Archive for the ‘Country Living’ Category

…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!

Couldn’t help but wonder…

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016
All aboard!

All aboard!

When I read the headline “Tennessee Police Recover Three Children from Trunk of Woman’s Car” I couldn’t help but wonder about the circumstances. On the face of it, it sounds dreadful. On the other hand, some of my best memories are of the rides I took in the trunk of Dorothy Elliott’s old car during the seven or eight summers I spent at Camp Willapa right here on our Peninsula. They were the best rides ever!

We always hoped we’d get lucky and be assigned to the trunk. Otherwise you might be the one that got to ride on Miss Elliott’s left – yes, her left. Typically, there were three kids on her right, one on the left (usually a puny kid, so it was often me!) and four or five on the back seat and another three or four in the trunk. Sometimes, we rode on the running board, as well.

Always Room for One More!

Always Room for One More!

Of course, no one had ever heard of bucket seats or seat belts. And, no matter how crowded, a ride sure did beat walking, especially if we were headed to Leadbetter Point or to Beard’s Hollow. Either one was a long hike from Joe Johns Road which is about where Camp was. Once in a while we’d ride the horses. But mostly we walked and prayed that Miss Elliott would pick us up sooner rather than later. Amazingly, we lived to tell about it. I don’t think she lost a single kid or even had an accident.

We used to ride in the backs of pickup trucks, too. And, when we started driving ourselves, we quickly learned to thrust out our left arm to keep our passengers from plunging through the windshield when we braked too fast. All these years later (it’s been almost 64 since I got my first license) I still stick out my arm when I need to stop quickly. Old habits die hard.

Joy Riding!

Joy Riding!

I wonder if we’ll ever hear the rest of the story about the Tennessee woman… In the interest of fun, I’m really hoping for the best-case scenario. Yeah, I know, I know! It’s 2016 and there are maniacs everywhere. But then, people probably thought Miss Elliott was a maniac, too.

January Is Soup Month!

Saturday, January 16th, 2016
Abby's Soup

Abby’s Soup

This is the third Saturday of the month and Chef Nyel is in the kitchen working on la soupe du jour which, actually in our house is the soup of the week, not the day. We decided on January 1st that it would be a soup-and-salad month, mostly in the interest of losing a pound or two. The way it works is to have one or the other (soup or salad) for lunch or dinner, or vice-versa. Not both. So far, so good.

Week one was African peanut soup – my favorite! The recipe is from Maggie Stuckey’s Soup Night and the only difficulty with the finished product is confining intake to one bowl per meal. That caveat, of course, is part of the weight-loss project – as is no accompanying bread or crackers.

Maggie Stuckey

Maggie Stuckey

Week two was Southwest Lentil Soup, also from Maggie’s book, but originally from me. It involves linguiça, my all-time favorite sausage, but it’s a hearty soup and I don’t have trouble stopping at bowl one. It does cry out for French bread, though. Fortunately, my druthers would be San Francisco French bread which is unavailable here in the Northwest (no matter what they say). When we were in the City by the Golden Gate last month, I ate my fill; hence, the need for our Soup-of-the-Month ‘diet’.

Cheryl's Salad

Cheryl’s Salad

This week it’s going to be red beans and rice with chicken – also from Soup Night. We actually had a variation of that recipe at Maggie’s ten days or so ago. It was delicious and immediately went on the month’s menu list.

I don’t know if we will continue with the soup plan throughout the winter. It certainly won’t be limited by ‘possibilities’. Just this morning Nyel mentioned that there is still kale in our garden – not my favorite of the greens, but he does make a delicious kale soup… Come to think of it, the decision to carry on will probably depend not upon the available soup varieties, but upon the scales. Sigh!

Shoring Up and Battening Down

Friday, September 25th, 2015
Tool Shed Repairs

Tool Shed Repairs

While I’ve been indoors wrestling with Pacific County prison guards and inmates of a century ago for my next book, Farmer Nyel has been outside doing some necessary repairs to the out-buildings. The tool shed door is now functional once again and the south side of the chicken coop is mid-way to total renewal. But… have I documented his progress with my handy-dandy digital camera? Not on your tintype, you might say.

For a month or so, I’ve been unable to leave the house, even for a moment, unless I go through the garage. It’s the Stalker Rooster (as described in my blog of July 29th) who is keeping me housebound. If I dare to open either the east door or the south door, he is there within seconds, running at me with wings akimbo and ready to jump me, talons first.  For reasons I have described in previous blogs, that rooster has fixated on me as a challenger to his alpha status in the flock.

IMG_0381More than one visitor has had a good chuckle out of my cowardly refusal to walk them out to the front gate if the chickens are out doing their free-range thing. “What?” they say somewhat derisively. “You’re afraid of a rooster? Just take a…” and there follows any number of sure-fire solutions to my ‘problem’. But, I have to say that I’ve never once seen any of these well-meaning advisers leap to my rescue – not even Farmer Nyel. A rooster on attack is a formidable sight – even to onlookers.

Yesterday, though, I did manage to get two photos of Nyel’s work-in-progress. One I took first thing in the morning before Nyel let the girls and their champion out of the coop. Even though he was safely locked away from me, I have to admit to feeling nervous. There he was pacing back and forth and peering at me through the coop window. His intentions were clear. Farmer Nyel gave me time to get back to safety before letting them out for the day.

On Duty Inside the Coope

On Duty Inside the Coope

Later, assured that the chickens were far enough away, I walked out on the east porch to get a picture of Nyel putting the finishing touches of paint on the tool shed door. I had hardly gotten him in focus than here came the rooster, through the rhododendrons and with the obvious intent of flying over the porch railing to get at me. Before I turned tail and ran, I managed one photograph.

Nyel has promised to take care of the problem today. I suspect it’s because the dahlias need dead-heading and, in the usual division of garden labor, that’s in my bailiwick. As they say… stay tuned.