Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Flurries with a chance of feathers…

Saturday, February 13th, 2021

Dressed For Chill

“Snow flurries” said the news.  Sounds intriguing and sorta hopeful.  Romantic almost.

But the chickens and I are here to tell you that there was nothing intriguing, hopeful, or romantic about yesterday’s weather.  As every realistic chicken and farmer’s wife knows, nothing flurries without wind.  And the wind was fierce.  I dawdled before going out with their breakfast but, even so, it had only warmed up to 32º.  The wind was coming in from the bay at 15 mph which doesn’t seem much until you’re out in it.  Chill factor 21º.

The girls were off their roosts and milling around inside the coop.  I’ve not seen them behave like that before.  I hung up their food — enough so I wouldn’t have to go out again until this morning — but then (of course!) I saw that their water was frozen.  Duh!

The Girls’ Front Yard

Back to the house,  fill the teakettle and bring it to a boil, back to the lower forty and with some cracked corn treats this time.  I unfroze the water and tossed the treats nearby, calling them through my muffler.  They took turns sticking their heads out the door, but wouldn’t sally forth.

Right now I have the teakettle on again.  It’s not quite as cold today and the snow has disappeared.  Mostly.  I hope there aren’t any frozen chickens down there.  Or dehydrated ones, either.  But… you never can tell with chickens.  Especially during the flurrying time.

Mr/Ms Cool and the Peanut Gallery

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

“Oysters and Oysterville” screenshot – Sydney and Dobby

There is a lot to be said for blissful ignorance.  While Dobby and I sat quietly waiting yesterday, aware only of “technical difficulties” at the beginning of our video presentation, videographer Aaron Webster was scurrying and Madeline Moore’s thumbs were flying on her cell phone.  Little did we know that the live stream was having severe audio problems and our “audience” was giving blow-by-blow feedback to Madeline.  To us our two “directors” appeared busy but unflappable — definitely cool and working diligently to get things back on track.

We’d had a little forewarning, though.  We arrived about 1:30 — a half hour early.  Aaron had been setting up on the deck at Sea Farms since noon but was having difficulties getting a live feed.  Shortly after Madeline got there, Aaron took off for the schoolhouse to see if things might be better there.  No luck.  Then suddenly we were “on.”  And after a few minutes we weren’t.  Aaron was scurrying.  Madeline was texting and reassuring viewers that it would soon be fine.  Dobby and I were mostly oblivious — sitting quietly, bundled up like two Pillsbury Doughboys against the cold.  Our view from the deck of Oysterville Sea Farms is the best one in all of Oysterville!  We couldn’t have chosen a better place to be cooling (literally!) our jets.

“Oysters and Oysterville” – filmed on the deck of Oysterville Sea Farms

Finally, mics were readjusted, Aaron resumed his place at the computer controls, Madeline continued texting and Dobby and I were given the high sign to continue where we had left off.  (Tricky, given our aged memories but… we struggled forth.)  Afterwards, Madeline was full of enthusiasm and reassurance.  Aaron was mostly silent, probably feeling responsible for whatever glitches had happened but, given the ongoing difficulties with ANY technology working in Oysterville, he had done admirably.

Before leaving home, I had set up my computer for Nyel so he could watch our endeavor.  The first words out of his mouth when I returned were, “Well THAT was a complete disaster!”  Not heartening, to say the least.  Apparently, he gave up on us early in the technological crisis.  So, he and I ended up watching together just before dinner.  Not a disaster, at all — though, I wanted to leap in and edit out some of my ums and uhs, fix my right earring which, at one point seemed to be tucked up under my hat, and a few other self-centered things.

My take-away:  I don’t think there will be a second career opportunity for me on television.  Come to think of it though, I did have a weekly talk-show for a couple of years on the first-ever Hayward Cable station in the late sixties or early seventies…   WOW!   It was called “Teacher Talk.”  Who’duh thunk it?



Dobby & Me, Streaming Live Tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

Look for “Oysters and Oysterville” on Wednesday, February 10, at 2:00

All things being equal, Dobby Wiegardt and I will be “streaming live” (as they say) on Facebook tomorrow.  The cameras roll at two o’clock — rain (from the Oysterville Schoolhouse) or shine (from the deck of Oysterville Sea Farms.)  Cape D Interpreters Aaron Webster and Stephen Wood will be doing the videography and Madeline Moore will make the introductory remarks on behalf of the Columbia Heritage Museum.  Our topic is “Oysters and Oysterville.”

Dobby, of course, will be talking about the history of oysters here on Shoalwater (now Willapa) Bay.  His family has been in oystering here since his grandfather, Heinrich Wiegardt arrived in the mid-1870s and Dobby, himself, has been in the family business all of his long life.  He probably knows more about the oysters of Willapa Bay than anyone else around.  I’m looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

Dobby with his grandfather’s hats, April 2019.

My area of “expertise” (presumably) is Oysterville.  My family roots go back a generation earlier than Dobby’s — to 1852 when my great-grandfather, Robert Hamilton Espy, arrived in newly created Pacific County, then still a part of Oregon Territory. He co-founded Oysterville in 1954 and the Espys have had a presence here ever since.  I love the stories about the early days — especially the stories told around our library fireplace by my grandfather and his sister, my great Aunt Dora.

They talked about the “characters” they remembered from their childhood in the 1870s — those they called “the saints and the sinners.”  Papa talked mostly about the saints and Aunt Dora, the sinners.  I have to admit, I remember her stories best!  I hope I remember to tell some of them tomorrow.

Masked Sydney, October 2020

We won’t have much time — “30 to 45 minutes” we were told.  Dobby and I agreed that we’d better take a few notes along with us — to keep ourselves on track.  There’s something that happens when you get to our venerable age that plays havoc with your memory.   I’m pretty sure that I’ll need more notes than Dobby — even though he is more venerable by five whole years!

I hope you get a chance to see us!  If you miss tomorrow’s 2:00 live performance, I believe it will be available on YouTube later.


How in the world did Dolly know?

Sunday, February 7th, 2021


Bright and early — actually it was dark and early — this morning I checked my email and found a birthday greeting from…. drum roll…. Dolly Parton!  Hard to believe!  But there she was, shiny and glitzy as ever, singing birthday greetings to meSydney!  She not only sang my name but, there it was up in lights, as well!  Gobsmacked doesn’t quite express it!

The greeting was actually from Judy and Charlie of Double J and the Boys.  They apologized for not knowing the exact date which (in case Dolly wants to know) is three weeks hence on the very last day of this shortest month.  As I see it, I can play this greeting over and over again until then — maybe even 85 times in honor of my longevity!

Judy and Charlie, 2012

The “card” was an American Greeting e-card, according to the information attached, but I know it really came by magic.  And just not the ordinary magic of cyberspace, either.  I can’t imagine how it all works and I really don’t want to know.  I am content to think that Dolly put it all together just for me.  The only thing that could have topped it is if Judy and Charlie could have been singing along with her!  Actually, maybe they were. The cameraman panned the back-up singers too quickly to be sure.  In any case, huge hugs from Oysterville to all three of you — Judy Eron, Charlie Watkins, and Dolly Parton!



Parenting, 1880s Style

Friday, February 5th, 2021

R.H. Espy Family, 1895 (Cecil, front row left; Will front row right.)

From the stories I heard from my great-aunts and uncles, I think my great-grandfather, R.H. Espy, was a stern father.  He had high expectations for all of his children and they all did well.  They spoke of him with respect but never with much humor or with any warm-fuzzy memories.

Part of it may have been his age.  He was forty-four when he married in 1870 and was nearly 60 when his eighth and last child was born.  And part of it undoubtedly the parenting style of the times –though the term/concept of  “parenting” wouldn’t be known for another century or so.  R.H.  left the early upbringing of the youngsters to his much younger wife, Julia.  When the boys were old enough (five or six) to help with the farm chores, he was more directly involved with them; the training of the girls he left up to his wife.  As for formal schooling — he saw to it that they all went to college with the exception of Verona, the youngest, who was an invalid for most of her life.  (Multiple sclerosis, the family thought in retrospect.)

Uncle Will at OSU, 1904

Two stories stand out in my mind about R.H. and his parenting.  When the first train was to come into the IR&N’s northern terminus at Nahcotta on May 29, 1889, five-and-a-half year old Will Espy was  invited to go with his friend Charlie Nelson and family to witness the great event.  R.H. said, “No” in no uncertain terms — probably still miffed that he had invested $10,000 in his friend Loomis’s railroad with the understanding that it would come clear to Oysterville.  But,  young Will was undaunted.  He “borrowed” his older brother Harry’s horse and went to Nahcotta anyway.  Afterwards, his punishment was to stay in bed for the next two days.  He told me more than once that seeing the train come in was “well worth it!”

The other story involves Cecil Espy, seventh child and fourth son of R.H. and Julia.  One of Cecil’s earliest memories was of his father taking him by the hand and walking him two blocks south to the Oysterville Courthouse.  It was early on the morning of April 11, 1891; Cecil was not yet four years old.  As they approached the jail behind the Courthouse, they found a crowd gathered around the bodies of John Edwards and John Rose, still lying in their blood.  They had been shot to death through the bars of the jail by an angry mob who had crossed the bay from South Bend.  “My boy, R.H. told his young son, “this is what you get for breaking the law.”  Cecil never forgot the  incident, though he lived well into his nineties.

Sydney and Uncle Cecil, 1979

It was definitely a different era all the way around, but especially in the matter of child-rearing.  I can’t help but wonder if present practices have better results… or not.  Will grew up to be an engineer and served as the Water Commissioner of San Francisco.  Cecil became a banker in Portland and retired to Oysterville where he lived for another thirty years or so.  Both men married well, raised fine families of their own, and were leaders in their communities.  R.H. would have been proud… but he probably wouldn’t have said so.

Whatever happened to… and other thoughts.

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Vintage Fly Swatters

Yesterday during a phone chat, Tucker told me that he had run across an old-fashioned fly swatter.  I didn’t think to ask the circumstances of his discovery.  Tucker is the quintessential collector and saver, so I wasn’t surprised at all, but I should have asked him for a picture.  I’m not just sure what “old-fashioned” means.  I wonder if he meant the fly swatters I remember from my youth — actually the only kind I’ve ever seen.

But, come to think of it, we haven’t had a fly swatter around here for quite a while.  What happened to that one we had hanging from a hook in the woodshed right outside the kitchen door when I was a kid?  And why don’t we need it these days?

And, speaking of doors, what ever happened to all the screen doors we had?  I remember clearly that all the  outer doors also had screen doors so we could have a breeze through the house in the summer.  Were those screen doors just put up in the warm season?  Or were they there year round?  We do have one left, but that doorway is no longer in use.  And actually, the screened part is just a window in that outer door.  Not like the really-o, truly-o screen doors we all had years ago.

Come to think of it, I don’t think we have many flies any more.  Is that possible?  Why have screen doors and fly swatters become things of the past?  Is that so everywhere?  Or just here on the Peninsula?  Or maybe just here at our house?

Didn’t we all have one of these once?

Somehow, all of this reminds me of my all-time favorite Shel Silverstein poem:

How Many? How Much?
How many slams in an old screen door?
Depends how loud you shut it.
How many slices in a bread?
Depends how thin you cut it.
How much good inside a day?
Depends how good you live ‘em.
How much love inside a friend?
Depends how much you give ‘em.

Funny what thoughts are triggered by a conversation with a friend…

Thanks, Florence Sage!

Monday, January 25th, 2021

There are probably different kinds of poetry.  I might have known once but now I don’t.  I’ve always felt at two with poetry.  Or maybe more like six or seven.  Until yesterday. I was catching up on back issues of the paper and I happened upon an article that included poet Florence Sage.  It was about her new book:  The Man Who Whistled – The Woman Who Wished: A Polish-Canadian Story.

I know Florence.  I met her here at a poetry gathering for Bob Pyle and Jim Bertolino clear back in October 2014.  When it comes right down to it, I know quite a few poets, including good friends Pat Thomas and Cate Gable and Oysterville neighbor Erin Malone.  And while I’ve spoken to a few of them about their work, their process, their understanding of the differences between poetry and prose… I have never conquered my fear of poetry.  I’ve written a blog or two that might be thought of as poetry by some —  but I can’t say I’ve ever thought to myself, “Self, today we are going to write a poem.”

Poet Florence Sage, Courtesy Astoria Library

Then yesterday, I read an article in the December 17th Coast Weekend, “A Wave of Creativity” and it included a piece about Florence written by Briana Alzola.  It might have changed my life.  Honestly.  For sure it has changed my thinking about poetry.  “I write poems that are stories — just tiny, little stories,” Florence said.  And, “I like that poetry has line breaks and that each line has its own integrity… You get that little bit of a picture and…”

But those are things I’ve said about writing history!! Put the story back in history, I say.  Don’t call me a historian, I say, call me a storyteller.  “Just like any art, each poem is a problem to solve,” Florence said.  But that’s what writing history is, too.  Find the facts to solve a problem and writing them to tell a story.  In a nutshell!  Florence’s description of writing poetry is exactly the way I feel about writing history!   Wow!  My understanding of writing history and my fear of writing poetry just met at an intersection.

Thanks, so much, Florence!  Suddenly, I’m not so fearful of poetry. Certainly not of reading it.  And who knows?  I might even try writing a little bit now and again…

Change comes slowly, yet all too fast…

Sunday, January 24th, 2021

Ten houses border the east side of Territory Road between the old ‘S’ curve and Oysterville Road.  Except for one or two of the newest ones, they all face Willapa Bay and beyond their front porches and gardens is a great swath of marshy meadowland.  There, the grasses grow as tall as I am in the summer, sheltering nesting birds and providing food and cover for other tiny creatures seldom seen.  In winter, the puddles and ponds left by the rains and high tides attract ducks and geese.  Our chickens cluck at them and they quack and honk in return.  And all year ’round the bear and deer and coyotes call the meadows their own.

Bear in the Meadow

Until recently, the meadows hadn’t changed much in a hundred years.  Before that, though, when Oysterville was new and when the shoreline was a bit farther out, there were three more streets parallel to Territory Road (which was then called Fourth Street.)  In front of our house at various times were a ball park, the Whealdon Slaughter House, the Loomis and Patterson Boat Shop and the residence of the Federspiel family.  In front of the homes north of us were  a saloon,  the Methodist Church, the Pacific Journal building, another boat shop — and probably more.  My grandfather, Charlie Nelson, Dewitt Stoner and Horace Wirt all remembered and told Charles Fitzpatrick so he could draw a composite map.

Some of the buildings may still have been there in my mother’s childhood, but by the time I came along they were all gone.  The only difference between my memories of the meadows and what I see out my windows  today are the fences.   There aren’t any there now.  When I was little, most of the meadows of Oysterville were edged with barbed wire.  That’s because almost everyone had a horse or two — mostly for their kids.

Main Street/Boulevard

My  grandfather still had one remaining workhorse from his farming days — Countess, who was often pastured in front of our house or in the meadow south of Holways’ place.  Now… no kids, no farms, no horses, no fences.  Even the last of the old fence posts are gone.

I notice, too that even the meadows, themselves,  are disappearing.   Three or four houses north of us, Main Street has been mowed to boulevard proportions for several blocks; as it has widened, the meadow has narrowed.  And, from the southeast corner of Territory and Oysterville Roads and all the way to the shore line, a fence has gone up along the verge as the owners of the old Stoner place slowly incorporate the meadow into garden areas.

I know that change happens and we must make way for progress.  But it saddens me that the character of the village as I have known if for so long is changing.  Too, I’m always curious about why people are attracted to our little hamlet and then set out to make it different from the way they found it.  It must have something to do with wanting to leave our mark.  I console myself that in another hundred years it will all be different once again.

Who, exactly, are Slutvana’s relations?

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Russian Orloff

Slutvana, our Russian Orloff, spent most of last summer and fall in a nest box — any one of the three we have.  She didn’t seem particular.  She wasn’t laying and she wasn’t broody.  Talk with her as I might, she wasn’t about to reveal the cause of her self-isolation from the rest of us.

But now that winter is upon us, she is suddenly out and about.  Her nest box days seem to be a thing of the past and, although she seldom collaborates with any of us, at least she is interacting with the garden and getting a little exercise.  She is definitely one-of-a-kind, chicken-wise.

That may be because the Russian Orloff is the only distinctly Russian breed of chicken to be found in America. Russian tradition credits Count Orloff – Alexey Grigoryevich Orlov (1737-1808) – with the importation and promotion of this breed of chicken. This is the same Count responsible for the Orlov horse breed, the famous Orlov Trotters. The Count is said to have imported the breed from Persia.

Or it may be that she is self-conscious about her looks.  Her small comb is almost non-existent and, in combination with her fat body, she is not the most attractive hen in the coop.  Plus her plethora of neck feathers makes her look like she has multiple (not just double) chins AND jowls which is not any more attractive in chickens than in people.

Orlov Trotter

On the other hand, Russian Orloffs are said to be “very cold hardy birds with their small combs and fat bodies.” A chicken’s comb, as you might know, actually helps it stay cool.  Unlike us, chickens can’t sweat.   To cool off, its blood goes into the comb and because the comb sticks up from the head, it says cooler than the rest of the chicken’s body. Blood circulating from the comb and the wattles helps the bird lose heat during hot weather.

So there you have it.  Slutvana is either really feeling frisky with the colder winter weather or she is out and about hoping for a glimpse of  her pseudo-cousins, the Orlov Trotters.  I don’t think there are any in Oysterville, but I haven’t wanted to discourage her quest.  Anything to get her out of the coop for a change!


Where is the line?

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Kay Buesing, 2013

Where exactly is the demarcation zone — that area between public and private that some guard so carefully and others feel is part of their open book?  I cannot answer the question, not even for myself.  The closest I can come is… “it depends.”

Kay Buesing’s son-in-law came to see us yesterday to tell us that Kay is now back on the Peninsula — has been since November or so.  OMG!  We didn’t even know she had left.  Care-giving issues during the pandemic, he said.  Her health has been fragile for a few years now — we did know that.  In September 2019, she and her care-giver came to “Our Grand Affair” — the 150th birthday party for this house — and Kay and I joked that maybe the party should be for us and that some days we felt about that old.  That was the last time we had a visit.

The First Kite Museum

We go back a long way, Kay and I.  She and her husband Jim arrived on the Peninsula the year before I did — 1977, I think.  She was already teaching English and drama at the high school when I was hired to teach at Long Beach.  She and Jim were part of “the picnic group” with Gordon and Roy and Noel and Patty.  Kay and I helped begin the first go-round of The Peninsula Players in 1980  and, about the time she and Jim retired and opened the Kite Shop in the old Long Beach firehall building, Nyel and I were beginning our sojourn at the Bookvendor cattywampus across the street.

While Jim flew kites and sold them, Kay worked behind the scenes to get the International Kite Festival off the ground (so to speak) and then turned her attention to establishing the Kite Museum.  She always credited Jim, but we all knew that Kay was proverbial power behind the throne — or, in this case, the wind beneath the kites.   And, if she could, she roped us all into helping, one way or another. She made all the hard work look easy and look like such fun.

Kay Buesing, 2014

But when Bobby came to our door yesterday — masked and with his long, pandemic hair — not only did it take me a beat to know who he was, I was gobsmacked at his news.  Kay has been placed in Hospice Care and since visiting isn’t an option these days… “send a card,” he said:  Kay Buesing, Coastal Care, 21914 Pacific Way, Ocean Park, WA 98641.

As I write this, I’m still looking for that line of privacy.  I’ve decided that I can only do as I would want done — tell those who know Kay and would want to reach out.  Ask them to send her their love and their memories — the most important gifts of all.