Archive for the ‘Winter in Oysterville’ Category

Harbingers, Marauders, and Resplendence!

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

Here they come!

They’re popping up all over the place!  Daffodils!  The harbingers of Spring!

On the north side of our house, along the verge there are a gazillion shoots promising to bloom soon.  Some were planted by Nyel several Autumns ago.  And there are several hundred that were planted this last October by our landscaper friend Eugene Busenius.  Those include some that were a house gift in September from my cousin Lina in Austria, and dozens from Jack Downer — a gift to the Oysterville Restoration Foundation — and even more dozens from him as a gift to us.  Eugene was a trooper!  I hope he does a drive-by when they bloom.

Deer Candy

Other signs of Spring in our yard include lots of deer scat and the tell-tale nibbling on our camellias.  I don’t think there is a leaf in sight that doesn’t have a bite-sized chomp out of it.  They aren’t going to make  the most attractive bouquets in the world when they bloom — but there will be a story of two connected to them for sure.  “The Marauding Deer People of Oysterville” comes to mind.

Winter Promises

Thank goodness for the Rosamundi Rhododendron in our south garden.  She is  resplendent and flowering in all her glory — setting the bar high for everyone else out there.  And I can clearly hear her saying “Nya Nya Nyaa” to the deer people, much to the envy of the apple tree and the hydrangeas and, of course, the aforementioned camellias.

I keep telling all of them, “Worry not!  We are going to be SO ready for you whenever and however you show up!”  I hope they are listening!



“It’s a regular lake out there!”

Sunday, January 12th, 2020

The lake in our east meadow made its appearance somewhat later than usual this year, undoubtedly because the rains of November didn’t arrive until December.  Years ago, Nyel named it “Lake Little” in honor of my father.  Most people probably think we call it that for its size, but I maintain that, in that case, he’d have named it “Little Lake.”  Which he didn’t.

Black Brant

My father, William “Bill” Little  always enjoyed that seasonal body of water.  He liked watching the ducks paddling around out there on fine winter days, bobbing and diving after who-knows-what tasty morsels below the surface.  Too, he enjoyed seeing the Brant come in to rest and reconnoiter.  I can still hear him say, winter after winter, as if it were the first time, “Why!  It’s a regular lake out there!”

Chickens at Water’s Edge

I recently read that the oldest recorded Brant was a female, and was over 27 years, 6 months old. It had been banded in Alaska and was found in Washington.  Can’t help but wonder if she was among the yearly visitors to Lake Little.

This year, the lake seems larger than usual, even though it didn’t appear until Christmastime.  I wonder if its size has more to do with the condition of the meadow, itself, rather than with the amount of rainfall.  Does it have to do with how evenly the meadow was mowed back in September?  Or, perhaps, with the storm-driven high tides of late December?  Kathleen Sayce could probably tell me.

Eagles On Merchant Street

I don’t think the waterfowl care one way or another.  Nor do they seem to pay any attention to our chickens who sometimes stand at water’s edge to watch them float and dive.  Even when the eagles are in their nearby perch high atop the nearby Monterey Cypress on Merchant Street, the denizens of Lake Little pay no heed.  I imagine they are secure in the thought that there is plenty for all.  After all, they are right here in Oysterville, God’s country!


Whew! No matter how you figure it…

Monday, January 6th, 2020

Goodbye to Christmas 2019

…we got our tree down just in time!  Or so it seems.  Our two tall Christmas elves made a return visit yesterday afternoon to climb Tucker’s ladder and take down the way-up-high ornaments that they had placed in that eleven-foot noble fir four weeks ago. (Four weeks!  Wow!  No wonder that tree was looking so tired.)

Tradition in some circles (especially British) has it that the Christmas tree should come down on Epiphany (which is today.)  Or… some say that all  Christmas decorations should be taken down on Twelfth Night (which was yesterday… or today, depending upon how you count.)  Either way, by my figuring, we made it!

Two-fisted Clean-up!

According to some traditions (or maybe superstitions), Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night should be left up until February 2nd (Candlemas Day) and still others say that if you miss getting your house undecorated by January 5th, you must leave the Christmas decor up until Twelfth Night the following year!  Yikes!

On the other hand… taking decorations down too early is also a no-no.  In ancient times, people believed that tree-spirits lived in the holly and ivy. After the festive season, they would be released outside but if they were let go before Christmas ended, there could be problems with the harvest as a result.  I was a bit relieved to hear the holly and ivy part — we didn’t have either among our festive boughs!

Every Crack and Cranny!

Mostly, though, I’m just pleased to have the house looking back to “normal.”  It is a New Year’s bonus that our elves could be here yesterday ensuring the end of Christmas in a timely manner and according to old traditions!  And besides that, they went crazy with the cleaning up!  There is ‘nary a fir needle nor an icicle strand to be found as a reminder of Christmas past — and that’s said with perfect 2020 hindsight!




Cousins Come Calling!

Friday, January 3rd, 2020


Yesterday was a Red Letter Day at our house.  The Schreiber Cousins came calling!  Seeing them seated around our table (with all its leaves pressed into service!) made my heart sing!  I could almost hear our Espy forebears humming along from on high.

Pater familias of the group, Alex Schreiber, is my first cousin Mona’s oldest son, making him my first-cousin-once-removed.  My Uncle Willard was his grandfather.  Alex is ten years younger than my son Charlie and is an Associate Professor of Biology at Saint Lawrence University in upstate New York.

Max, Micah, Ben

With him were sons Max (25) and fiance Micah, Sam (23), Jack (18), Ben (16), and daughter Maddie (12),  my first-cousins-twice removed.  Willard would be their great-grandfather but they only know him by reputation.  It was Maddie’s first trip to Oysterville but the boys and their dad have been here many times.  They have a “real time” history here you might say.

When I was still teaching, probably in 2001, Alex brought Max and Sam visiting and actually did a lesson on frogs in my 1st/2nd/3rd grade classroom.  He had assured me that he had developed the material with Sam’s preschool class in mind and that it would be perfectly age appropriate.  It was fabulous!  The two little boys came to my classroom with him and acted as his “teaching assistants.”  I was totally impressed.

Alex, Jack, Sam

For the Sesquicentennial in 2004,  all four boys came dressed in Davy Crocket outfits, complete with coonskin hats. Somewhere I have a picture of them with their mom (also in period costume) in front of the house here.  Since then, Max and Sam have visited more than the others, perhaps, but all have special memories of the house and of Willard’s (once) red cottage.

Max and Sam are now living in the Seattle area and working in the IT field.  Jack, too, is headed in that direction but his pathway is with the army.  Ben is interested in the same aspects of technology as Jack, “but not the army part” he said.  The conversation (which was diverse) included thoughts about Edward Snowden’s recent book which I am currently reading in preparation for a March Book Talk in Portland. It was great to get their perspective on a whole host of things I can barely grasp.

Willard Espy (1910-1999)

Micah, Max’s girlfriend of eight years, was wearing the gorgeous ring that Max designed for her and gave her on the occasion of their recent engagement.  I put in a bid for the Oysterville Church as a wedding venue and they are taking my suggestion “under advisement.”  I almost think Willard, himself, would appear if that happened!


Springtime in January

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

Camellia In Bloom, December 2015

Last year at this time, the camellias on the east and south sides of the house were already in flower as they had been for several Januaries before that.  This has been a new wrinkle garden-wise.  For at least the forty years prior, those camellias had always bloomed within a few days of my birthday on February 28th.  December and January were way early.

Rhodies Ready To Pop (Maybe Rosamundi)

This year, however, it seems as though the camellias are back to normal — still in tight bud at the beginning of January.  This, in spite of the mild autumn and winter (so far) weather we’ve enjoyed.  On the other hand, we have rhododendrons on both the south and north fence lines in bloom.

I took a look at the American Rhododendron Society (Northwest Chapter) online and found a 2012 blog about early bloomers, but only two mentioned for January.  Both are hybrids but neither description nor photograph matches the ones in our yard. There are probably dozens of possibilities and it will take more research  to find out their identities. I have a dim memory that the ones in the south garden maybe called “Rosamundi.”  Maybe we need a field trip to  the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Federal Way.  Their website says they are open and blooming!

Rhodies in Bloom

Or, even better, next time we see our rhodie expert friends Steve and John, we’ll ask if they know.  A year or so ago they weren’t sure but, by now, maybe…  And, anyway, do we really care about the names?  Just enjoying blossoms in January is the fabulous part.


Same Time Next Year

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

To celebrate big-time or to celebrate as usual?  Is today the end of a decade or only the end of a year?  It is a matter of controversy, apparently, and some pundits say if you are in doubt whether the decade ends tonight or a year from now, celebrate twice.  Talk about hedging your bets…

It seems to depend on how you count.  I can’t really wrap my head around that.  No matter how I look at it, from 0 to 1 (as in from your birth to your first birthday) serves as year one.  And, since 10 years make a decade, when you are 10, you are a decade old.  When 2020 is completed, we will have ended the second decade of this century.  Period and amen and not really open to discussion.

Unless you belong to a culture which counts you as one when you are born or uses some other method of marking time.  According to Wikipedia:  East Asian age reckoning originated in China and continues in limited use there along with Tibet and Japan, but is still common in Korea. People are born at the age of one, i.e. the first year of lifetime using an ordinal number (instead of “zero” using a cardinal number,) and on Chinese New Year or New Year’s Day,  one year is added to their age. Since age is incremented at the beginning of the lunar or solar year, rather than on the anniversary of a birthday, people may be one or two years older in Asian reckoning than in the international age system.

That is way out of my reasoning ability.  I cannot wrap my head around the logic.  But it is interesting to think that some of my Asian friends are not as old as they believe themselves to be.   Or, that on those days that I feel older than my birthdays account for, I was perhaps born into the wrong part of the world.

In any case, in this household we are hoping to make next year the best of an otherwise difficult decade.  We’ll celebrate the the end of 2019 tonight, the arrival of a new year tomorrow and those ending and beginning decades a year hence.  You can’t have too many celebrations!

Calling on Mrs. Wirt and God

Sunday, December 22nd, 2019

The Oldest H.A. Espy Children – Medora and Albert, 1904

At noon as we sat at the dining room table, there was a fearsome clucking and crowing just outside the south windows.  When I looked to see the problem, there was the rooster, Big Red, making his way across the lawn toward the fence — not hurrying mind you, but scolding vociferously as he walked.  A glance toward the church revealed the reason for his distress.  His Rhode Island Red sister, “Gladys,” was waddling briskly down the walkway of the church, homeward bound.

My immediate and irreverently ridiculous thought was, “Well, at least she closed the church doors when she left which is better than lots of our non-feathered visitors do…”   And hard on the heels of that thought came another… the family story of my mother’s oldest brother, Albert.   I always heard it just as my uncle Willard wrote it in Oysterville: Roads to Grandpa’s Village:
 At three, Albert once dashed out the door — he was always dashing — explaining over his shoulder that he was off  “to call on Mrs. Wirt and God.”  The second call followed the first by only a few months; he died in a Portland hospital of an undiagnosed stomach ailment.

Wirt House, 1939

Mrs. Wirt was our across-the-lane neighbor.  God, of course, lived across the street in the church…  Today I wondered if Gladys had gone to call on God but had found the door closed.  Would she have hung out and waited for someone to open it had Big Red not scolded?   I asked, but neither the rooster nor the hen was forthcoming with an answer.  That’s often the way it is with chickens.

Come Caroling in Oysterville on Sunday!

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

Oysterville Church, Christmas 2013

For the fourth consecutive season, community members are invited to an informal Christmas Carol Sing-a-long at the Oysterville Church on Sunday, December 22nd at 2:00 o’clock.  As in the past, Dobbie Wiegardt will read the  Christmas story from the Book of Luke,  and members of the Bayside singers will participate.    The “stars” of the program will be the audience members who will be singing to piano accompaniment by Diane Buttrell.

My mother and her siblings often reminisced fondly of the “Christmas Programs” held each year in the church during the 19-teens and ’20s when they were growing up here. The one-room schoolhouse was too small to accommodate all the parents and community members so, the festivities took place in the church — in the Methodist Church until it blew down in 1922 and in the Baptist (now Ecumenical) Church  after that. (No separation of church and state in those days!)   They remembered that the program was elaborate — each child “recited” a poem or special “piece” appropriate to the occasion and each was costumed by enthusiastic mothers.  Mom remembered that when she was in first grade, she said a short poem about “a robin redbreast” and that her mother had made her an outfit with “beautiful bird wings.”

Oysterville Church, December 2008

Under the large Christmas tree in the Sunday School Room was a present for each child and, also, mom said, “one for each of the bachelors.”  I believe those were single men — widowed or unmarried, who lived in the old Stevens Hotel just north of our house during those years.  It was no longer run as a hotel — more as a boarding house in those days.

The program, of course, included Christmas carols which were sung by the audience as well as by the school children.  We’ll be carrying on an old tradition on Sunday — minus the school children, to be sure — but full of the season’s spirit and Oysterville’s historic charm .  I look forward to sharing that time with you!


Another of Life’s Little Mysteries

Monday, February 25th, 2019

The Little Bedroom

In our house, if something strange can’t rightfully be attributed to Mrs. Crouch (our resident ghost), Nyel has the perfect catch-all category. Mrs. C. usually gets credit for doors that swing open for no reason or for pictures that suddenly fall off the wall and, always, for anything that goes missing.  She still has Nyel’s car keys from last March!

But, in a big and ancient house like ours, “shit happens” as they say.  Nyel, ever the gentleman, has never adopted that particular phrase (no matter how descriptive.)  He simply shrugs and says, “another of life’s little mysteries.”

A prime example has happened within the last few weeks.  Or more accurately, the discovery has been made that recently. I was upstairs laying out fresh towels and double-checking for dust and cobwebs last week in preparation for a visit from the cousins and, much to my amazement, found a large paint-less spot on the floor of the “little bedroom.”  It’s a room seldom used and has a brightly painted teal-colored floor.  There, between the bed and the nightstand was an area about the size of the lid of a small yoghurt  carton that is completely devoid of paint!

Mystery Spot in the Little Bedroom

How could that have happened?  Maybe something spilled and took the paint right off?  But what?  And when?  As always in situations like this, I wonder if it’s been like that for some time and I just now noticed.  But wouldn’t some guest have mentioned it?  Actually… probably not.  People are usually too polite to point out household defects or blemishes.

So, the only thing to do is to move forward.  As in, do we still have any of that particular floor paint left?  And if I just sand the edges around the area and clean the surface carefully, will a couple of swipes of paint do the trick?  Of course, it’s one of those things that I’d ordinarily leave to Nyel, but his going-upstairs days are on hold for the foreseeable future. Where are the relatives of those shoemaker’s elves, anyway?


Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

We watched the State of the Union address last night.  I had vowed I wouldn’t, but then… thought I “should.”  I had told myself I would remain silent throughout.  Promise broken in the first five minutes.  I told myself I’d stay seated – or at least in the room. Promise broken many times over.  Couldn’t stick it.  I vowed I would be attentive.  Vow broken – or at least I think it was.  Certainly, I’m very fuzzy about most of what was said.  Trump seemed to be taking credit for D-Day…  Huh?

I do remember a couple of my reveries, though.  One was about the two old guys who were holocaust survivors.  Judah Samet is two years younger than I; Joshua Kaufman, six years older. I remember the newsreels we saw after the war – I was nine when the war ended and, although my folks still monitored which movie I could go to – no violence, sex, or other inappropriate stuff – I don’t think they thought much about the Pathé News that always accompanied the main feature. The 1922/1945 newsreel images of the holocaust victims and their liberation remain clear in my mind to this day.  Mr. Trump, of course, hadn’t been born yet.  And his point was…Huh?

Louise and Willard Espy, Oysterville 1981

As I listened to the summary of our economy (“never been better”) my concentration wandered again.  This time, I went back to the 1970s or so.  I don’t remember who was running for President, but whoever it was had decided that a good ploy would be to get acquainted with “the common man” – you know, people like us.  Louise Espy, Willard’s (third and final) wife saw something about the plan in the New York Times and wrote a letter to the editor (somewhat scathing, as I recall) essentially saying, “Yeah!  Right!” and offering to host the Presidential hopeful at their NY apartment.

Much to everyone’s surprise, she was soon notified, “Game on!”  She and Willard were vetted by the FBI, as was their apartment building, their friends and associates etc. etc.  They passed all the background checks with flying colors, Louise was sent a list of requirements (type of mattress acceptable, food allergies and so on), the date was set, arrangements were made for nearby accommodations for security personnel and on and on.  Louise had the carpet cleaned, hired a bevy of housecleaners, laid in special wines and, in general, upgraded their “common folks” surroundings” big time.  Two or three days ahead of the big sleepover, the candidate’s schedule changed and it was the end of the story.

By the time that reverie was over, the focus had shifted.  And I was in the kitchen fixing a snack.  Best to eat those comfort foods while I can still afford them, eh?