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.

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Painting progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critters and paint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A quiet place

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Sunshine! Plants and burnt sugar

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

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

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

The Great Blue Heron checking out the grass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

Quite the snowy week

I have no pictures for you today, unless you want to see our slushy, icy driveway. We had a week of snow almost every day, for a total of 10 inches by Wednesday or Thursday. Last Wednesday, we were able to get out to do our errands and found that once we came down out of the hills, the roads weren’t bad. But we kept put after that until Saturday morning, when we went to pick up my great niece for her tai kwan do class. An interesting difference between here and Michigan, where I grew up, is that people don’t shovel their driveways here. They just wait for the snow to melt. Well, in this case, the snow hasn’t quite melted yet, and getting up the hill in our driveway can be quite an adventure. You need a running start. When we encountered my niece’s huge but unshoveled driveway, we did a little skidding around trying to get back out. It was clear that only one car had driven down their driveway the whole time, which would have been my sister’s, and her tracks were filled with about three inches of snow. My niece and her husband were raised in California and don’t feel comfortable driving in snow, even though her husband has studded snow tires. He has to, because of his work as an appraiser.

My sister, in fact, was stranded in Portland for part of the week, as that’s where she works as a maternity nurse on the night shift. She spent the day at a coworker’s house and didn’t come home until Friday. On Saturday, she showed up at our house and told us that she had been on the way here when she pulled over on our one-lane road to make room for a truck and her car just slid off the road into the ditch. The truck driver, one of our neighbors, didn’t even stop to help. We went down and helped her get her car out of the ditch, at which point she parked it in our orchard entrance and said she was leaving it there until the snow melted. Then she walked home. She didn’t come get it until Monday afternoon.

We already had a plan for handling a trip out of town by my niece’s husband and great niece. As a surprise, my great niece’s father was taking her to Disneyland this week. Her little brother was staying home with my niece, who was going to take him to a nearby resort that has an indoor water park, as they had heard from her husband’s sister that their own children, who are about the same ages, had problems because the younger boy wasn’t old enough to go on lots of the rides. Anyway, the original plan was for them to leave my great nephew with us on Tuesday morning to babysit while my niece took the others to the airport, so that she could have the car with studded snow tires, since more snow is forecast. Then, we are picking them up at the airport on Friday so that my niece doesn’t have to hurry back from the resort.

However, we got an early wake-up call from my niece’s husband that day. My niece had been up all night with stomach pains. Could we drive them to the airport? I had to throw on my clothes and we were at their house in a half hour. All was well, though, and we got them to the airport on time. My great niece was really excited to learn where she was going, as it was a secret until they were on their way to the airport. She won’t miss any school, as she goes to school on Mondays and Thursdays, and Thursday is a teacher training day or something. She’ll just miss a few days of lessons with her mother.

Last night I went to art class again. I thought about taking a picture of my painting, as it is almost done. But I decided to wait until it was finished. I always enjoy my class and was upset with myself last week for not going. It had been snowing all day up here, which was why I decided not to go, but it was so much worse later in the week that I realized I could have gone. The problem is the ride back, which is all along two-lane country roads at night.  I was worried it would be slippery. But I made that trip last night with no problems.

I finally heard about the library job, and I did not make the cut for the interviews. I’m hoping this means that they had internal folks in mind for the job rather than they thought I flunked the assessment. The assessment I took was quite a strange one. The first part was sorting a cart of books, which I did in a weird way (I took the books off the cart, sorted them, and put them back on) but it was correct, which I think was the point. The second part was an easy computer test, where I had to look up a URL and then enter in information about a person from a sheet of paper. Then I had to look up information about a book that wasn’t yet published.

The third part was a written test, and it had its problems. Although by and large it was easy, almost a dumb guy test, it wasn’t well constructed. The first question was to identify a passage showing alliteration. As I have two degrees in English, I know perfectly well what alliteration is, but there was no good example of alliteration in the test. There was an example of assonance (some people confuse the two), and there were two passages with exactly two repetitions of a consonant apiece. The other choice was just a throw-in. I had no idea which choice they considered the “correct” answer. Then there were a few other questions where the answer was ambiguous, and in one case, I picked two answers and explained why, which for some people would mean I got it wrong. It depends upon how literal the person is who was grading the test. I think I overthought some of the answers. The final part was a bunch of synopses of articles, where I had to indicate which article would be the place where I would refer a patron for information. That part was easy. Oh well.

Lately, I have been noticing a large bird around our house that looks a lot like a robin but isn’t. It has much more of a golden orange tummy and some more speckled coloring than a robin does. I finally looked it up, and it is a varied thrush. We don’t have any cardinals here, and I miss them.

And that brings me to the little squirrel and the apple. We had a wizened apple sitting around here, and instead of putting it in the composter, I decided to leave it out for the birds. So, I took it out by the bird feeder. But it had been a snowy couple of days, and when I dropped it, it made a hole in the snow and disappeared. I figured someone would find it sometime.

Two days later, I was looking out the window and I saw a small squirrel with its head in the snow. Sure enough, it came tugging that apple out of the snow. The apple was at the edge of our driveway, which is where there is a slope up to some woods that our neighbors own. He began tugging the apple up the slope. He got about halfway, the apple was about as big as he was, when he lost his grip and the apple rolled down the slope. He went off and did something else, but a little later, I saw him pulling that apple up the slope again. I didn’t know what he was going to do, because the slope gets steeper the higher it goes, but he cleverly ate some pieces out of the apple and then pulled it into a rocky cavity about halfway up that is the top part of a water feature on the landscaped slope. That was all for him and the apple until the next day.

The next day, I saw that the apple was sitting halfway up the slope again. I think another squirrel or a raccoon or large bird might have stolen the little guy’s apple. Sure enough, he came out again, and started tugging the apple up the slope. This time, because we’d had a mixture of rain and snow, when he lost his grip and the apple rolled down the hill, it got covered with snow like it does when you roll snow for a snowman. Finally, he stopped tugging on it, and I saw that he was disappearing and coming back repeatedly. I realized that he had made holes in the snow where a big blob indicates our lavender bush, and he was popped in and out from under the bush. He was biting off pieces of the apple and carrying them through the snow under the lavender. After a little while, he disappeared with the rest of the apple into the lavender bush.

The only other thing I have to tell you this week is going to sound silly. It’s about my cat, Hillary (named after Sir Edmund Hillary, in case you were wondering). Last night we were watching a TV program that’s sort of a cross between a travel and photography program. The host is a photographer who travels to remote areas of the world to take pictures, and while he tells about the places he travels to, he also gives tips about how he’s setting up his shots. Anyway, Hillary started watching TV. She does this sometimes but usually only for a minute or two. This program was about Alaska and they were showing grizzly bears. Now I can understand her getting interested in birds, which they also showed, but I don’t really understand why she would be interested in bears. She was clearly getting excited at times, and she would look at the edges and top of the TV screen as if she was expecting the bear to emerge from the side or top of the television when it got to the edge of the screen. She watched TV for at least fifteen minutes before she lost interest. I find that truly amazing.