Archive for the ‘Country Living’ Category

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!!

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.