Archive for the ‘Country Living’ Category

Another Mystery In the Coop

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Wind-proof Latch

The gate into our side yard (where the cannon lives in the good-weather months) was wide open yesterday when we returned from erranding.  I’d like to say that’s  not an unusual occurrence and lately that’s been true.  But there was a time, when it happened all too often.  Mostly on weekends.

Nyel thought that it was blowing open (mostly on weekends?) and so Tucker replaced the latch (which is on the inside) and adjusted the gate props that keep it closed.  Still… once in a while it is somehow opened and, with free range chickens, it is worrisome.

We know it wasn’t anyone trying to get a better look at the cannon.  It’s put away for the winter these days. It could have been the propane guy but, until we get the bill, we have no way of knowing if he was here.  It could have been kids, but as far as I know, there were none in town yesterday.  Another one of life’s little mysteries…

Open Coop Gate

A little later when I went down to the coop at dusk, the coop gate was closed and the chickens were clucking and clacking outside it — wanting to get into the coop to roost for the night.  Four chickens.  One missing.  Slutvana!   I called and called, even after the others were snugged in for the night.  No Slutvana.

“The coop gate could have blown shut,” Nyel said.  Yes, maybe.  But it seems odd that the garden gate was open and the coop gate was shut, both on the same day. My own clucking and worrying was rewarded today with the sight of Slutvana joining the others for morning snacks.

I should say trying to join the others.  They were all huffy toward her — did not let her near the treats.  They seemed to be scolding her for not waiting patiently with them at the coop gate.  And for staying out all night.  I wonder if she has learned a lesson?  I know I have.  I’m propping that gate open from now on.  With a heavy cement block.

Be still my heart! It’s only the deer people!

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019

It was sorta like this only pouring and foggy….

Yesterday was long and hard.  We left Oysterville at 9:00 a.m. and got home at ten to ten p.m.  Me driving up and back to the U.W. Medical Center where Nyel had a couple of appointments — sorta routine, sorta not, good reports for both.

It was gray and rainy and, for part of the way up and back, so foggy that our cruise control stopped working.  No biggie, but rather disconcerting to be traveling along at 65 mph in heavy traffic and to suddenly realize that your car is slowing to a gradual crawl.  Thank goodness the drivers behind me weren’t the road rage types.

By the time we got Nyel and his wheelchair home and into the house, I was more than ready to go-directly-to-bed-without-any-supper.  But, Nyel was hungry and offered to make burgers.  And then he mentioned softly “and maybe you could check on the chickens.”

You had to be there…

“Please God, no!” I thought.  It was pitchy black, wetter than wet, and even the good flashlight that Tucker gave us last winter hardly made a dent in the dark.  The night was just plain thick.  I shrugged my coat back on, turned on the east porch light, and stepped out into the yard.  Two steps and I knew I wasn’t alone!  I shone the flashlight’s beam a bit to the right and there was a HUGE shape, motionless, looking at me with big eyes.  And a big rack.  No!  Not just ONE huge shape!  TWO huge shapes and ONE smaller shape!

Was I actually backing up the porch steps?  “It’s only a deer family,” I told myself.  “Having a lie-down and chewing their cuds,” I told myself.  I stopped at the door just long enough to take a picture.  It didn’t phase the family and didn’t register noticeably on my camera — just a couple of reflections from a couple of eyes.  Damn!

Even though I knew it was silly, I did not go out to check on the chickens.  After all, if Bambi and his parents are out there, who else might be lurking nearby?  And maybe not so disinterested in me and my yellow rain hat as were the gentle deer people?  I said a silent “Sorry!” to the girls and hoped that Rocky Raccoon wasn’t reconnoitering.  Ditto the coyotes.

Nest Box This Morning

Nyel didn’t chide me and the chickens were fine.  They even had an egg ready for me early this morning.  As for the deer people — only a calling card or two left behind.  Proof enough that I wasn’t hallucinating…

Just Across The Way

Saturday, October 19th, 2019

Apple Thief at Tucker and Carol’s

During a break between showers this morning, I dashed over to the church to replenish the walking tours.  I was stopped dead in my tracks by the yipping and yapping and baying of coyotes from just behind Tucker and Carol’s house.  Not just four or five singers like the ones that hang out in our lower meadow and lull us to sleep (and keep our chickens rustling on their roosts) on wintery nights.  No.  This was a cacophony of sound.  LOTS of critters.  And just across the way. And in broad daylight.

Crow With White Feathers – At Carol and Tucker’s

The Wachsmuth house seems to be Critter Central here in Oysterville.  They get more animal and bird activity than all the rest of us put together.  Of course, it helps that Carol faithfully distributes wild birdseed each morning.  And that Tucker is the most observant man I’ve ever met.  It must be his artist’s eye.  Certainly, that accounts for the spectacular photographs he gets of his visitors.

But, he wasn’t around to spot the coyote visitors this morning.  Carol was at home, dog-sitting for Lina.  She said she didn’t hear the  coyote pack but, for no reason that she could explain, the dogs got extremely agitated about mid-morning — especially Potato, the little one.  So… there you have it.

Four Point Buck Visiting the Wachsmuths

Maybe it’s just as well Carol didn’t hear them.  There is something a little creepy about hearing a pack of anything ‘out there.’  Even in broad daylight.

Let’s Talk About Plan B…

Sunday, September 15th, 2019

Which chapeau?

The count-down has begun!  One week from right now we will be scurrying to put the finishing touches on the house and garden — the last minute adornments to complete preparations for “Our Grand Affair.”  There will be balloons and flowers to put out, chairs to set up, tables to arrange with food and beverages, stage and P.A. system for the musicians and who-knows-what-all…

“What is Plan B?” Cate-the-Music-Mistress asked yesterday.  She was referring, of course, to the weather forecast — cloudy with morning showers and 40% chance of rain.  In Oysterville, as in all of the Northwest, the weather needs to be factored in to any plans for an outdoors event.  Even for  (or maybe especially for) the 150th birthday party of a grand old lady.  In the belief that these walls really can talk, I asked the house, herself, what she’d suggest.   “Bring the party inside,” was the response!  I hoped it was actually the house that was answering — not Mrs. Crouch, our resident ghost.

Which footwear?

Two full sheet cakes, dozens of cookies, seven plus cases of bubbly beverages, sixteen musicians (and their instruments) and 200-or-so guests???  Yes, probably do-able if we cancel the house tours and just cozy up to one another upstairs and down.  Musicians in the library as they are for House Concerts, food and drink buffet-style in the dining room, people  on the stairs, standing, sitting on the floor and on whatever chairs and couches are available…  Yes.  It will probably work.

Not our first choice by any means.  I hope everyone (including those vacillating weather forecasters) are doing serious Sun Dances.  And, no matter what, I’m advising anyone who asks:  wear shoes that don’t mind being wet.  Even if we get a break in the weather, the lawns will no doubt be soggy…

Twenty-four Hours of Glorious Gallimaufry

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

After almost 50 years — a new mattress!

I was gone from St. Vincent’s for just over twenty-four hours — five or six spent driving, seven or eight spent sleeping, and the rest spent in a wonderful hodge-podge of people and events and life-outside-the-hospital things.  The only downside was that Nyel wasn’t with me.  On the other hand, ‘they’ are making noises about discharging him soon — maybe early next week.  To a rehab situation.

Happy Mother’s Day from Marta!

My first stop was at Adelaide’s where I had a much-postponed coffee date with my friend Ruth.  It took us an hour and a half to catch up with medical news (both of us), children news (both), moving news (Ruth), and silliness (mostly me.)  Then I beat feet home to get ready for one o’clock delivery of a new mattress and box springs, ordered for our bed by Nyel weeks before this hospital stay.

Looking for Farmer Nyel

The deliverymen called at twelve-ten.  Could they come early?  You bet!  They were intrigued with the house and even admired our old mattress with its built-in ‘handles’ for moving it around.  “This is a collector’s item!” said the older of the two  “We may just display it in our store window.”  That made me chuckle.

Ice Cream

My folks got that mattress in 1971 from Sears — had to have the antique bed lengthened by four inches to accommodate the “new, longer” mattress size.  Our replacement  (which, sadly, I had to sleep on last night without Nyel) is actually an inch or so shorter than that old Sears number.  But, oh! so firm and fully packed (to borrow from an old Lucky Strike jingle).  I slept like the proverbial log.

Ready for Memorial Day

And… on to Friday Night.  Quite a crowd of “regulars” came to exchange the latest guzz’n’gossip and to talk about the unseasonably warm weather.  As if on cue, in came Sandra with a big bowlful of ice cream cups in many flavors!  Perfect!  Diane talked about Memorial Day Plans — she hoped Nyel would be back to read “In Flanders Fields” as usual, but if not, would I?

Patient Nyel

This morning Tucker and Del got the cannon out of the garage and put it on its new cement pad — a replacement for the one that was broken last fall during our dreaded Septic System Upgrade.  Then, I headed back to St. Vincent’s.  But first, a short stop in Ilwaco at the Heritage Museum to wish Don and Marge Cox a Happy 75th Anniversary!  Wow!  Talk about Role Models!

I had lots to report to Farmer Nyel  or, depending on his hat of the moment, General Nyel.  Actually, when I got here, he had on a shampoo cap —  I guess he was being Patient Nyel.   Not really a look to perpetuate — especially not at a hospital!

 

 

 

It all begins at home…

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

Water Bottles

“What are all those bottles lined up on the floor of your laundry room?” was the question.

“And well you might ask,” said I.  “They are the bane of my existence.  Or one of them.” And I went on to explain that they began as liter-size tonic water bottles at Jack’s Country Store.  Nyel, who is into recycling right down to the pill bottles and bubble wrap, drinks a lot of tonic.  But, as with most of the other “stuff” of our lives, he first recycles those containers right here at home.  (This might be a good place to add that other banes, if that word can be plural, are the tubs of recycled plastic, glass and aluminum and, even more banish, the huge compost bin out in the garden.  Just sayin’…)

Go where???

For years and years those bottles were washed out and filled with clean Oysterville water.  We stored them on our “pantry” shelves – shelving from CostCo that takes up a short wall in that same laundry room and upon which we put the overflow food supplies.  Except, gradually, as the number of water née tonic bottles increased, the back-up food supplies diminished.  Oh well, it was all in a good cause. As “right thinking citizens,” we were preparing for the eventuality of a tsunami disaster.

However, as we considered the maximum twenty-minute time period that every authority and expert says we “might” have should we feel an earthquake or (miraculously) hear the warning siren, we began to re-think.  Obviously, it would take us the full-time allotment to get the (now) water bottles into our car, never mind survival food and other gear.  Not that we don’t have a get-away pack always in the trunk but lately the talk is to be prepared for several months, not several days.  So… bottom line is I think we’ve given up.

Compost Bin

Luckily though, those bottles of water are just the perfect size for the Substitute Chicken Farmer (that would be me) to lug down to the coop each morning along with a can of scratch and a bucket of food.  One-by-one, the bottles have been emptied into the chicken trough – a far easier proposition than dragging 50 feet of hose down there every other day or so.  And, it’s not like I don’t refill those bottles periodically with good old Oysterville tap water.

Unfortunately, lately, the Oysterville Water Works has been having some quality problems.  The water is safe enough, or so we are assured, but it has a yellow-ish cast to it – sometimes more toward the amber than the pee-colored.  It actually is not too noticeable except when those “new” bottles of water are sitting cheek-by-jowl with the ones from last year.  (Oh.  Did I mention that Nyel used to mark every re-filled bottle with a date?  I think it was part of a replace-and-refresh plan in the beginning… but you know about all those best-laid plans.)

Recycling Tubs

Anyway, now we have bottles full of old, clear water and bottles full of new yellow-tinted water.  It’s the latter that I’ve been taking to the chickens of a morning.  I don’t think they mind.  But… it’s always hard to tell with chickens.

Monday Morning at the Beach

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

There’s nothing like the reality check one gets by doing a few errands here on a drizzly Monday morning.  In one fell swoop, you can get a sampling of the demographics of the area – ages, health, food choices, preferred vehicles.  You can learn about it all – often, whether you want to or not.

I began at the bank yesterday.  There were already three people in line (behind that sign that says for privacy concerns, please wait here) and, before long there were four more behind me.  Two tellers were busy at their windows and two were busy elsewhere, each helping elderly couples.  Customers outnumbered the worker-bees three to one and we probably averaged three times as old as the busy young women employees.

The man in front of me began talking to the man behind me – “Haven’t seen you for a long time… how’s it going?”  And before anyone could say “Next, please” the two were into a heavy-duty discussion about their health issues.  “Essentially, I have no spine anymore,” said one.  “All that’s holding me up are my torso muscles.”  YIKES!

But he was standing tall and straight, perhaps thanks to Rebound in Vancouver for which he had nothing but praise.  I was tempted to weigh into the conversation at that point – Nyel has had many Rebound experiences, as well – but, even though both men seemed to be including me in their discussion, I remained silent.  (Privacy Concerns said the sign.  Though I thought it probably meant banking privacy.) However, I did nod greetings to several others as they joined the end of the line.

Next, I had a prescription or two to pick up.  Another wait in line (brief, this time) but people were spread out and conversations weren’t very possible.  Perhaps the privacy sign at a pharmacy carries more clout.  As at the bank, there were a steady stream of geriatrics coming in to drop off or pick up prescriptions and medications and we outnumbered and out-aged the staff by a goodly number.  And, like my first errand, I had a nodding acquaintance with several of the customers.

Then, on to the drop-off box at the library (which was closed) though the cars (mostly older model SUVs or sedans) in the parking lot and the lights in the conference room suggested a meeting of some kind (maybe Friends of the Library?) was taking place.  I’d guess that the attendees were also gray-hairs; who else would be gathered at the library on a Monday during working hours?  And I felt a smidge of guilt that I had never made time to volunteer there, despite my constant patronage.

Last I went to the grocery store.  There, among the shoppers, I ran into several different friends – all of retirement age but still working at part-time jobs.  Again, we and the other customers out-aged the clerks but, interestingly, there were several gray-haired men stocking shelves and being helpful to shoppers.  I wondered, fleetingly, how many businesses on the beach employ people who have already retired from another job. Or two.

It was all very comforting, somehow.  I felt right at home everywhere I went – certainly better than I ever feel on my brief forays these days into suburbia or the big city.  Once again, I thanked my younger self for making the move to “the beach” (this particular beach!) forty years ago.  It was the right thing to do.

When Knowing CPR Isn’t Quite Enough

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

Several times over the 39 years I was teaching, an Emergency Services team came to a faculty meeting armed with dummies and a slide show to give CPR instructions to the staff.  I’m pretty sure that happens in other workplaces as well; most adults probably have the rudiments.  That and the Heimlich maneuver (which I had occasion to use successfully-thank-God on my dad at a family dinner one time.)

But now that we are no longer working and are old enough to be considered officially elderly, I’m thinking that there should have been another class (or, more likely a set of classes) for people about to retire.  Something along the lines of “Providing In-Home Assistance and Care to a Loved One” (PIHACLO). Probably with periodic refresher courses.

You know – how to transfer someone safely from wheelchair to bed or commode or anywhere else and back again.  Or, even more basically, all the tricks of wheelchair transport – which armrests and footrests to remove and when etc. etc.  And the best way to get a 200-pound person from point A to point B without touching one foot down.  And the tricks of bed baths.  Etc.

Fortunately (or not), we’ve had some on-the-job training in the not-too-distant-past.  But, I still feel like we are learning the hard way.  Lest readers be tempted to write about all the professional help available in situations like ours – fuggetaboutit.  Been there.  Done that.  Have several ‘T’ shirts.  When you have a bathroom emergency in the middle of the night, the healthy half of the team needs to know what to do and how to do it.  Right now.  Just saying…

Those of us who live in rural areas are especially up against it.  I know more than one couple who felt they had to uproot themselves and move to an urban area where more services were available.  And, of course, if you have “just enough” but not much excess, money-wise, you have even more to figure out.  Again… this is not a plea for help. Just an observation.  So maybe that Getting-Ready-for-Retirement class, PIHACLO, should include a laminated list of service providers and phone numbers specifically for the geriatric set.  Just sayin’…

For me, it helps to remember that our forebears managed, one way or another.  I often think of my grandparents who aged gracefully in this very house back in the day when the nearest hospital was a boat trip away.  And, when it comes to the indomitable spirit part, it helps to remember Matisse.  Toward the end of his life he was often bed ridden in his apartment in Nice. However, he continued to draw on the wall and ceiling around him.  (Don’t tell Nyel.  Although, I don’t think drawing would be his first choice for distractions…  Maybe chickens.)

Already? How did we get here so fast?

Friday, September 21st, 2018

Last Sunrise of Summer

Here we are – the last day of summer in the year of our lord 2018.  It’s been lots of fun and lots of work for me, more-or-less in equal measures.  Even the “work” part – finishing up a book, beginning a new series for the Observer – has been fun.  ‘Field trips’ with Carol and Tucker have been fun.  All the summer visitors have been fun.  My only complaint about this summer: there were many too many things I wanted to do than the days – even the longest ones – gave time for!

Especially neglected was our poor beleaguered garden.  Even though the aftermath of our new septic system is on the north side of the house – a side we have to go to fairly purposely to contemplate – it has somehow skewed my attitude toward the garden in general.  All that dirt where the lawn used to be.  And now all those struggling shoots of new grass.  My heart just hasn’t been in the out-of-doors.  On the other hand, I think I find some excuse or other every year about this time.  It’s apparently hard for me to come to grips with the “I don’t like gardening” concept.

Late Summer from Our Porch

However, I have been out there these past few days trying to prune back our Dorothy Perkins roses.  I’ve managed to get about halfway along our west fence and probably just need a couple more three-hour blocks of time (that’s all my old bones can manage in one go-round) to finish it up.

Part of the ‘trouble’ with forward progress are the other things that call my attention along the way.  The spent tiger lilies in the bed where I’m standing and the blankety-blank morning glory twining around the dahlias block my path and cause mega-diversions.  Actually, sometimes I’m glad for those distractions.  There is only so much snagging and scratching and ouching a body can withstand when it comes to rose-wrestling.

The Trimming Begins

But, so far, the weather has been glorious.  The passing parade of tourists has been interesting.  And my timing usually coordinates with Cappy’s desire for a walk so Carol and I can have a little visit over the fence as neighbors are said to do in little villages like ours.  All very Agatha Christie, but not in a murder mystery sort of way.

Bottom line – I’m not really ready for Fall.  Not that anyone asked.

We picked our plum tree bare…

Monday, September 10th, 2018

…singing every stretch of the way!  (Well, I was; Nyel doesn’t sing.) If you are a “Double J and the Boys” fan, you know Judy Eron’s wonderful song of revenge, “I Picked His Plum Tree Bare.”  It can easily work its way into your head and become a serious earworm without any provocation at all.  But, when you are actually picking plums, singing that song becomes an unequivocal imperative.

This was a first-ever experience for us, even though that plum tree is more than a decade old.  We got it – a dwarf Italian Prune Plum – along with our two apple trees and planted them all on the south lawn.  I guess we were thinking “orchard” but soon realized, as did the trees, that it wasn’t a fruitful (ahem!) idea.  All three of the trees developed problems.

The plum tree seemed the healthiest and was definitely the most pleasing to the eye.  But, as the years went by and it was producing no fruit at all, Nyel got disgusted and moved it out into the back forty.  It has been one of those out-of-sight-out-of-mind things and it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that Nyel noticed a young plum.  No!  Wait!  Lotsa plums!

Yesterday, we decided it was time to harvest.  Both of us are beyond our ladder-climbing years, but it is a dwarf tree, after all…  So, between the two of us (and following the no-climbing-beyond-the-third-rung rule) we emulated our friend Judy.  We picked that plum tree bare!  Nine and a half pounds of gorgeous plums hidden among the foliage.  Hard to see.  Tricky to get to.  But apparently undisturbed by deer or birds or tourists. And, they are plum delicious!!