Archive for the ‘Country Living’ Category

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.

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.