Archive for the ‘Country Living’ Category

Speaking of local color…

Monday, July 27th, 2020

Finally!  Those recalcitrant mastershalums are blooming!  And everything else is, too.  I love it!  Even though there’s always something to be done around the edges, the blossoms hither and thither take my mind off the needy spots!

September Dahlias in July!

The dahlias, bless their pointy little heads, are earlier than ever.  I wonder if it’s part of Mother Nature’s nourishment formula —  giving us something beautiful to carry us through these ugly times we are enduring.  I’m not one to think that there has been some grand plan afoot since the beginning of time, but it is interesting that in this bleakest and scariest of summers our gardens flourish and soothe our souls.

Tostada with Rice and Salsa

Tostada with Rice and Salsa

Our garden isn’t the only colorful location in this particular sheltering spot.  The kitchen table at any given mealtime is a sight to behold.  Usually, I’m so eager to tuck into whatever Nyel is offering, I don’t give a thought to the photo opportunities right in front of me.  Friday’s tostada dinner called out “photo op” just in time!

For all the worries and scary parts of right now, it’s reassuring to look a little more closely right here at home.  We count our blessings every day and pray that we all reach November intact.

Let them eat bread! Nyel’s sourdough bread!

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Hot Our Of The Oven

The day after the Madigans brought their bread-baking care package to Nyel, he was feeding his sourdough starter…  Two days later, he baked.  Just one loaf (more’s the pity) but it was “a little bit experimental,” he said.  It was his third time trying a particular no-knead recipe and he wasn’t about to waste time or ingredients if it failed.  Not that the first two trials were failures, but he is SUCH a perfectionist.

The problem hadn’t been in the finished product.  Far from it!  So I probably hadn’t been as sympathetic as I could have been.  (I was much too busy scarfing down bread-hot-out-of-the-oven-and-dripping-with-melting-butter!) The difficulty had been in the process, with bread dough so sticky he could hardly handle it.

Michael was familiar with the recipe.  “You can add as much as 10 grams more flour,” he told Nyel.  Plus, he suggested being very liberal with the flour on counter and hands as Nyel was forming the loaf… The bread turned out perfectly!  There’s nothing like getting advice from an expert.

I know it’s a bit of a quantum leap, but I was wondering if the protesters on Capitol Hill in Seattle would have been so destructive if they could have had a few pieces of that fabulous loaf — as in “let them eat bread” and having enough for the multitudes as in the loaves and fishes story in the Good Book.

And, I’d definitely like to share with Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan and with our Governor Jay Inslee.  They each deserve a loaf and more for their tweets in response to the threats by the prez.  “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker!” Durkan tweeted. And in a tweet using one of Trump’s own mis-spellings, Inslee said, “A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business. ‘Stoop’ tweeting.”

Let them all eat bread, I say.  Nyel’s sourdough perfection!  It would mellow things right out as breaking bread together is meant to do.


Springtime Visitors Some More

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

In The Wachsmuths’ Backyard – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth 4-28-20

The birds start gathering about seven each morning at the Wachsmuth house in Oysterville.  By ones and twos, in  small groups and large, shyly, boldly — they wait and watch for the wild birdseed that they know will soon arrive.  There will be something for everyone and it will vary by season — suet in the winter for woodpeckers and jays; thistle seed for the goldfinches and chickadees in the spring.

Of course, the birds aren’t the only ones fond of treats.  A pesky raccoon hangs around periodically and the squirrels have caused a bit of havoc in the lettuce patch, digging around the plants to bury nuts for “later.”  Ever-patient Carol has replanted and put up a netting barrier.

One Morning in March 2017 at Wachsmuths’ — Photo by Sydney

The last few days, it’s the bears that have been checking things out.  Sunday, one made off with the suet.  (“We won’t be replacing it until winter,” Tucker told us later.)  But, yesterday the lack of suet didn’t stop Mama Bear bringing two cubs over on a reconnaissance mission.

“They didn’t hang around very long, but they were so cute. I was lucky to get this one picture,” Tucker wrote.

We wondered if it was Sunday’s bear, back with the two little ones.  Or were these unrelated to the first one?  Hard to tell from her backside.  But… the odds are, whoever they are, they’ll be back.  And who knows what others?  The word is definitely out.  Those birds aren’t too good at secrets!




They didn’t hang around very long, but they were so cute. I was lucky to get this one picture.

A Sign of Heightened Awareness

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

From Days Gone By

For as long as I can remember, there has been an old “Quarantine” sign hanging above the kitchen door in the Red House.  That’s what we’ve called my great-grandfather R.H. Espy’s house ever since my uncle Willard painted it barn red in the mid-1940s.  The house has remained in the family since it was built in 1872 and many of its contents have remained as well.

No one knows when that Quarantine Sign was used or even if it was recycled for more than one go-round.  It could have been used as early as 1903 when a scarlet fever epidemic swept the area.  Or, it could have been used during the 1918 flu epidemic — the “Spanish inflenza” as it was called, believed to have been brought to the United States by WWI soldiers returning home.

“The Red House” by Sedem Akposoee

With all the family correspondence and Oysterville School documents that I’ve perused over the years, I have never seen reference to either of those epidemics.   I have no knowledge concerning any of our family members being affected by either scarlet fever or influenza.  The closest I can come is my mother’s memory of neighbors vaccinating one another against smallpox with an early vaccine, perhaps derived from cowpox.

I don’t know if that Quarantine sign is still in the Red House.  My fondest desire is that we will have no use for it during this current Coronavirus pandemic.  Meanwhile, we continue to wash our hands, sing the Happy Birthday song, and limit our forays out and about.  No hugging, no hand-shaking — but many admonitions to “Stay Well!”


Check, Double-Check, And We’re Off!

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

5:00 A.M. Alarm — CHECK!

Up, bathed, coiffed — CHECK!

Aunt Rye with Banty Chicks c. 1940

Pills taken, breakfast eaten — CHECK!

Chickens fed and watered — CHECK!

Lunches made, thermos of decaf filled — CHECK!

Books for inevitable waits ready — CHECK!

Car packed  — CHECK!

7:00 a.m. off to Seattle — CHECK!

We hope and pray that this specialist has some

Oysterville Stagecoach c 1880

positive suggestions for Nyel’s “next steps.”  It sure will be worth this and every other up-and-back trip to Seattle no-matter-what-and-weather-be-damned!  Cross your fingers for us!

This Early Winter Morning…

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

The Lights Weren’t Working

Nyel’s cellphone alarm went off at 5:30 as usual and I heard him turn on his bedside light.  “I think my bulb burned out,” he said.

I tried the light on my side.  “I think the power is out,” I said.

So we debated whether to stay warm and snug where we were or start our day as usual.  It was really my call,  our “usual” being me who goes to the kitchen to make coffee.  Which I did, returning with two cups which we drank, propped up in bed as is our habit.

At The Ready

We discussed options.  Our friend Cate is coming over at ten and the plan was to offer her “real” coffee (grind the beans, etc.} “I was going to make cookies,” Nyel said.  “Oatmeal raisin.”

“Well… no cookies,” I said, “but we can still have the real coffee I promised.  I think there are some (fairly) fresh ground beans in the freezer.”  Unstated was “thank goodness for a duel fuel stove.”  And we discussed the possibility of “baking” cookies in the Dutch oven on the stovetop. Or in the fireplace.

My part of the preparation for Cate’s visit was to have the fire going in library. No change of plans needed there except that we don’t have very much dry wood.  “We’ll just have to bundle up until she comes and then huddle around the fire when she gets here,” we agreed.

And about then, the power was back on.  Yay!  And a big thanks to whoever might have been out in the cold and dark and wind seeing to it that Nyel can bake those cookies!

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…