Archive for the ‘Country Living’ Category

Lest We Think Otherwise

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Nest at our Front Door

No matter how vigilant we are, our ‘feathered’ friends seem to be having their way with us.  Much like our current ‘leaders’ in the Other Washington?  Well, the comparison is probably a stretch – a flight of fancy you might say –  but the thought occurs all too frequently.

Take our local visiting barn swallows.  They have been trying for a month or more to build nests on our house.  Usually, we have allowed them to do so in the back-forty just outside the kitchen window.  But this year that area is scheduled to be painted, so every day Nyel hoses down the first nest-building efforts.  And every day, the swallows – three pair and three nests – go back to work within minutes.  Cheeky little critters.  And they don’t get it that they are not welcome.  Not at all.  Public opinion means nothing to them.

Nest Close-up — Hurriedly done?

They’ve also been trying to build on the lintel directly above our front door.  Ditto all the above concerning Nyel and his Garden Hose Discouragement Program.  On Sunday when we were gone for the afternoon doing necessary new car business, those Front Door Swallows managed to build their entire nest.  By the time we got home it was a “done deal” and they were sitting proudly (and threateningly) nearby.  Persistent (if a bit stupid) to the max.

There is some dissention in the main household about taking down a completed nest – it’s a Venus vs Mars thing.  I think that once the nest is complete and the eggs about to be placed within, we humans have to let nature take its course.  Nyel… not so much.  We’ll see how it plays out.  I keep mentioning that the swallow couple have actually made a few compromises – the nest is not exactly over the main in-an-out traffic area.  So far, I don’t think I’m being heard.

Svetlana Checking Out Compost Area

Then there are the chickens.  We have been keeping them in their run, locked away from the rest of the garden during this tender-new-plant part of the year.  But yesterday, here came the Russian Orloff, bold as bold.  An inspection of the run revealed a big hole in the hog wire, probably the accomplishment of our local henhouse hacker, Rocky Raccoon.  The other three girls (perhaps not quite as bright as Svetlana) had not noticed and were still where they belonged.

While Nyel repaired the damage and made things secure, I tried to entice Ms. Svetlana back to the coop, but she was having none of it.  She successfully evaded me from one area of the yard to the next and it took Farmer Nyel to finally trick her back into the run.  I’m not sure if détente with the Russian will last – she’s a sneaky one.

Hummingbird Vigilante

Meanwhile, the hummingbirds have taken to looking for us when their feeder is empty.  They come to windows all around the house – wherever we are, they show up with their hovering trick.  And, as if that isn’t enough, they sometimes tap their beak against the window pane!  Of course, we drop everything and all but salute and click our heels.  I wonder how much sugar we go through in a season.

Peaceful co-existence is difficult here in the Springtime.  We can only hope that it doesn’t escalate during the long, hot summer.  One thing though… it’s never dull.

A Toss Up For Sure!

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Builders on a Break

I’m not sure who’s winning around here – the plant kingdom or the world of winged creatures.  It’s one realm or the other and, for the present time I doubt that we would even be considered contenders.  Except maybe with the swallows.

Nyel has been persistent in his efforts to discourage their nest building.  We are waiting for a few days of good weather to repaint the very area that has harbored barn swallow nests for at least thirty years.  It’s a generational apartment complex out there under the eaves of the old kitchen porch – four nests that have been refurbished year after year.  But not this year – not if Nyel can help it.

Me?  Not so much, though I do agree that the painting comes first.  Explaining to chattering, dive-bombing swallows that they’ll have to find other quarters for this year has been difficult.  I’ve even told them (but not within my husband’s hearing) that they can come back for their next second go-round this year.  “Just find another spot for your first family this season,” say I.  “Then you can come back here again.”  They are having none of it and the war between Nyel vs. the swallows continues day after day.


This morning, on the other side of the house – right out our bedroom window – it was another story. An Allen hummingbird – all 3.15 grams of him – hovered around our empty feeder for a few seconds as we sipped our morning coffee.  We talked about rectifying that situation but before we could even register the full thought, he was back.

This time, he paid no attention whatsoever to the feeder.  He turned his back toward it and hovered right at the window, looking at us accusingly.  I was sorely tempted to leap up, click my heels, and salute.  And for sure I felt guilty.  The feeder will be up before tomorrow.  I promise.

Thank goodness we don’t have a starling problem.  Yet, anyway.  We learned last week that a recently deceased friend’s house – empty for six weeks now – is soon to go on the market.  It’s a gorgeous place, right on the bay and should sell in nothing flat.  But… the plan has been held up pending the eviction of a scourge of starlings who have apparently found a way in and have taken over the upper story!

Listening to the Grass Grow

Meanwhile… above the twittering and humming and wing-beating outside our walls, I think I can hear that persistent sound of grass growing.  It’s the high whispery sound, not to be confused with the more boisterous accompaniment of buttercups and dandelions and the twang of the bindweed.  It’s the growing season for sure.  Or is that the groaning season?

“Look around! Look around!”

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

Bear in the Tall Grass, Oysterville – Photo by Tucker (2014)

Ever since I’ve arrived at the forgetful stage of life, I rely on Nyel to answer all those where-did-I-leave-my-coffee-cup questions.  He has the amazing ability (or so think I) to know exactly what is where in this big house of ours.  Actually, he knows that about our tool shed and our garden, all of the visible parts of Oysterville, and the Peninsula, too.  It’s a gift!

Fortunately, he doesn’t become annoyed with my constant questions beginning with “Have you seen my…”  The closest he comes to a disparaging remark is to say, “Look around!  Look around!”  But I’m here to tell you that my visual memory is no better or worse than it has been over the last thirty years of our marriage.  And, I’ve come to believe that it’s not just a memory problem.  I’ve decided it’s related to dyslexia of a spatially challenged nature.  In fact, I was cheered recently to learn that educators are beginning to consider adding “spatial literacy” to the elementary school curriculum.

Eagles in the Monterey Cypress, Oysterville – Photo by Tucker (2002)

It’s hard to believe, but as many times as I’ve traveled on the front road – one or two round trips a day for forty years, you do the math – I cannot say with any assurance that Tides West is north or south of Loomis Lake State Park.  Or if the little mall with is north or south of Snap Fitness (in our household just called “the gym.)  If I need to be somewhere and am in a time crunch, I usually ask Nyel for very specific landmarks so as not to waste time hunting.  Thankfully, he is patient.  No eye-rolling or mentions that I was there only a week ago.

Yesterday, we went to CostCo (does it come before or after the turn to Lum’s?) and came across our once-upon-a-time next door neighbors Dobby and Lila Wiegardt.  We clotted up the mayonnaise aisle for a while talking about life along the bay.  They said their newly-mown meadow has been a gathering place lately for the North End Elk Herd – between 20 and 40 of the huge animals enjoying the tender, regenerating grass just beyond their windows.

Elk in the Meadow, Oysterville – Photo by Sydney (2012)

I couldn’t help but wonder if I had missed the herd’s trek along the mudflats as they traveled from Leadbetter Point to Dobby and Lila’s place.  I’ve certainly been out in the garden enough… but it’s probably one of those look-around-look-around things.  I wish I’d thought to ask the Wiegardts for a heads-up call next time they see the herd on the move to the north.  They truly are a sight to see!  And when it’s happening right in front of the house, I don’t have a bit of trouble remembering the where of it!

…and the town’s filling up!

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Headed for the Beach

In Oysterville, it feels a little like it did thirty or forty years ago when most of the part-time residents would show up on holiday weekends.  Nowadays, with our ever-increased mobility, home-owners and their friends and family seem to come and go whenever the spirit moves – not necessarily for special occasions only.  But… yesterday, as the town started filling up, I had a little bit of déjà vu.

            For starters, I think the Accuardi family is planning to be here in force to celebrate Fred and Gail.  They have sold their Red Cottage after twenty years of careful stewardship and their large family is gathering to wish them well and to say ‘arrivederci to Oysterville’ – at least to this chapter.  Martie and Steve at the Captain Stream house will continue the family’s connection with the village with energy, enthusiasm and next generations – “as God intended” as our friend Te would say.

Line-Up at the Dock

In the Red House (not to be confused with the Red Cottage) Cousins Abby and Dan Ronco and kids (the sixth generation of Espys) have arrived with friends.  Their plan is to have an Easter Egg Hunt throughout the town on Sunday.  I hope the weather cooperates, but knowing my intrepid cousins, a little rain and wind won’t slow them down.

Other folks are in town to take advantage of the long overdue clam season.  We haven’t been out but we understand the digging is great.  We’ve already been offered some freshly cleaned clams from neighbors Tucker and Carol!  (Sometimes there are advantages to being old or infirm.)

Beach Driving

And, of course, there are all of the ‘regulars’ –those spirited neighbors who are here every-weekend-no-matter-what. Plus, those who live here full-time but have been away for parts of the winter.  Add us all up and the town seems a-bustle.  As my folks used to say, “It feels like Old Home Week.”  Throw in a bit of intermittent sunshine and we can almost imagine that spring and summer are on their way after all!

Housing Shortage

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Last Year

I’ve heard tell there is a shortage of low-cost housing on the Peninsula – especially rentals.  I’m sure that the reasons for that are complex, but it is a bit disturbing to see all the usually-empty second homes throughout our communities and, at the same time, to know that there are a whole host of people having a hard time filling that most basic of needs.

The last few days, my considerations about housing have become even more confused.  The swallows are returning and we are attempting to let them know that our house is a NO VACANCY neighborhood.  Not because we (probably just I) don’t want them here.  They have been nesting in our Kitchen Garden for at least 20 years.  Last year there were six nests out there, tucked up under the porch roof – a regular colony — and several of the swallow couples raised two broods in their seasonal homes.

Spring Welcome Wreath

But, this year there is a conflict of interest between us and our little feathered friends.  We need to have that part of our house painted.  I wish I could explain to the swallows that we have put off the inevitable for two-score years specifically out of deference to them.  Unfortunately, their nesting season coincides perfectly with our painting season and, once they are settled in, I can’t bear to have the nests knocked down.

Right now, the swallows are just beginning to arrive and they are in house-hunting mode.  Our first ‘inquiry’ for the season began with a knock at our front door.  Well… almost.  Nyel was about to go outside for something and, through the window, he saw a swallow perched on the pussy willow wreath that hangs on the door.  They looked at each other for a minute or so before the swallow took off – long enough for communication to take place.

Swallow: “Season’s greetings!  I’m back!”
Nyel: “No nesting this year.  Go away.”

No Vacancy

Nyel followed up his end of the conversation by taking down all the old nests (while I was off on an errand) and putting up some fluttery hanging things as deterrents against a new building boom.  I was upset by it all – Nyel says it’s a misplaced nesting instinct on my part – but I do recognize our need to have the area painted.  I am resigned.  For now.

What’s the dress code?

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
1912 - Dress Code for Children's Portrait: White

1912 – Dress Code for Espy Children’s Portrait: White

There was a time that we knew (more-or-less) what to wear to the usual events and activities of our lives.  We had ‘school clothes’ and ‘dress shoes’ and ‘cocktail outfits.’  Our choices were dictated by time and place.  An afternoon garden party required a choice different from an evening dinner dance.

Nowadays, not so much.  In fact, when I ask Nyel what he’s going to wear for this or that occasion, his invariable answer is “Levis.”  Somehow, over the years, that has become the standard fashion choice — for both of us.  There are still degrees of appropriateness, though.  A ‘Montana Tuxedo’ (Levis with a sport coat, shirt and tie), for instance, is certainly more dressy than ‘Northwest Chic’ (Levis with maybe a shirt  or jacket from REI or another outdoorsy outfitter.)  For me, maybe a change of earrings.

2006 - Mom at 95.  Dress code always: a hat!

2006 – Mom at 95. Dress Code always: a hat!

So, yesterday when a blog reader questioned me about the appropriate dress code for extras at Friday’s Blind Pilot taping at the church, I had to say I was clueless.  I passed on the question to the woman who is making the arrangements and she said, Thank you for asking.  There is not a specific dress code — please just wear what you would wear to a service or on a casual day.  Which, for Nyel is Levis.  For me… probably one step up, as in black, rather than denim.

As I remember, all of this vagueness and uncertainty about what to wear began about the time I moved here from California — back in the days when Twiggy and miniskirts and fashions from London’s Carnaby Street were still the rage, at least in the Bay Area.  I found that the Northwest seemed to have a fashion sense all its own — based on comfort, people said, and the incessant rain, I thought.  Even after forty years (which included Seattle’s most famous fashion contribution — early 90s grunge) I still haven’t figured out what to wear, when.

Daily Dress Code Oysterville Gothic

Sydney and Nyel: Daily Dress Code, “Oysterville Gothic”

Sadly, my wardrobe reflects my uncertainties about choice: bleak.  My response these days pretty much mirrors Nyel’s when it comes to dress code questions.  But I do take some umbrage with the ‘comfort’ argument.  If feelings count, I think I’d be more comfortable if I really, truly knew that one thing and not another was more appropriate.  This ‘anything goes’ attititude is kinda hard.

Our Feisty Housemates

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Full to OverflowingSwallowsGiven a choice these days, we leave and enter the house not in the usual way but through the garage or the east door.  Dive-bombing birds are the reason.

Swallows!  And not just one or two at a time.  Sometimes as many as six!  Usually four.  Having a fast-flying, angrily chirping feathered missile coming at you is bad enough.  But one after another in kamikaze fashion is hard on the nerves to say the least.

The reason for the aggressive behavior is abundantly apparent.  In the nest just feet from the top of our main house entrance, four baby swallows are looking suspiciously ready to fly.  At least one is at that overflowing-the-nest stage and has already taken a short test flight to the top of the very doorway we customarily use.

Mom and Pop Swallow have been wonderfully protective parents from the get-go. Until their eggs hatched, one parent or the other would sit on the nearby gate and scold us relentlessly when we had the audacity to approach their territory.  Never mind that we were here first.  The swallows definitely look at proprietary rights from a different viewpoint.

Mom at Work

Mom at Work

But, even after their babies had hatched, the parent swallows took turns scolding and flying around nearby.  There was no dive-bombing.  And there were only two nest guardians.  Now all of a sudden there are four.  Or even six!  What’s with that?

At first, I thought that perhaps two couples were sharing the homestead.  Does that ever happen?  Could those four babies belong to two sets of parents?  No amount of research corroborated such an idea.  So… how about an Auntie Patrol?  Or a Neighborhood Watch Program?

I talked to Diane Buttrell about the situation and it just happens that today a bird expert is coming to talk to the Oysterville Science Academy.  The plan is to make our swallow family a part of their day’s field trip excursion.  It should make the perfect opportunity to put into practice some of those scientific principals they’ve been learning about – observation, inference, and maybe some conclusion-drawing.   Nevertheless, we will be continuing with alternate methods of ingress and egress until the nest is empty.

We’re going on a Wait-and-See!

Saturday, July 9th, 2016
At the Oysterville Store

At the Oysterville Store

The information we have, so far, about the Music in the Gardens tour a week from today is just enough to tantalize!  We know the identities of some of the musicians involved.  And we know that there will be artists ‘on duty’ in a couple of the gardens.  We know how many gardens are involved and, in a general way, where they are.  But that’s the extent of it!  That’s why I call it a “Wait-and-See!”

All will become clear when we pick up our tickets.  For right now, though, these are the tantalizing bits of information we’ve been told:

  •   Seven Gardens – one in “Deep Seaview, one in Long Beach, and five in Ocean Park
  •   Noel Thomas will be painting in the Long Beach Garden
  •   One of the Ocean Park sites features a 25-foot lot, packed with plants
  •   Acústica World Music will be playing at a bayside garden
  •   Terry Robb of Portland will be playing at one of the gardens
  •   The Winterlings, also of Portland, will be playing at another
  •   Local musicians – The Mozart Chicks, Tom Trudell, Barbara Bate and Brian O’Connor – will be playing… somewhere
  •   One of the Ocean Park gardens will have a botanical illustration class taught by Dorota Haber-Lehigh
  •   Rita Nicely will be catering small bites in one of the gardens
Garden Owners' IDs (so you'll know who to ask)

Garden Owners’ IDs (so you’ll know who to ask)

Other facts of interest – this is the 10th Anniversary of the Music in the Gardens Tour.  Since other nearby (Astoria, Gearhart) garden tours have been discontinued in recent years, ‘ours’ here on the Peninsula is even more special!.

Tickets are $20 and are available at the Oysterville Store, the Bay Avenue Gallery in Ocean Park, at the English Nursery in Seaview, or may be purchased online at  Your ticket will entitle you to a map which will reveal locations and other pertinent information.

See you in the gardens next Saturday, July 16th between 10 and 4!

Oysterville on a Quilt

Sunday, March 20th, 2016
"Oysterville - Past and Present" by Terri Seifried

“Oysterville – Then and Now” by Terri Seifried

I’ve heard of holding a crowd in the palm of your hand but, until yesterday, I’ve never considered having a village on my lap!  In fact, it wasn’t until I began going to the annual quilt shows here that I’d ever heard of a “lap quilt.”  And, even now, I’ve never seen one in use – only on display – and I think of them as art pieces rather than having a practical use.  But then, I’m not a quilter, just an enthusiast.

Terri Seifried’s small (also called ‘lap’) quilt, “Oysterville: Then and Now” grabbed my attention because it was so unusual and, let’s be honest, because it depicted Oysterville.  Right down to the buildings, the lanes (some of them) and the teeny tiny crosses at the cemetery.  I loved it – never mind that the south end of town was a little “off.”  After all, Terri lives at the north end.  And besides, it’s an artist’s rendition.  Fabulous!

"Comfort" by Carol Wachsmuth

“Comfort” by Carol Wachsmuth

Her description in the show’s catalogue said:  This quilt is a loose interpretation from an aerial map of Oysterville, WA designed by Rickie Seifried.  She was inspired by a workshop she took with Valerie Goodwin.  Photos were incorporated to give a sense of time between the present and the past. It was the “loose interpretation” that I appreciated and understood.  That’s about all you can do with Oysterville!

I also loved neighbor Carol Wachsmuth’s small quilt which she described as my first done outside of a class.  She calls it “Comfort” — a perfect description for a quilt of any size, and although Carol didn’t say so hers, like Terri’s, reminded me of both past and present.  It seemed a timeless, classic design but with vivid, new colors.

"Simply Delicious" by Sue Grennan

“Simply Delicious” by Sue Grennan

Our friend Sue Grennan has a quilt — a medium sized one —  in this year’s show, as well.  It’s her first entry in two years and was well worth the wait.  “Simply Delicious” is made for my sister, Judy.  She is the best! says Sue’s description.  Like her grand prize-winning quilt of 2014, this one features bold shapes and colors and delicious edibles.  This time, though, the subject is fruit (rather than vegetables) and the background and overall design, a bit simpler. Which seems right, somehow.  It fits the quieter, more delicate essence of fruit.

And I could go on…  It was a wonderful show and we didn’t have nearly enough time.  Perhaps I was moving more slowly than usual with those visions of Oysterville on my lap…

Weird and Creepy in Oysterville

Saturday, January 30th, 2016
Last Summer, Out Our Kitchen Window

Last Summer, Out Our Kitchen Window

“Now here’s something creepy,” Nyel announced over coffee this morning. “The thermometer outside the kitchen window is gone.”

“Whaddayou mean, gone?” was my sleepy response. And then reality sunk in and the endless speculation began…

That thermometer has been attached to our house (actually screwed into the window frame) for fifteen or more years. It is (make that was) in our ‘kitchen garden.’  It is (was) not visible to any passers-by – not even to someone who comes through the gate and walks the perimeter of the house. Our kitchen garden is hidden. Not purposely — it’s just the way the house has evolved over the past 140 years.

Our Kitchen

Our Kitchen

The only people who ever see that little area (and, therefore, the erstwhile thermometer) are workmen who need to attend to a siding or roof problem (as in our recent leak) or neighbors who tend to our chickens when we are gone. Or, of course, anyone who has ever been in our kitchen…

Unless one of the above-unnamed folks ‘borrowed’ that thermometer for something specific (it was carefully unscrewed from its moorings, not wrenched away) we can’t imagine the circumstances under which it might “disappear.” It’s creepy. Really creepy. If it was a ‘thief in the night’ why in the world would they take that particular object and how did they even know about it?

Besides which, it had a pretty healthy covering of swallow guano on its back side… It was a favorite perch for our resident barn swallows who return each summer to nest under the eaves out there. I can’t imagine that anyone took it because they needed guano samples…

And when, exactly did it happen? It must have been in the last week or even in the last day or two… Where were we? Here in the house? I intensely dislike the feeling that there has been someone lurking around taking what doesn’t belong to them… If the intent was to creep us out, we hereby declare them successful. Just give us back our thermometer, please!