Archive for the ‘Country Living’ Category

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!!

I always wondered where that went!

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

Ed, Judy, Sydney, Nyel

One of my third-cousins-once-removed (who we don’t know very well) and her husband (who we had never met) came knocking at our door one day last week – another of those unexpected pleasures of summer!  We asked them in and spent an enjoyable hour or two getting better acquainted.

It turned out that they were in an RV and were staying on the Peninsula for several days.  It also turned out that Ed (who is a long-distance truck driver) is approaching retirement and is looking into his options regarding things to do when the time comes.  He had recently invested in a spiffy metal detector and so… we asked them back to have a go at our lawn.  “You won’t even know I’ve dug anywhere,” Ed said.

Inspecting The Treasure

I have to say that the whole concept goes against my grain just a little.  Not that I don’t delight in turning up the occasional piece of crockery or broken toy when I’m out doing my due diligence in the garden beds but, somehow, I don’t think we should go on the search on purpose.  I’m not sure why.  I certainly am not opposed to searching in archives and old files for paper treasures.  Why not metal ones hiding beneath our feet?

And so it was, that they came back a few days later and Ed spent the afternoon on the hunt.  Judy and Nyel and I (and the chickens) sat out in the sunshine and clapped and cheered as Ed swept that metal detector over the lawn – foot by foot in a very purposeful way. Alas!  No twenty-dollar gold pieces, but he did find a 1943 nickel (that Judy ended up dropping and losing when she was talking with those chickens!) and another nickel too corroded to date.

Long lost gyroscope?

There were also some bolts, a small medal with an angel on it, something Ed thought was a top, and the handle of a spoon (probably silver plated).  The spoon handle reminded me of something my grandmother had written to her daughter Medora I 1913.  She had been cleaning house and she wrote, “… All the while looking for a lost spoon as usual.  I am going to get some tin spoons, and they can get lost if they want to.  It keeps me worn to a frazzle hunting silver.”  I couldn’t help but wonder if Ed had found at least part of one of those “lost spoons” from a century ago.

As for the “top” – later Tucker, who has an eye for things, confirmed that it was, indeed, one of those gyroscopes that you spun by pulling the string wound around it.  Once you got it spinning you could put it anywhere – on the table, on the end of your finger, anywhere at all and it would continue spinning for a long, long time.  They were popular in the 1940s and ’50s and I remember having one that I played with a lot.  I wonder what ever happened to it.  I wonder if this is the very one that provided me with so much fun all those years ago…

When you recognize a zucchini…

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Nyel came home from the library yesterday with more than books.  A book we’d been waiting for… yes.  But, also, a familiar looking light-ish green zucchini.  A fairly big one.

“Did you run into Dobby at the library?” I asked.  I was sure that I recognized that vegetable.  I’d met other members of its family just recently.

“Not Dobby,” was the reply.  “But they had a big box of his zucchini on the counter.  I asked Beth if they were Dobby’s and she said ‘yes,’ and to help myself.”

What a good idea!  Dobby has been giving away his bumper crop for several weeks now.  We were the beneficiaries of three beautiful ones about ten days ago.  I’d been to their house on a quest for information and he and Lila loaded me up with garden goodies as I left.  The zucchini were distinctive looking – their color plus the size of some (large!) were different from the zucchini we’ve grown in our own garden in the past.

Dobby had told me to come back anytime for more.  He had been giving away those zucchini right and left and still they were coming on in his (very extensive) garden.  But… you know how it is when friends say to come back for more… you seldom do.  Obviously, he was serious about sharing his bounty.  A box full at Timberland Library – imagine!

My mouth began to water immediately!  Chef Nyel had prepared those first zucchini in a variety of ways– sautéed with onions, in stir fry, and my personal favorite – zucchini fritters served with sour cream!  Yum!  He promises a repeat of that meal tonight.  Thanks, Dobby!  And, whether you readers need a book or not right now, I suggest a trip to the library on the off-chance that the box isn’t empty yet.  Or, knowing Dobby, maybe it’s been replenished.  Yum!

About those birds and bees…

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Strutting His Stuff

There’s a lot of getting-right-down-to-it behavior among our chickens these days.  Apparently, the roosters (who seemed to know what to do from the get-go) have finally convinced the hens to comply with their desires.  Each of the two roosters has a favorite lady.  It’s the Russian Orloff for the little banty rooster and the Americauna for the young black cockerel.  But, when the urge strikes, any of the seven girls seem to be fair game.

They are sexing all over the place!  (“Sexing” is how a seven-year-old I used to know described her newly found knowledge of the birds and bees.  Great term!)  It’s the Garden of Eden out in our yard.  If any of these hens goes broody this winter, we are likely to have quite a crop of hatchlings.

Speaking of which – I am continually surprised at the lack of basic knowledge concerning the chicken and egg order of things.  The most common question seems to be, “But don’t you need a rooster to have eggs?”  Obviously, those folks missed out on Reproduction 101 when they were in school.  And they definitely weren’t farm kids.

Last Year

Sexing in our garden, though, has not been confined to the poultry residents.  As evidenced by the nests hither and thither – swallows under the eaves and over the lintels; hummingbirds among the lilacs; robins in the trees out in the lane – there’s been a lot of family planning going on around here.  Nyel says it’s my basic nesting instinct that objects to the removal any of the nests once they are occupied by eggs.  For my part, I’m not sure why “the mess” seems so unwelcome considering some of our own unsightly corners…  It’s a yearly “discussion” around here.  (And, lest you jump to unwarranted conclusions, Farmer Nyel is not the only cleaner-upper in the household.)

As for the bees’ part of that old birds and bees expression– our ceanothus (California lilac) has been abuzz for months.  There is no shortage of bee activity here.  Someone recently told me that there are at least five different varieties of bumble bee that have been working the gardens of the Peninsula this summer.  Yay!  And, along those lines, the little corner of my garden that I planted with “butterfly friendly” flowers a few years ago is doing its job too!

Yep, it’s a regular Garden of Eden here in Oysterville!

That Other Penny!

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Word To Live By

I’ve been noticing that other damned penny lately.  It’s taking longer and longer to drop.  Case in point: arranging with the dreaded Century Link to discontinue our landline.

After much discussion, we decided that we no longer needed a telephone line.  Broad band connection, yes.  Landline, no.  So, we called Century Link and made all the arrangements.  As of our next billing cycle we will no longer have telephone capabilities except by cell phone. That move will save us very little money, as it turns out, but even pennies a day seem helpful when a fixed income is involved.  And, when you are dealing with Century Link, there is definitely a Satisfaction Factor to be considered.

CardioMem Unit

But wait!  This morning, several days after we directed them to unplug us (and while we are still in the midst of notifying friends and loved ones), that dreaded other penny came thunking down.  For some months now, Nyel has been using a device called a “CardioMem” to monitor his heart function and send a report to his cardiologist in Seattle.  It was set up to communicate between Oysterville and Seattle by satellite but… drum roll…  the signal from here is too weak.  So, the device was converted to a… penny thunk… landline!  Nor does his pacemaker communicate by satellite as it’s supposed to.  Yep!   Has to be a phone line.

So, today Nyel will again wrestle with Century Link.  We are pretty sure that redoing what was already undone will cost us money.  More than pennies, no doubt.  Once again, we are confronted with Rural Living in all it’s glory.  For sure we are second class citizens and it’s probably no wonder that those pennies take longer to drop here in Oysterville.

Early Morning Outing

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

Leadbetter Elk Herd in Oysterville Meadow, 2017

There were eight of them traveling almost single file.  Elk trotting north along the tideline in front of the house about six o’clock this morning.  Elk on the move!

It was all I could do not to pick up the phone to call our neighbor Carol but, so far, I don’t have a direct line to the Great Beyond.  For several years before she died, when the Leadbetter Elk Herd was traveling along the bay, we would call one another and that’s what we’d say, “Elk on the move!”  There was just enough distance between our houses for notice to be given and the sighting made.  Those early morning phone calls are among the many things I miss about Carol.

Carol Nordquisr, 2014

The first two in this morning’s lineup were not quite in single file order.  One was very small – about up to the other’s haunches.  Mother and child, I assume.  I wondered if it was the elk calf and mom that Dobby told me about several months ago.  Mother elk chose a spot in front of Dobby and Lila’s house as the perfect place to give birth.  Several bull elks were hanging around nearby… to claim parentage?  Hard to tell with elk.

I don’t know if they’ve been staying around Dobby’s since then or not.  In my imagination, they have been in the area, perhaps along with the two bulls, all this time, and a delegation was sent from the main herd at Leadbetter Point to escort them home. Perhaps Dobby has some details to fill in that will illuminate the truth of it a little better.

I wish, in a way, I’d been close enough to get a good picture.  On the other hand, those elk are huge.  I don’t really want them too close to town or to my backyard.  Dobbie said they kept a respectful distance from his house and garden, but even so…

Elk on the move, Carol!  Hope you saw them.

Expecting the Inspector

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Ten days ago, there was a field of smooth brown dirt where the lawn used to be.  Right outside our north bedroom window.  Now?  Not so much.

It’s even-ness has given way to lumpy and chunky.  I guess those few days of “intermittent rain” were the culprit.  The dirt shifted here and puddled there.  Rocks and broken rhododendron branches (WHAT?  They broke our rhodies?!?) are peeking out.  Hills and valleys are beginning to form.  And… did I see a bit of green poking through?

You can be sure it’s not the first sprigs of new lawn that I see.  We cannot re-seed until we can fill in the trench and we cannot fill in the trench until the Inspector arrives and gives his okay.  (I don’t know why I think of the Inspector with a capital letter.  Actually, an ominous capital letter.  As in Inspector General with hardhat and clipboard.) I think he or she is a State, not a County, Inspector.  And I’m pretty sure it’s an Electrical Inspector we’re expecting.  But I’m not really sure.  It’s one of those the-customer-is-last-to-know things.

If you Google “kinds of home inspectors,” all sorts of sites pop up.  One is titled “More Than 45 Inspector Certifications (free & online for members).” Wow!  Chimney Inspector, Electrical Inspector, Stucco Inspector, Meth House Hazards Inspector, Moisture Intrusion Inspector…  The list goes on and on.

I can’t help but wonder who, if anybody, inspected this house when it was built back in 1869.  Maybe the homeowner, Tom Crellin.  Maybe not.  There might have been the presumption back in those days that a Master Carpenter knew what he was doing.  And, of course, there was no need for an electrical or plumbing inspection.  Life was simpler.  New toilet facilities needed?  Dig a hole; move the outhouse.

Not that I’m advocating giving up our modern creature comforts and safety standards, mind you.  I just wish the process was more timely.  As almost anyone can tell you, Patience is not my middle name!

Yard Art?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Well, I’ve heard of the Ashcan school of art which, according to Wikipedia, “was an artistic movement in the United States during the early 20th century that is best known for portraying scenes of daily life in New York, often in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.”  What was happening on our Croquet Court today wasn’t the Ashcan School.  More like the Outhouse School.

For a fact, it was happening not far from where the old outhouse used to be. Appropriate, I thought.  It could also be termed kinetic – lots of big movement. And noise. And it looked like several things were happening at once.  Dirt coming out of a big hole while sand was going in.  It’s the beginning of our new septic system – a happening right here a stone’s throw from my bedroom window.

It’s one of those love/hate experiences that many of us here on the Peninsula eventually must face up to.  Living, as we do, on a fragile little sandspit with the water table not far from the surface during the rainy times, our septic systems are mega-important.  And, if you need to build one from scratch or even replace one after forty years like we do – mega-expensive.

On the other hand, when your pipes gurgle at you every time you shower or flush and you fear that something may come up the drain at you, the sooner the situation is corrected, the better.  It’s a complicated procedure these days.  There are specialists to hire.  First of all, an expert to draw a plan.  Then the county must approve it.  And then another expert with big equipment and a long waiting list must be engaged to do the work.  It all costs about leventy-leven times as much as it cost my grandfather to dig the hole for his outhouse.

And then, I suppose, there will be repair work to be done in the garden.  But, I console myself that the grass is always greener over the septic tank.  Erma Bombeck said so.  Right now, that’s about the only happy thought I have.  That and the end of gurgling.

One man’s treasure…

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

The Tree Next Door

Not that our once-upon-a-time neighbors, the Hampsons, were our BFFs.  They weren’t.  But, even so, as I listened to the chain saws and chippers all day yesterday, I was sort of glad they were no longer among us.  John took such pride in those trees – researched to find exactly which ones he wanted and paid close attention to how each one would complement or contrast or visually reinforce.  He spent a lot of time and effort on his garden.

I don’t know if the plan is to take them all down.  I see yellow tape marking most of them, so I suppose they’ll be history by the end of the week.  I hope the big cypress just on the other side of the fence between our properties is not one of the doomed ones.  I like looking at it and I like that it shields the view the houses have of one another.  Just a tad.

Work in Progress

On the other hand, we are glad that something is happening next door.  We have yet to see the new owners – not here, that is.  Dr. Bert Green did visit us (twice!) in November during the two weeks that Nyel was at the UW Medical Center.  We enjoyed talking with him, though we spoke very little of Oysterville.

The Neighborhoods of Oysterville

 

I had heard that they were planning to build an additional wing on the house and I did ask about that.  “More a bump-out than a wing, I think,” he said.  “But that’s really my wife’s department…”  He didn’t mention whose department the garden is. So, the plans remain a mystery – something to look forward to here in the ‘hood as Spring unfolds.

Speaking of neighborhoods… it may come as a bit of a revelation that Oysterville actually has them.  At least according to the Design Guidelines which can be found on Pacific County’s website.  Within the Oysterville Historic District there are five (count ’em – five!) neighborhoods listed!  We are in what is called “The Core” neighborhood.  The others are the “Northwoods,” the “Shoreline,” the “Southwoods,” and the “Douglas Drive” neighborhoods.  Seems crazy in a village the size of ours, but there you have it!

No matter which neighborhood any of us lives in, we are all interested in the changes that have taken place over the years and are curious about what is to come.  That’s just the way it is in a village the size of Oysterville.  I really can’t imagine living in a place where nobody notices or even cares.  Can you?

Borscht for Breakfast?

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

Gathered at the Water Cooler

Yesterday was a 3-a.m.-to-11 p.m.-kinda-day for the old ducks of the household and, for our chicken tenants, it was a day of slim pickin’s, apparently.  On the assumption that they would be just fine (and they were, lest you worry!) we didn’t head out to the coop in the wee hours before we left for appointments in Seattle.  Nor did we check on the girls in the pitchy night when we got back.

The Well-loved Tetherball

First thing this morning, out I went and found the four girls gathered ’round the empty water trough, impatiently waiting for a refill.  When I checked the food supply in the coop, that cupboard, too, was bare.  And the cabbage tether ball was just about completely decimated.  If those girls WERE laying, which they are not, would the eggs taste slightly like cabbage?  Probably a good thing those nest boxes are still empty!

All is well now, and we can get on with our day.  I apologized profusely to the girls and promised them a new cabbage tetherball.  If I could figure out how to add beets to their game, they could have borscht for tomorrow’s breakfast.  Our Russian Orloff would probably enjoy that – but I’m not sure about the others.

Spied Getting a Retread

Meanwhile… it’s a lot of scurry and hurry around here.  Last minute cleaning, a little decorating, a lot of cooking and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be ready for Marta and Charlie when they arrive on Friday!  Then… let the Season begin!  (It would be really nice to find an egg or two down in that chicken coop for Christmas breakfast – even it DID taste a bit like the offerings from my old friend Peter Popkov’s Russian Restaurant c. 1950s in San Francisco…  But that’s another story.)  Meanwhile, we have photographic evidence that Santa is readying his sleigh.  Bring on Christmas, borscht and all!