Wait until I’m done. No contact!” She says, “Between the dogs?” I said, “Between the people!” The whole time she was standing not too far away from me and I didn’t have my mask because I don’t usually encounter anyone there.

So, she went outside, and then she came right back in and opened up the inside door! The girl who was waiting at the door for me to ring the bell again told her to go back out. I finally had to pass Luke off to that girl, because I couldn’t get him to stay in the crate. (I might have been able to if it hadn’t been for the interruptions of that woman.)

When I got back outside, the woman was waiting, and I said, “I’m sorry I was grumpy, but I was having trouble with my dog,” and then I started to explain to her what she needed to do, as she still obviously had not read the door and was probably going to stand there in front of it all day. She said, “I’m not going to talk to you. You’re rude,” and then she proceeded to berate me the entire time I was walking away from her down the sidewalk.

At least Maja and I had a nice hike on a lovely day. It started out cool and warmed up, with quite a breeze off the lake. I keep thinking that would be a great hike for the fall, because you are walking with a steep cliff on one side with trees above you and the lake on the other, far below. There are lots of deciduous trees around, so it would probably be colorful.

Then on Friday, Christine and I took our dogs to Whipple Creek Park. We had been talking about going, because she had never been there and was curious. Apparently, her daughter walks there quite often. I was surprised by how many cars were there when we arrived. I have been there many times, and usually there are only a couple of horse vans and a few cars. This day, the parking lot was completely full, and we had difficulty finding places to park. However, the park is so big that we didn’t meet many people, two family groups and a couple of couples. A couple dog walkers. We saw several horses being loaded back into their trailers when we arrived and one horse was out being ridden when we got back to our cars, but we didn’t see any horses in the park. It is a beautiful park, so wooded and hilly that you wouldn’t know you were right next to a suburban area.

Luke had an eventful week, because Wednesday he also had his first appointment with his groomers since the state shut down. He was due to have one the week everything closed, so he was in bad shape. At the groomers, they just have the Dutch door locked, so you have to wait until they come and open it. Then you can come in. He looked quite handsome when he was done.

My first batch of peas

For my vegetable gardening, I was able to harvest my first batch of peas. They are supposed to be snap peas, but they don’t seem to be developing their inner peas, so they look like snow peas. They taste like them, too, so we’re good. I like both. Maybe since my radishes were mislabeled, my peas were, too.

Here are my yellow dahlias, back in bloom.

As for my raised decorative beds, I still am waiting for some flowers to bloom besides the ones that I planted already with flowers. The first blooms on my dahlias are all gone, but more are coming out, which cannot be said for my carpet roses. Otherwise, I have a lot of green in the beds, so it’s looking good for having more flowers soon.

Today, Luke and I were supposed to go hiking with Maja, but she rescheduled because of rain, so we will go on Friday. It actually looks like it’s going to clear up, even though my phone says it is supposed to rain all day. But we’ve gone hiking in pouring rain before and today it’s just been drizzling. Oh well.

 

Surprise radishes

This week our county’s total number of cases is up another 50 to 703. That means that in the last month, we’ve added 200 or more cases, as the number has been up around 50 every week. Since we had gotten to the point where we were only going up 10 or 20 a week for a while, this is disturbing. We have now had 29 deaths, so that’s one more since last week, which is too bad, because we sat at 28 for about a month. Now 12,503 people have been tested. The county has added a new statistic, the rate of new cases per 100,000 in population, and that number is 16.6. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to that number. Our zip code continues to have less than 10 cases, but that’s not as good news as it sounds, because we have to go into Battle Ground for most of our errands, and it is a hot spot where, moreover, most people aren’t taking precautions.

Just as the end of last week was mostly rainy, it has been mostly sunny since Friday, except for Saturday. We went right from days when we kept our fire going to days when we had to turn on the air-conditioning (only twice so far, though). We have done lots of yard work, particularly weed whacking. We now have the wolf pen cut and the rest of the slope beneath the house except for some grass way over on the edge of the property that I know Wayne wants to cut but I don’t think is important. Wayne took the riding mower down to try to cut more of the fence line and got it stuck in a ditch, so I went down with him to help get it out but ended up only watching for traffic. We got it out easily with the car. Then I took a weed whacker down there and did all of the curve that Wayne didn’t get to last week as well as the front of the house that I had started but stopped when my battery ran out. I actually ran a cord all the way down there and hit it with my new weed whacker instead of the battery-driven one.

Here’s a handful of radishes that I pulled out by accident. I didn’t even plant radishes, at least not according to my seed packets. The seed company must have made a mistake.

One other thing I did was begin to pull out my salad greens, which have gone too far and gotten too wild. And that’s when I made a discovery. Although I did not plant radishes, at least not according to the seed packets I bought, one of the packets must have been radishes, because I have radishes. All the seeds in the back are radishes and the ones in the front are mixed salad greens. I pulled a bunch out before I realized and left the rest in. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be very good radishes. I ate one that looked most like radish size, and it was woody on the outside and just a mush of liquid on the inside. Too much rain in the late spring, perhaps? We had all our March and April rain in May and June this year.

Some of the salmon berries that are growing in our little patch of woods next to the orchard

And speaking of growing things, this spring I may have mentioned some plants in a wild area we have that is between the orchard and the house that had red or bright pink flowers. I had never noticed them before, but I noticed them in early spring. I was wondering what they were, and it turns out they are salmon berries, because now we have some unripe berries on those plants. I am now wondering if my husband ate a ripe salmon berry rather than an unripe blackberry last fall when he thought he poisoned himself (for the second time—I wish he’d stop eating berries).  That happened last July, and the timing might have been better for ripe salmon berries than unripe blackberries, although maybe not if we already have them unripe now. I know they don’t taste that good when they are ripe, and he seemed doubtful that he had eaten a blackberry.

On Wednesday I was walking down the road with Luke and when we got to the spot next to where the creek runs under the road and into our pond, I could see clear into the pond, and there was a mama duck and five ducklings paddling around. Since then, I got several glimpses of them one day when Wayne and I were sitting on the bench next to the pond and even some glimpses from the kitchen window. The geese and goslings seems to have moved on, but we still have the ducks and for once their babies have survived to this point.

On Friday, my brother John and SIL Lucie got sick of being by themselves and drove over from Seaside for a visit at my niece Katrina’s house. I was invited over, so around noon, I walked over with Luke. Katrina had told me they were all bringing their own food, so instead I ate lunch first and brought some fizzy water to drink. We all sat far apart from each other on their large patio, and eventually, Katrina went in to make lunch for the kids, and John and Lucie pulled out some carrots and chicken salad from their cooler. We all had a nice time. After a while, though, I had to go home to use the bathroom and ditch Luke. I refilled my water and went back. It was a little strange, especially at dinner time, because Katrina started cooking kebabs, while John and Lucie had some salad to eat. John kept making comments about taking out his peanuts now. It was obvious the kebabs were making him hungry. They certainly made me hungry, so I went home and made dinner for me and Wayne. This made me think about how I would handle guests coming over for a socially distanced visit, and I thought I probably would have ordered pizzas for everyone. They say cooked food shouldn’t be a problem. Both Katrina and Lucie are concerned about eating healthy, but I don’t think a pizza would kill anyone on occasion. (Actually, I know that Katrina and her family eat them occasionally.) The main thing was how nice it was to see everyone, especially John and Lucie. He had been lamenting that he moved out here to be near us, and then the virus arrived, and he and Lucie have been on their own. They are planning to come back with their tent and camping gear and camp on Katrina’s lawn sometime. Katrina has installed an outhouse for just such an occasion.

The only other unusual event this week was that I went to the dentist. I have had an increasingly irritating pain that felt like it was under my teeth. My teeth there are crowns, so I was worried about an abscess. The pain wasn’t horrible yet, but it had gotten worse over the last few months, and sometimes when I opened my mouth, my jaw hurt. I don’t usually even try to diagnose myself and I certainly don’t assume the worse (like Wayne always does), but for some reason, maybe because it’s pandemic days, I was worried about an abscess or even jaw cancer and had visions of Roger Ebert’s mouth. Luckily, it turned out that I am probably grinding my teeth at night, and the dentist immediately spotted one tooth that was worn down. It was one of the crowns, which he said was not meshing correctly with the tooth above, so he simply filed it down until the bites matched. It feels a lot better now. Crisis averted!

 

 

 

 

Opening up a bit

This week our county shows 647 total cases of the virus, up almost another 50 from last week. It occurs to me that this might be because of more testing, now about 1000 more tests a week, but it also might be because people around here are just basically ignoring it. We have gone to level 2, which I only know because our dog groomer called us, but although I think it’s silly that the dog groomer couldn’t open up earlier, because I never see other humans in there and it would be really easy to do the social distancing, I think it’s not good timing to open back up generally. Anyway, back to my statistics, we now have had 28 deaths, which is the same as last week so that’s good, and 13,788 people have been tested.

We have basically continued to do our usual things, ordering groceries online and picking them up, staying home most of the time, only visiting Christine and Duchess and Katrina’s family but with social distancing, and wearing masks and gloves when we have to shop anywhere. I had been wearing some paper masks that Wayne had for doing shop work, but now I have some cloth ones. They are fancier, but for some reason they keep popping off my ears, a problem I didn’t have with the paper ones. I think the maker thought she was doing a good thing by using sturdier elastic, but it doesn’t stretch as well. If a person had ears any further apart than mine, they wouldn’t be able to wear these masks at all.

I know that opening up is being done as one size fits all, but in some cases it is ridiculous. For example, my groomer has to cut her work load in half, but as I said before, I never encountered anyone else in her shop anyway, and it would be easy to regulate that. You see someone inside, you stay out. She also has to work at half staff, which makes a little more sense because their grooming area is small.

Similarly, my friend Claire said that she has been called back to work at the museum. Now, she works in a museum warehouse where the exhibits that aren’t on display are stored and analyzed. It is humongous. About ten years back, we went to visit them and they toured us through it, and it was absolutely fascinating. Exhibits were everywhere, on the floors of the hallways even, bones, native artifacts, rocks, just everything you might think of being in a state museum. About five years ago, the governor of Illinois tried to close all the museums and succeeded to the extent of getting most of the employees dismissed. Claire says they have to go back to work at 50%, and she reckons that they will each have about 17,000 square feet of space, so the 50% thing just is silly for them. Even with all the employees back, they would have 6500 square feet of space for each person because since the layoffs only 12 people work there. Also, because her husband is retired, he cannot go in to use their lab facilities anymore because no visitors are allowed, and he still does lots of faunal analysis for different organizations, including them.

On Saturday we had a memorial service for Wayne’s brother Carl by Zoom. It had been planned by his brother Ken and wife Sandra and the technical details were handled by their daughter Sierra. It had a few technical glitches, in particular, when one person spoke some kind of feedback made it hard to understand her (that was probably caused by the environment around her, though), but it was really nice and touching. They had made a program of people who wanted to talk about Carl, and Wayne had prepared something, but he apparently hadn’t told Ken and Sandra he wanted to speak. As it was, he hardly opened his mouth. I always thought Carl was awfully nice, but the service made me wish I had known him when he was younger, because he was quite the character and sounded like he was lots of fun when he was young. Wayne wasn’t a part of most of the stories because apparently when lots of the hijinks were going on back in Michigan, Wayne was in the air force. It was things Carl was doing with his friends and his youngest brother Ken, like blowing things up and running a hot air balloon business (small ones with lights in them that they sent up into the air and apparently sparked reports of UFOs). Carl was certainly scarily intelligent and had all kinds of things to say about just about everything, an interesting talker. I only was around him a handful of times, unfortunately, because we lived so far away, and certainly since we moved out here, Wayne has shown no disposition to travel at all. (He doesn’t even like to go to the beach, two hours away.) I know that Wayne is going to miss his long phone calls with him. I think they got closer while he has been sick this spring, because Wayne called him almost every day.

Another much more minor death around here was of a baby bunny. It made me so sad to find a drowned baby bunny in what is supposed to be our fountain. We haven’t run our fountain since we moved here because it needs to be drained and refilled with clean water, or the engine will be ruined when we turn it on. It was just on once, showing us that it at least works. There is a pit at the bottom about a foot deep and maybe two feet square that feeds a waterfall in a circular, closed system, and it’s that pit that has to be emptied. Wayne has been procrastinating emptying it, including buying one new pump, losing that one, buying another one, and then deciding it wasn’t powerful enough to do the job. It’s been four years now that we’ve planned to empty it during the summer. Anyway, it looks like the bunny must have been playing on the ridge above it and fell in, and either it hit its head on the way in or just wasn’t able to get back out and drowned. I wish we had seen it fall, because we probably could have saved it, but the first we knew of it was when I was outside playing with Luke and he went over to the fountain and just stood there, and it was already dead. Luckily, the bunny was on the far side so Luke couldn’t get it out, because of course it took Wayne a couple of days to remove it. Poor little thing. As far as I know, this is the first death caused by the open pit, but I’m wondering if we should put a grate over it or a screen. We usually have frogs in it, though, and that would keep them out. We see rabbits running around our property chasing each other all the time, but this is the first time I’ve seen such a small one except once on the road when we were afraid one was too silly to get out of the way. It didn’t move until we were right next to it.

Speaking of wildlife, just yesterday I glanced out the kitchen window and saw a deer right below the house, grazing in the grass we haven’t yet cut on the slope. He was a young buck, with little one-inch nubs on top of his head. He seemed to be alone, but we wouldn’t have been able to see another deer that was closer to the house. The young does tend to go around in pairs, but I don’t know whether he was old enough to be normally out on his own or not. Maybe he has lost his sibling (or maybe his sibling was right there, and we just couldn’t see her). While he was back there, we also noticed three rabbits chasing each other around the wolf pen, which at this point has grass about three or four feet high.

Because I haven’t been able to take Luke out much this last two weeks, we decided to put him into doggy day care one day a week so that he could have some fun running around. His first day was last Thursday, and he certainly was pooped on Thursday night. It was also really nice to have a whole day in which I didn’t have to think about taking him out and feeding him and most of all, paying attention to him. I got a lot of work done on my novel and the laundry. I’ve been working on the same two stories, one set during World War I and the very last one, which is the earliest in time. I know where they’re going, but I’m finding them harder to write than some of the others. Those will be the last two, then I’ll do some polishing and try to find an agent or a publisher. I have a local publisher in mind that doesn’t work through agents but also appears not to do much publicity, so I might try an agent first, because I am horrible at self-promotion.

On Sunday, I took Luke for his first walk in two weeks down the road. We popped up Katrina and co’s driveway to see if anyone was outside, but only Søren was. I wanted to consult someone about our anonymous note about our fence line, so I walked around the house to my sister Sue’s side, and she was outside sweeping her patio. I started to tell her about the message and was surprised by how she acted. First, it was almost like she knew all about it, even though I don’t think she did, and then she seemed to get impatient with me and almost angry about it. It turns out that the sharp angle on the main road by our pond has been a bone of contention because it gets overgrown and causes a visibility problem on our one-lane road. But we don’t drive down that way very often, and especially not since the virus, as I’m not driving down to pick up Maja for hiking or Mischa for taekwondo, or anything like that. Yes, I do walk down that way, but when you’re walking, you’re not thinking about the visibility from cars, and you see differently. I had no idea about this issue, because no one ever told us. When I said something about that, Sue almost yelled at me, “But you just walked right past it!” It also turns out that both Sue and Ares had been trimming it occasionally and had been talking about doing it again as soon as it stopped raining and dried out a bit (it had rained almost nonstop for a week by then).

Maybe we’re just stupid, but I don’t know how we’re supposed to know this stuff if no one tells us, so it doesn’t seem fair for her to get irritated with us about it. She also got upset when I expressed our reaction to the anonymous note and she said it was what she would have done. We didn’t exactly have an argument, but maybe I hurt her feelings when I said it was passive aggressive and the rudest way to inform a neighbor that there was a problem (that was before she said it was what she would have done). Then Katrina, Ares, and Mischa came out of the house, and I said something to them about it. They were much nicer about the whole thing, and Katrina said if it had been her, she would have explained exactly what the problem was and signed it. I said, “Exactly,” because how can we ask them questions if we get an anonymous note?

So, now we knew the problem patch, and Wayne went right down that afternoon, because it was miraculously a little nice out, and whacked it down. I took out my new weed whacker that Wayne bought me (such a touching present) and whacked down the weeds along the front of the house. Everything has just shot up because of an unprecedented combination of lots of rain alternating with several days of sunshine and then back to rain. Starting Tuesday afternoon, we are finally back into the sunshine phase, so more mowing and weed whacking is on the agenda, because we still haven’t finished the back slope and now the wolf pen is deep in grass.

My vegetable garden also went crazy. There is little sign of pea pods, but my salad greens have gotten so huge, that I think they are probably in the bitter stage and there’s nothing to do but to pull them out. I planted way too many this year. The first year, I put my seeds in seed by seed, using up about a quarter of a packet, and I got about enough for one salad, only at different times so that I just added them to regular lettuce salads. Then the next year I tried head lettuce, but it never made heads. So, this year I planted two whole packets of salad greens, which turns out to be way more salad greens than two people can keep up with. Next year, I will do one, and that will be about right. I guess I am gardening by trial and error.

Here’s my bright pink dahlia, which for some reason likes to face toward the blue spruce.

For my pictures today, I bring you the progress in my raised beds. First is a picture of a dahlia. I bought it as a plant, but it had not bloomed before. It bloomed this week into a lovely bright pink. I know you’re supposed to take dahlias out in the winter and replant them in the spring, which is why I’ve always avoided them, but I only have two, so maybe that won’t be so hard to remember to do. My other dahlia bloomed yellow already, and that bloom has died. Now it is working on another one.

Here are my peonies coming up.

My other pictures are of sprouts coming up. The first one is of my peony sprouts, which are coming up from their rhizomes. I have three different plantings of them, one in each of the beds. They are pretty tall, but I don’t know how long before they’ll bloom. I know I planted everything a little late this spring.

These are mixed flowers. I should have kept the packet or at least read it more carefully, because I have no idea what they are.

Finally, the plant people sent me a free packet of mixed flower seeds, and although I didn’t pay a lot of attention to where I planted them (I’ll do better next spring!), I am pretty sure these are them, because the only other seeds I planted were different types of poppies, and those ones are coming up very very slowly.

 

 

 

 

 

A mystery solved and another one posed

Clark County now reports a total of 560 cases so far of the virus, up 50 since last week probably because of an outbreak in a food-processing plant in Vancouver. On the plus side, we are still sitting at 25 deaths, which means that no one else has died in three weeks, and then it was just one more person. Only 10,516 people have been tested.

Here’s a picture of my great nephew having lunch at the top. That little white dot above him to the right is Mt. Hood. It looked a lot bigger in person.

On Wednesday, my sister Sue, my great-nephew Søren, and Luke and I went hiking. It was a hot day, and we hiked up a logging road on Dunegan Mountain. This hike was not listed on any of the hiking sites but again a hike that my SIL Nancy found. Sue had been there twice before and said it was her new favorite. The hike was all uphill but at a gradual rise, so we huffed and puffed, but it was not too hard. At the end, we had to climb a steeper hill to get to the top of the mountain. On the way up and at the top, we had great views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams. The view of Mt. Adams was best on the way up but obstructed at the top by trees. This was a fun day, and we got a lot of exercise even though it wasn’t a long hike.

On Thursday I was quite lazy because I felt tired still from the hike. On Friday, I finally cut the rest of the orchard. Since then, I have been doing some weed-whacking on the slope below our house. There was so much rain in May that in no time the grass back there got to be about waist high. I went out there and worked on Monday and that made Wayne come out and do it, too. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, I was using the rinky dink weed whacker with the battery, and it doesn’t last very long. I started with the little battery, and it ran out after a half hour. Then I put in the big battery (well, Wayne did because it is too big for my hand), and then I had to change the string, and finally the big battery gave out, actually after not much longer than the small one. So, I went in. Wayne stayed out quite a bit longer and made a lot of progress. On my  way in, I was tired and hot, and I was trying to get through the gate onto the back deck while going up the steps and trying to get past Luke, and I tripped and smashed my knee into a step. So, the rest of the day I spent in bed with an ice pack. Yesterday, I went out again to weed whack for about a half hour, which was all the time I had before the battery went dead again.

On Friday, I finally got the second package of seeds and bulbs that I had ordered the day after the first package because I couldn’t tell if they got the order. It only took the first package four days to get here, but it took the second package ten days. Saturday was our only wet day, but I planted everything that day anyway. It was just a little drippy by that time, but in the morning, we were awakened by a huge thunderclap right above our heads. During the morning, we heard more thunder off in the distance, and then later on, it just poured all afternoon and evening. It’ll be interesting to see how my beds come out, because by the time I planted the last batch of bulbs and seeds, I couldn’t remember where I put everything else. The peonies were obvious, because they were already coming up, but otherwise, just some of the flower seeds were sprouting. I could have a messy looking garden by the time everything comes up. I have now learned to make a little map of each bed.

My dogwood tree

Something else that came out this week were the flowers on my pink dogwood tree. Christine’s dogwood was in full bloom a couple of weeks ago, and mine hadn’t even started. She only lives 15 minutes away, but that’s what the change in elevation does for you. We are at 1000 feet and often have snow when they don’t have any just five minutes drive away.

I finally figured out where the empty package came from. It wasn’t from Book Depository at all, although I had to interact with another idiot customer service person to find out. I explained that I was trying to find out if the package could possibly have come from the U. K. All they did was send me the same information that came in my Amazon email. I answered, “Thank you very much for that information, which I already have. Can you please tell me if the package could have come from the U. K.?” to which they answered no. Then Sunday, I remembered that I had placed an impulsive order with a bookstore in England after receiving a beautiful flyer tucked into a book from a different place. The addresses did not match nor was that company name on the package, but I thought again about subcontracting and asked them. For once, instead of some confused answer, I got an apology and a statement that they would try to track down the merchandise through Royal Mail (good luck with that) and if they could not find it, they would give me a full refund. Unfortunately, I had ordered a used vintage book, so they can’t replace it, although they could certainly replace the stationery and notebook I ordered. Actually, it looked to me as if only the book might have come (or not come, as the case was) from that other place, so I still may get those.

And now we have another puzzle. This morning I looked at the mail that Wayne collected from the mailbox yesterday, and we got a not so charming message from someone popped into our mailbox. (Just this really irked Wayne, because he’s always saying it’s illegal to put something in a U. S. mailbox, although of course people do it all the time.) Now keep in mind before you read this that we live in the country, not in any kind of official neighborhood or incorporated town or village. The note said, “Please cut and maintain your fence line. A Neighbor.” Now, we have the largest piece of fenced property in the neighborhood except perhaps the farm at the end of the road. I’ve never noticed whether their place is fenced or not, but ours is fenced on three of the four sides. We don’t keep any animals, so it’s not like our cattle are getting on the road. None of our grass is on the road or anything. It just looks messy. I usually trim along the orchard, because it’s right in front of the house, although I have not done it this year, but I have never been down the rest of the road and around the block with the trimmer. Nor does it look like anyone ever has. This fenced property includes a largish pond and a full pasture. So, what I want to know is, why would anyone care if it wasn’t trimmed? The only neighbor I’ve ever known to trim along his fence line is the family across the street, and they have about six boys who do it. I am further offended by the note itself. If there is some kind of problem I don’t know about, why could this person not have presented himself or herself at our door to tell us about it? Or even signed the note? Or sent us an email? As far as I know, we’ve been perfectly pleasant to all our neighbors, including the time one of them came and asked if someone could cut down one of our trees that was overhanging the road. Wayne says not to worry about it, but it bugs me that someone would do that. Although there are a couple of houses in our neighborhood that look more suburban than rural, most of them don’t, and we don’t live in a neighborhood where we’re required to keep the appearance of our house at a certain level. Finally, that’s an awful lot of fence line, and we’re 69 and 74 years old. The fact that we’ve been weed-whacking our backyard for three days and it’s still not done should tell them something.

So, someone appears to be a busybody unless there’s something I don’t know, and if there is, I wish someone would tell me. I asked Maja about it, but she was just shocked. We do have one new neighbor from Portland, and it’s possible that they’re still mentally stuck in suburbia, but I don’t want to assume it’s them.

Finally, I have seen both our beaver and our goose family this week. I’ve seen the beaver beavering back and forth across the pond, and one morning when I was walking Luke on the road next to the pond, I looked over and first saw the gander and then the goose with at least two goslings next to her. So, that is nice, because every year we get some sort of waterfowl down on our pond, and so far I have never seen the babies.

I got one of those “Memories” pictures today on Facebook, and it was of the beans and onions I picked last year on this date. No sign of any beans this year. The only thing I’ve picked so far are salad greens. I don’t know if that’s because it’s rained so much or because the forest has grown so much since last year that I’m not getting enough sunlight in there. I know I have a problem with that.

And that’s it for this week.

Seedy and dirty

As of today, our county has had 510 cases of the virus and 25 people have died. Only 8834 people have been tested. My sister-in-law Nancy explained to me that the chart that goes with the zip code map doesn’t mention numbers with fewer than 10 cases for privacy concerns. I never read this text under the chart, because I was always taught as a technical writer that a chart or graph must be understandable on its own. So, our zip code has 1-40 cases.

Here is the box on the left side as you look at it from the house. It has in it the baby blue spruce, snapdragons, carpet roses, a couple of bedraggled begonias (not visible), a dahlia, and a mixed arrangement of flowers, I don’t know what they are. Also planted in there are a couple of peony bulbs, some begonia bulbs (maybe—I already can’t remember what I put where), and some flower seeds.

Wednesday last week was rainy, so I didn’t get to plant my haul from the nursery until later in the week. I figured out where I wanted to put things but ended up moving them after I noticed how wide some of the plants would get. I didn’t end up using my lilac as an anchor bush, although that may have been a mistake. Instead, I used the abelia and put the lilac in with the Japanese maple, because I least I know the trunk on that tree isn’t going to be wide. If need be, I will eventually transplant the lilac into the backyard with the other lilacs.

Here is the middle box, right in front of the living room. It has a kaleidoscope abelia, three gerbera daisies, two blueberry bushes, some pink begonias, and a little clump of flowers whose name I don’t know. Planted underneath are two peonies, some echninaea, and assorted seeds.

On Thursday, Christine and I met at Fred Meyer to look at annuals. I figured that locally they had the largest selection, because they have a lot more space than the farm store or Ace hardware. I ended up buying mostly perennials, however, because that’s what appealed to me. I picked out a couple of things I didn’t know, as well as some gerbera daisies, some dahlias, some begonias, and some snapdragons.

I heard nothing at all about my order of bulbs and seeds, so I looked online, and by golly, the order that I registered provided absolutely no information except what was in it. The first order, of course, was not registered, so I couldn’t check its status. I wrote the company another email, which was a bit snippy and has also gone unanswered. However, on Friday afternoon, right after I finished planting the things I bought at the store, my first order arrived.

In the box on the right as you look out the window is a Japanese maple, a dwarf Sitka spruce, a lilac bush, a dahlia, and some burgundy and orange flowers whose name I forget, also some little white flowers. Underneath are yellow ranunculus, two peonies, and Icelandic poppies.

We haven’t had great weather this week, but I was able to plant my bulbs and seeds on Saturday without too much trouble from rain. That order was for ranunculus, echinacea, begonias, peonies, and seeds for Icelandic poppies. They also sent me a packet of mixed seeds of some other types. I don’t think I have a good head for figuring out what my garden will look like, so when all this comes up it may look very haphazard, but as my niece pointed out, next spring I can move things. I will be sure to put in my order for fall bulbs a lot earlier in the year so that I have a better choice.

So, that’s mostly what I’ve been doing this week, buying plants and planting plants. Oh, and I began mowing the orchard lawn on Sunday. Usually, I do about a third of the orchard on the first day, but this time I felt oddly weak and stopped after I had barely done a quarter. The part of the orchard near the road, which I do first, is always the most difficult because of the slant and the apple trees in the way. It rained all day Monday, so on Tuesday I got back to work on it and got all but the last third or a little less done.

I spent about an hour yesterday on Amazon customer support. Wayne came in with the mail in the late afternoon and told me I had received an invisible book. What I got was a completely empty package, one of those where they wrap cardboard around a book with a couple of ends of cardboard around the bottom and top. In this case, the cardboard on the bottom and top was of an inferior quality just taped into the package, and either it had gotten detached by itself, or someone had ripped it off and taken the book. According to the package, it was sent by Royal Mail, and it had a return address and some numbers on it. So, I looked up my Amazon orders, as usually that’s the only site I use for ordering books, and I couldn’t find it or indeed any book that was supposed to be arriving from the U. K.

So, I messaged Amazon customer support (after evading their stupid bot). First, I got a complete idiot. I had explained that the entire problem was that I didn’t know which order was lost, and she kept asking me for the order number. I told her that I had hoped they could look up the seller by the address. She never mentioned whether she had tried that. She did try putting the two numbers on the package into their system, but they were not regular tracking numbers, although undoubtedly one of them had to be a tracking number for Royal Mail. There was a customer number also on the box that apparently meant nothing to them. She kept asking me to provide the tracking number, and then saying things like “How can you expect me to look it up if you won’t give me the number?” as if I was hiding it on purpose. After I explained several times that I’d given her all the information I had, another person came on who was a lot more helpful, but ultimately, she couldn’t figure it out, either.

The only book that was due to be delivered right around yesterday was supposedly coming from Book Depository U.S., but I suppose it’s possible that they subcontract out to get their books from anywhere, so the last thing I did before giving up was send them a message about it. I hope it turns out to be their book, because otherwise, it’s a complete mystery and I have lost the money I paid for it. The problem is that sometimes books I order take a long time to get to me, although that usually involves a pre-order.

I have not worked much on my stories this week, but I have an idea for another story that I’ve started. I think that will be my last one to do (not last in the book, though). The last story I have had in mind for the duration of the project, in fact, started writing it a year ago or so. I worked on it a little more but have not finished it.

I hadn’t seen either the ducks or the geese for a while yet, but yesterday I saw the male Canada goose swimming around in the pond, so they are still here.

 

Lots of dirt

As of this week, we have had 412 people test positive for the virus in our county and 25 deaths. At least the deaths are slowing way down. There have only been about one a week for a few weeks. Now, they have tested 7,613 people, which still seems inadequate. I just looked and our county population is just a bit less than 500,000, so they have tested just over 10% of us! I don’t know how they are going to know what’s going on that way. Our map information is still confusing, showing 0-40 people with the virus in our zip code but then in the chart version of the map, showing N/A for our zip code. I think someone just accidentally colored our zip code on the map and hasn’t noticed the mistake, although usually these maps are generated from the data, not manually.

On Wednesday afternoon, the truck came with our dirt in it, and we spent the next couple of hours shoveling. We managed to fill one of the three planters with dirt. On Thursday, we took a break from it, because it rained all day long. In any case, I had a regular six-month appointment that day with my doctor. On the way back, I stopped by Christine’s to give her a present. I saw  a program about a Portland company that offers a unique product. You can put together a seven-picture slide of your own photos for a ViewMaster slide, and then buy the ViewMaster and slide from them. Since I discovered this, a couple of years ago, I have been sending them to friends and family if I have enough pictures that apply to them. I could just barely get one together for Christine. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a picture together, probably because I hate having my picture taken. I had already had slides made for the rest of my family, who have their own ViewMasters.

On Friday, Wayne and I resumed our dirt moving and managed to fill both of our last two planters by the end of the day. Wayne did a lot more work than I did, because my arm muscles aren’t used to that kind of activity, but I did plenty of shoveling. I just had to fall out every once in a while and he continued by himself.

My anchor plants for the three boxes are a baby blue spruce, a lilac bush, and a Japanese maple. Besides those plants, I bought a kaleidoscope abelia, two blueberries, a dwarf Sitka spruce, a , carpet rose bush, and two begonias.

On Tuesday, I made plans with my sister to go to the nursery. She brought Ares’s car and trailer so that we could buy large plants and trees if we found any, and I drove behind in my car. As it turned out, I couldn’t afford really large trees. I ended up with quite a haul, maybe not the best choices in the long run, but I don’t know what I’m doing. It turned out that because I paid more attention to how tall the plants would become, I ended up buying quite a few things that are going to get wide. I included a photo of my haul. I also intend to plant bulbs, perennials, and annuals. I was going to buy the bulbs locally, but I looked online and decided it was quite possible everyone would be out of bulbs, so I found a spot that still had some ranunculus, peonies, poppies, and some other flowers. I am a little alarmed, though, because I made the order yesterday and have not yet received an acknowledgment of it, which is usually automatic. Since hardly anyone had any bulbs left, I am worried that something happened to my order. It may just be, since I placed my order after their closing time, that they don’t acknowledge it until they are sure they have the plants. However, that was yesterday, and they haven’t even answered my follow-up email, asking if they got my order. I didn’t see anything on their website about being closed because of the virus. I guess I will wait another day and then place another order.

Here’s my tiny tomato.

Placing my tomatoes on the back deck seems to be working out wonderfully well. I already have an inch-big tomato coming in, something that has never happened before at this time of year. I have usually had to wait until the end of the summer before I got anything resembling a tomato.

There has been a big breakthrough with Luke. It has long been our practice, except occasionally or for special events, to eat dinner in front of the TV. (I know, what a bad habit.) Since he was small, we have been telling Luke to go on his place during dinner, and if he does so without too much fuss, he gets a little bit of what we’ve been eating. It’s almost always a struggle, though. Sometimes he’s had to retire to his crate, and most times, I have to walk him right up to his place and turn back around to make sure he has all his paws up on it. (At Enzo’s, he was known for having at least one paw hanging off place at all times.) Just the last two nights, though, as I started serving up the food in the kitchen, he went to his place all by himself, without even being told, and got on it. What a sweet dog!

This week I have finished another story for my novel and started working on the last one. I am not sure whether I will have to write more stories or not. My book will not be a very long one, I don’t think, but then short stories often aren’t long volumes. I don’t have any more ideas for stories, but my latest idea was a pretty good one, I think. I also worked again on the story I was least happy with, but I decided it wasn’t as bad as I thought.

On Monday, Wayne did my grocery run with me so that he could stop in Vancouver clinic and get a lab test done. I think I’m not going to continue trying to place a weekly grocery order, because it is now a lot easier to make a reservation. My last order was very light. I will keep a running shopping cart and place my order when it becomes more substantial or we need something right away.

I found a disturbing thing on the house this week. I noticed that the glass of one window for the upstairs guest room has a smashed circle, as if something round hit it. It is not broken through, but it is pushed in. I know it was not like that when we bought the house or when we were doing all the work on it. I was trying to think if I hit the windows when I was first learning how to throw the ball for Luke with the chucker. I did hit the house once, but I don’t remember hitting the window. If I did, I suppose I might have made that spot, which is about the right size. Of course, Wayne thinks those kids did it. It is not a bullet hole. I had a couple of those in my windows in Austin.

Pretty much all week it has been rainy and dreary. Friday was the exception, and we spent almost all of it outside working on the garden. This morning it is very wet out, but it looks like it could turn nice.

 

A spoofing attempt

As of today, our county had had a total of 393 cases of the virus and 24 people have died. Only 6,286 people have been tested. I guess I should be happy that the number of people tested finally seems to be going up by about 1000 a week. The map showing our zip code now says that we have up to 40 people in our area with the virus, but the corresponding chart says N/A for our zip code, so that’s confusing, as if they have no data. If they have no cases, I’m not sure why the zip code isn’t shown in white like it used to be.

I reported that my best friend in Illinois thought she had the virus. She seems to have it, because she gets recurring fevers and headaches, but it also seems to be a mild case. I’m hoping that soon she’ll stop getting sick just when she thinks she is well.

This week, Christine came over to our house for social-distanced dog activities. My original plan was to have coffee at either end of our outdoor table so that she wouldn’t have to come inside, but she was worried that Duchess, who is very small, might slip under the deck rails and fall to the ground. The deck is one floor up, so we didn’t want that, plus the slope is right under it, so a falling dog could fall quite far. So, we had coffee inside, which might have been a bit risky, but then we took the dogs down to the wolf pen so they could run around and chase each other, and took them for a walk on opposite sides of our road. It was a nice time for her to come, as several of our trees were flowering. The azaleas had also just started to come out but aren’t fully bloomed yet.

On Friday, I caravaned with my sister and her family out to a road we have hiked before, north of Cougar. It is a seven-mile walk along an old logging road that runs next to Yale Lake. However, this time we took some side trips and discovered a couple of nice, unoccupied beaches. Since the state had opened its parks, we wanted somewhere that wouldn’t be full of people, and on this walk, we only met two other people. The first trail off the path led down through bright green forest to a narrow green ledge next to the Lewis River, just before it goes into the lake. It had a large rock next to it where the kids enjoyed playing.

Here are Luke, my sister, and my niece relaxing on the green beach by the Lewis River. Luke has forgotten his social distancing.

We returned to the road and took the next right, which led us down to a broad sandy beach. The kids hadn’t wanted to leave the green beach, but they were delighted with the sandy beach. We saw another couple there, who came up in a kayak and landed but then got back into their kayak immediately and went on. It was a bright, windy day, and at one point we got blasted with sand. The kids and Luke were especially having fun.

It was a very nice day. The only other outing I have made this week was my usual Monday morning grocery pickup and stop by the coffee booth. This time the owner was not there, so she finally managed to hire a helper. Just before this all happened, she was telling me how difficult it was to find someone reliable.

Luke inspecting my beautiful boxes on our skimpy front lawn. They are just pine, but after Ares researched the matter, he said that the newer cedar doesn’t last much more than a year longer than pine.

On Saturday, Ares, my niece’s husband, came over with wood and built my planters, which he told me he would build three years ago. Because all of our land has rocks underneath it, it being artificially formed after they dug into a hill to build the house, I have had nowhere to plant ornamental plants except for a few things I put into the orchard. In Texas, despite my difficulty keeping things going in the heat, I used to plant annuals every year at minimum. The original plan was to have two 4 x 6 x 3 beds, but when he finished the first one, he suggested that it was too tall. I had not wanted to do much bending, which was why I asked for three feet high, but I could see it didn’t look right. So, he nicely took it apart and told me he had wood to do three 4 x 6 x 2 beds. So, that’s what he did! Now I am waiting for my garden soil to arrive, which is supposed to happen this afternoon. Then much dirt moving will ensue. And finally, the fun part, going to the nursery.

I had assumed we would make the boxes out of cedar, but Ares researched this topic and found that only the old-growth cedar, which is no longer available, lasts much longer than pine. He said my pine boxes might last one year less than cedar but would cost a lot less. He also put them together with screws so that it would be easy to pop out a rotting board and replace it.

Today and yesterday were cold and rainy, but leading up to them we had some hot days. Just last week I stopped wearing the two shirts I began wearing every winter since I got here. Then suddenly, I needed a short sleeve t-shirt for a couple of days, and now I’m back to two shirts.

If you are wondering about my title, I have also been receiving attempted spoofing messages this last week. I got a message purportedly from a seller on Amazon about the toaster I bought a few months ago. I had given this toaster a bad review, because two months after I bought it, I put the lever down to toast a piece of bread, and it broke right off! Although Wayne says the break looks like metal fatigue, to me it looks like the part, which feels and looks like metal from the exterior, is just plastic. We had been using the toaster for two months, so I just gave it the bad review, thinking we wouldn’t be able to return it.

Anyway, I received this message offering me a gift card if I would remove the review and telling me how to do it. This message also had buttons at the bottom that said “Yes, I Agree,” or “No, I Don’t Agree.” The message looked really fishy to me. First, the description of the product I bought was in Spanish, while the actual product description on Amazon was not. The links to my purchase were clearly Amazon links and they were to my purchase, but the email addressed itself to my great niece, who is only 11. Finally, there was no company name on the emails, just a person’s name. I ignored the first message but I kept getting them, and each time they offered me more money.

I thought it could not be from the seller, because they would only have the information I used for the sale. There was no way they would know my great niece’s name. At one point, I was ready to push the button, because I couldn’t see what anyone would gain by asking me to remove a review, but of course, it was the buttons they wanted me to push. I did not and finally reported this to Amazon, and they are assigning it to their fraud team. However, I am concerned, because these people must at least have gotten into my buying history and my address book, and I’m not sure I conveyed that very clearly to Amazon.

I have been mentioning our ducks now and then, but I don’t think I mentioned that one time Wayne said they were too big for ducks, they were geese. However, the next time I got a look at them, I looked them up in my bird book and they were mallards. (Keep in mind that I see them from the house, which is far up above the pond.) Then, on Friday on their way over to caravan for the hike, my niece and sister reported that they had seen two Canada geese and three goslings coming from our pond. So, I thought, gee, how could I have mistaken geese for ducks? Well, just yesterday while Wayne and I were sitting on a bench by the pond, a female duck landed in it, so apparently we have both a duck and a goose couple staying in our pond this spring. In fact, if we hadn’t gotten the spoofing messages, which I thought was more interesting, I would have named this post “Duck duck goose.”

Lately, too, we have seen a lot of the rabbits and the chipmunks in our front yard, the chipmunks usually under the bird feeder. They are driving Luke nuts!

Finally, a discovery from the depths of the basement. Quite a few years ago, I put together a small collection of turn-of-the-century (20th) boys’ books by W. H. G. Kingston. I had only read one of them and was meaning to read the rest but never got around to it. Then during the move they were misplaced. Wayne finally found them in the bottom of a box of his unpacked books. I read one, and it wasn’t as good as I remembered, but it’s nice to have found them.

And that is about it for this week! I hope everyone is well.

 

 

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!