Oh no! Not another one!

March 23rd, 2019

Homecoming Presents for Farmer Nyel

There was a surprise in the north nest box last night and right in time for Nyel’s arrival home.  He’d been gone for three long weeks – hospitalized with a broken hip plus, as a result of inattentive caregivers at St. Vincent’s in Portland, a serious flare up of his CHF (congestive heart failure.)  If anyone needed a surprise from chickendom it was Farmer Nyel.

But… maybe not this one.  It was a “fairy egg” – a teeny-tiny, perfectly formed egg sitting right alongside two other normal-sized eggs which, by comparison, looked gigantic.  This is the second time in our eleven years of backyard chickens that we have been gifted with a fairy egg.  Sounds very special but… not really.  Here’s the scoop from an online source:

Teeny Tiny Bowl for a Teeny Tiny Egg

… also called “wind”, “witch”, “cock” or the fairly crass “fart” eggs, are merely a glitch in the laying process that is fairly common in backyard flocks. Smaller than regular eggs, usually rounder and containing no yolk, these eggs generally occur either very early in a hen’s productive life before her hormones and reproductive cycle are fully formed and working properly – or sometimes very late in a hen’s laying life as her hormone production is winding down. They can also be the result of stress or a disruption of routine.

Well, our hens should be (and have been for several months) at peak production. They are neither too young nor too old, but “just right” as Goldilocks would say.   Also, their routines have not been disrupted except by the absence of Farmer Nyel, and you wouldn’t think it would take three full weeks for that to sink in.  Besides, I had told the entire flock that he would be back yesterday.

No Yolk!

No.  I’m thinking that we have a couple of looney-tune hens.  One of them is still laying her egg outside under the coop each day.  And now, we have the fairy egg-layer.  Maybe she thought this would be a special homecoming treat for the missing Farmer.

In any case, Nyel dutifully opened it to see what it contained.  No yolk.  Just albumen and a dark spot that was unidentifiable.  I really think that the first fairy egg – the empty one – was better.  This one was just weird.  But, like the good chicken farmer that he is, Nyel was appreciative of the effort and expressed hope that her system would straighten itself out soon!  Meanwhile, he had one of the “normal” eggs – poached on toast – for breakfast!  Truly, there’s no place like home!

The Sophisticated Farmer Nyel

March 22nd, 2019

It’s difficult to carry off any sort of savoir fair when you are spending your days in a hospital bed.  But, I’m here to tell you, that Nyel has managed to set the bar pretty high in the Sophistication Department at Ocean Beach Hospital!

First, let me say that ever since the St. Vincent’s Hospital crew filled him up with fluids and sent him off without a plan for getting him back to his “dry weight” as it is called in the world of Congestive Heart Failure, he has had no appetite whatsoever.  “I feel full up to here!” he says, gesturing well above his head.  “If I add one bite, I’ll be seriously sick to my stomach.”

So it is that he manages to choke down a little breakfast each day (yogurt and a fruit cup) and a lunch usually of the same ilk and refuses dinner no matter what.  The dietician has added Ensure to his nutritional requirements and is urging him to eat proteins so his bones can knit.  As for me – I have never, in the thirty-five years we’ve been together, seen Nyel refuse a meal – until now.  If I didn’t know how sick he is, his loss of appetite would be a huge indicator.

Yesterday, our friends Petra and Michael came visiting.  They called first and asked Nyel what they could bring him from the big city across the river.  “A nice baguette and some French brie,” was his immediate answer.  And, as soon as the bread was sliced and the brie removed from its wrappings, Nyel began to eat.

Sidewalk Cafe in Paris

Half the baguette and most of the brie later, he began to slow down a bit – even asking us if we wanted some.  We demurred and, although I can’t speak for P&M, it wasn’t because we didn’t want some.  It was the sure joy of watching Nyel eat that obviated all thoughts of joining in.

Wow!  I can’t think of any other circumstances in which a hospital room has been magically transformed into a Parisian sidewalk café.  The ambiance wasn’t quite the same, to be sure, but Nyel’s pleasure in the food was une joie de voir.  He comes home today and you can bet I’m dusting off my old copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking! 

Bon Appetit!

Getting Ready to Gussy Out in Oysterville!

March 21st, 2019

Prep Work in the Church

It’s Spring!  The calendar tells me so.  If it weren’t for that, I’d have thought that we’d skipped a season and leaped directly into summer.  It’s been sunny and warm – no make that hot! – all week here in Oysterville.  On Tuesday, it was 80° in the shade– almost too hot to work out in the garden.  But, even I, the very reluctant gardener, was out trying to clean up some of the ravages of winter.  (Actually, our winter was fairly mild.  Probably our garden ravages are of the benign neglect variety.)

And in keeping with all the other seasonal refurbishing in the neighborhood, the church is being outfitted with a fresh summer frock.  Yes!  At long last, the new wallpaper is about to be installed.  It will be the finishing touch to a huge restoration that began last fall with roof and gutter repairs, a new coat of exterior paint, and restored windows (which are still ‘in progress.’)  Oh, yes!  And a freshly painted picket fence and some repairs to the porch and its railing.

Scaffolding in the Sunday School Room

Now that the leaky parts have finally been identified and corrected, the wallpaper can be replaced without fear of damage when the rains come back.  The work has been overseen by the Oysterville Restoration Foundation Board of Directors – especially by Paul Staub who has been in charge of the window restoration and by Martie Kilmer who spearheaded the wallpaper project.  The restoration work – the most extensive since the church’s initial preservation project in 1980 – has been funded with assistance from the Kinsman Foundation.

I can scarcely wait until the interior work is completed!  What a treat for Oysterville and for the community at large – our 127-year-old church all gussied out like new!  And right in time for the wedding season and for the 42nd annual Summer Music Vespers series which begins on June 16th. I couldn’t be more excited if I were getting a new look, myself!

Kudos to Nancy and Colin!

March 20th, 2019

Page 87

The day had been a long one.  I was at the hospital with Nyel at 8:15 to give him a little assistance in sending his cardio mem information to Seattle – an electronic (magic) cyberspace communication with his Seattle cardiologist telling what the pressures inside his heart are.  Then our Community Historian class at the Heritage Museum until noon – today all about the cutting-edge methodology for archival preservation of photos and documents.  And then back to spend three more hours with Nyel – strategizing with caregivers about next steps.

Home to work in the garden for an hour or two.  Mostly clean-up that should have been done last fall.  I can’t remember why I didn’t do it then…  When I finally decided to think about dinner, I noticed that today’s Observer was still tightly rolled up the way our postmaster puts it in our mailboxes.  I took a minute… and I’m SO glad I did.

Our Coast Artcle

Nestled within the paper was the annual copy of our coast magazine.  And on pages 86 to 91 is a marvelously illustrated article about our house!  “Historic House In A Historic Village” is the title.  I had all but forgotten the interview with author Nancy McCarthy and the follow-up photo session with Colin Murphey.  It all happened last September and, somehow, we’ve had a few other things to think about since then.  It seemed like a big surprise!

Best of all, I didn’t find a single factual error in the entire article and, I’m here to tell you as a writer who often interviews people – getting everything right in a long article isn’t all that easy.  Nancy did a beautiful job.  Kudos to her and to Colin who captured the visuals to perfection!  I hope you take a look – and mark September 22nd on your calendar.  (You’ll know why if you read the article.)

The Stove Saga Continues

March 19th, 2019

Let’s hear it for the new stove!

The good news is that at last we have a bright, new, working stove in our kitchen.  The semi-bad news is that a little cosmetic surgery is needed to make it fit perfectly.  But… not to worry.

It’s just a matter of moving the power outlet to the north so it will snug itself into the stove’s recessed area at the back allowing the range to fit flat against the wall.  As it is, there is a two-inch gap between stove and wall — easily camouflaged except that the drawers and cupboards adjacent to the stove’s front cannot fully open right now.  Never mind.  The electrician will come and fix us right up – this week or next.  When they have time.


Meanwhile, I’m experimenting with burners – which of the six will I use for this?  Or that?  How about the griddle?  Will it work any better than the one on the dreaded Samsung (now on its way to Samsung Hell)?  But it is the two ovens I’m most eager to try.  (OK, English critics — It “are” the two ovens????)  First, just the upper one.  Then just the lower one.  Then both at the same time at different temperatures.  The combinations seem endless!

Ready for Breakfast?

My only regret is that Chef Nyel isn’t here for the stove’s maiden voyage.  I thought about waiting for him to get home but we don’t really know how long that will be.  And, truth to tell, I’m kinda tired of cooking on a hot plate.  Besides which, so far, Nyel has very little appetite.  Right now, I’m blaming hospital food, but I’m not eager to find that he’d feel the same way about my cooking – even if I can master all those burners and ovens.

Otherwise?  For the first time since October 2017, we have a fully-functioning dual-fuel, double oven stove!  It’s beautiful!  (It’s a GE with and can be repaired right here in Oysterville, WA, America!  Fancy that!)   Hurry home, Nyel!  Playing French Chef is really a game for two or more, no matter how spiffy the stove!

Egg Hunt on St. Paddy’s Day

March 18th, 2019

Tucker and Carol

The day I brought Nyel “home” to Ocean Beach Hospital, I called Carol and relieved her of her chicken duties with a gazillion thanks and promises to pick up the squirt gun soon.  Oh — did I mention that I had noticed a little purple package on the piano top, left there during our March 3rd House Concert – a belated birthday present from Stephanie.  Inside – a Rooster Defense Mechanism in the form of a squirt gun!  I had left it with Carol for her protection during her chicken duties while we were gone.


On my first visit to the coop, I found that the Chicken Godfather (that would be Erik) had made a coop-cleaning visit and everything looked wonderfully neat and tidy in Farmer Nyel’s chicken domain. The nest boxes were filled with sweet-smelling cedar-shavings but had yet to be used and, though I glanced around the run when I filled up their water trough, I didn’t see that the girls had left any eggs out and about.  (They do that sometimes, either in protest to a change inside the coop, or just to be wild and crazy.  It’s hard to tell with chickens…)

On reflection, I think I must have been egg-blind or under some sort of hen hypnosis because on my next visit (which was yesterday morning) … eight, count ’em, eight eggs!  When you have only five laying hens, that is an impossible number, even within a 24-hour period, never mind twelve!

Only one of those eggs was in a nest box.  Four were spaced out along the fence line inside the run.  One was on the floor of the coop.  And, for a few seconds, I thought those six eggs were the total – still at least one egg too many unless I had missed seeing that one on the coop floor the day previously.  Possible, but I’m pretty sure I had looked…

Under The Coop

I was just about to open the coop door when I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “maybe you’d better look under the coop building.  If there are six, there could be more!”  And, sure enough, way over in one corner was a lovely, light brown egg.  Difficult to reach unless I bellied under.  So, I left the chickens closed in and went to fetch the bamboo garden rake.

It worked like a charm and the egg went into my bucket with the other five dirt-encrusted eggs (and the single pristine one by whoever braved the new nest box shavings.)  Only as I was headed out did my eye catch yet another egg way under the coop.  Eight in all!!  That must have been two days’ worth but how could I have missed them?  Chalk it up to another of life’s little mysteries.

On reflection…

March 17th, 2019

The Original St. Vincent’s, 1909

Now that Nyel and I are safely in home territory, I have had a chance to think about our St. Vincent’s Experience more fully – to put it into some sort of context beyond Nyel’s very difficult fifteen days there.  The reality is that my relationship with that institution is very nearly ancestral.  In some ways, that hospital has been “part of our family” since it was dedicated on July 19, 1875.

By then, my great-grandfather R.H. Espy – who had co-founded Oysterville in 1854 – was 49 years old and he and my great-grandmother Julia (20 years his junior) were well into raising their family of eight children.  The up-and-coming city of Portland was the nearest go-to center for serious business like banking and lawyering and yearly shopping.   Like all pioneer families on the North Beach Peninsula, the Espys had a close relationship with Portland, and it stood to reason that the hospital would eventually take a place in their lives.

Aunt Veron Espy c. 1900

As far as I know, it wasn’t until their youngest child, Laura Ida Verona (by my time, always referred to as “Aunt Verona”) was born in 1885, did the family’s journeys upriver to Portland ever include doctoring.  But, by the time she was ten, it became apparent that “something was wrong” and the family’s association with St. Vincent’s Hospital began.  Aunt Verona apparently suffered from an ailment similar to multiple sclerosis, although it was never diagnosed as such, and she lived what was called “a sheltered life) until her death in 1925.  She spent time in and out of St. Vincent’s hospital and, by the time my mother and her siblings remembered, Aunt Verona always was accompanied by a nurse.  St. Vincent’s was credited with helping her live a fairly normal existence.

Fast forward to Oysterville in 1981.  Aunt Verona’s next oldest sibling, “Uncle Cecil” was then 94 years old, a retired banker from Portland, and living in Oysterville in the house where he had been born.  A widower, he lived alone, still mowed his lawn with an old-fashioned hand-mower, and conceded to “old age” only in his gruff acceptance to dinner invitations by my folks who lived two houses to the south.  One weekend when his daughter Barbara come to check on him, she found that he had his bags packed and was ready to return to Portland with her.

Albert Espy (Aug 1900 – Jan 1905)

“I believe I’m ready to die,” he told her, “and I want you to take me to St. Vincent’s.”  He was much surprised when Barbara told him that you couldn’t do that anymore.  He remembered that “back in the day,” that’s what old people did when they could no longer take care of themselves.  They moved into St. Vincent’s where nurses took care of them until they left this mortal coil.  The upshot was, Uncle Cecil put his suitcases into Barbara’s car and went home with her (not exactly what either of them had planned!) where he stayed until his death in June 1982.

My favorite family story about St. Vincent’s, though, has to do with my mother’s older brother Albert who had died of stomach cancer in January 1905.  He was not yet five years old.  During his final illness, my grandmother sat with him in his hospital room at St. Vincent’s and they watched some little boys playing outside in the snow.  “Maybe next year you can play outdoors with the children,” she said.

Sydney and Uncle Cecil, 1979

“Will they have snow in heaven?”” was Albert’s response.

All of these associations with St. Vincent’s – right up to my beloved uncle Willard’s new heart valve in the 1980s – were in my own heart and mind during our stay there these past weeks.  I’m so sorry that my feelings about that particular institution have been forever changed.  Thankfully, it is no longer the only option to us Oystervillians!

OBH even had Nyel’s dinner waiting!

March 16th, 2019

Nyel’s Dinner

Dorothy had it SO right!  There is no place like home!!  When we finally rolled into the Ocean Beach Hospital in Ilwaco about 6:30 last night, Nyel had been “pre-admitted” (he only had to sign the paperwork) and they had kept his dinner warm for him!

Not that he had much appetite.  That’s been one of the sure signs that he is not a well man.  In thirty-five years, I’ve never known Nyel to willingly skip a meal but he’s passed on a number of them in the last few weeks.  He confided to me last night that he absolutely wasn’t hungry but he made a valiant try at eating out of sheer gratefulness.  He was, at last, on home territory!  People were greeting him by name!  Care by people who know him and truly want the best for HIM, What a concept!

The dinner menu was tilapia and Brussel sprouts – both of which Nyel really likes under ordinary circumstances.  He took a few bites, but he is still “up to here” in the feeling-full department – a direct result of his congestive heart failure.  He looks forward to improvement soon.  After all, food is one of the few pleasures open to him at the present time.  Plus, he knows he’ll have some hard work ahead in the physical therapy department and he’ll need nourishment and energy to help him through!

Nyel Tucks In

I drove home feeling better than I had for days.  Even his discharge form St. Vincent’s seemed to be a total cockup!  He had called me at eleven and said, “I’m outta here!  They are getting my discharge papers ready.”  I was at the designated pick-up spot by two.  Three or four phone calls and an hour and a half later, they finally wheeled him out to our car.  Apparently, the slowdown was due to Erica-the-nurse-of-the-moment.  “What was the problem?”  I wondered.  “I’m not sure.  She just seemed to have one speed… slow.”

It wouldn’t have mattered a twit except that Ocean Beach Hospital had asked that he arrive before the shift-change at 7:00.  We made it… but not by much.  I wouldn’t even be mentioning this last frustration except that it seemed the final irony.  Even getting Nyel discharged was difficult.  Well, never mind!  Onward and Upward!  I can’t wait to tell the chickens that Farmer Nyel is almost back home!

The Home Stretch

March 15th, 2019

Daffodils on Bay Avenue

What a difference a day makes!

Bright and early yesterday morning, after eleven days away from home, I headed for the beach to take care of a few necessities on the Homefront.  Like finally receiving delivery of our new, back-ordered-for-three-months stove and keeping an appointment or two of my own.  Nyel had given me a list of things to do and get for him, as well, and besides all that… we both felt that I had done all I could to get his care situation turned around.  It’s not that we had given up hope exactly… but we felt it might be time to let some dust settle on the hospital front.

My drive was uneventful weather and traffic-wise.  Until the home stretch!  I had stopped for a moment at the Ocean Park Library to pick up a book waiting for Nyel and then headed east on Bay Avenue, curious to see if Tom Downer’s daffodils were up and blooming.  Were they ever!  Hundreds of cheerful yellow blossoms filled the verge from Eric’s gallery to the Charles Nelson House at the corner of Bay and Sandridge.  Talk about a glorious welcome back to the beach!  OMG!

Better Than The Yellow Brick Road!

I arrived home about noon-thirty and called Nyel to see how it was going!  He hadn’t sounded so cheerful since my birthday night before TBH (The Broken Hip.)  Apparently, no sooner had I left but “everybody and his brother” – hospitalist, cardiologist, the orthopedic team, his current nurse, etc. etc. – crowded into his room.  No one called it the “Care Team Conference” (that we had been advocating for since Monday) but, that was what it seemed to be.  Everyone weighed into his progress, pro and con, and what the next steps should be!   YAY!

The decision was made to get him onto oral diuretics so he can be transferred to a rehab situation – maybe as early as today!!!  No sooner had they left than Nyel got a couple of phone calls – one from his cardiologist’s assistant in Seattle saying that his doctor was again offering to oversee his recovery (the heart aspects) long distance and, hard on the heels of that, a call from our Primary Caregiver in Ilwaco who said he would be comfortable working with the cardiologist and managing things from this end.  So… it looks as though Nyel might still wind up in rehab at the Ocean Beach Hospital in Ilwaco!  Double Yay!

The Rose City Mixed Quartet

About that time, the Rose City Mixed Quartet arrived to serenade Nyel (!!!) and the Physical Therapist who happened to be working with him right then (and who also belongs to a singing group in Portland) joined in on the madrigal “Paul and His Chickens.”  (Nyel said, “She later told me that it had been the BEST day of her entire working career!”)

When I checked back with Nyel in the evening, he said that the day just kept getting better and better.  Sue and Bill stopped by in the afternoon and stayed for a couple of hours.  “You have to share that chocolate,” I told him.  “How did you know they brought some?” he laughed.  “I know Sue and Bill…” was my response.

Waiting for Farmer Nyel

We realize that things can change in a trice, but we are both feeling so much more hopeful now than we were twenty-four hours ago.  “What do you think caused all the turn-arounds with the St. V’s people?” I asked Nyel.  “I haven’t a clue,” was his response.  As usual, they didn’t explain themselves and Nyel didn’t feel he had much part of the decision-making process.  But… that entire concern is moot for the moment.  I’m heading back to Portland and hope to return with the ever-patient patient before too many more clucks and cock-a-doodle-dos from Farmer Nyel’s flock.

Oh yes… the stove couldn’t be installed yesterday – they brought the wrong connecting parts…  But even that didn’t mar the joyous thought that things are finally turning around for Nyel.  And did I say that neighbors Carol and Tucker had me over for the best dinner I’ve had in since February 28th?  It really was a day to hold in my heart!

Onward? Upward? Hard to say…

March 14th, 2019

Yesterday, shortly before dinner, Nurse Mario came into Nyel’s hospital room and announced that they were transferring him up to the 8th floor where they could monitor his heart more closely.  Yay!  Finally, the hospital gods were paying attention to Nyel’s needs and a positive step forward would be taken!  Or would it?

When Mario arrived with this latest news, we were still expecting the promised conference with Nyel’s “Care Team.”  They had not been able to pull it together on Tuesday when I had requested it as a “next step” up the steep slope of hospital protocol when one is not satisfied with patient care.  The meeting had been postponed to yesterday morning.  Then to yesterday afternoon.  Then, before we could say WTF, he was being transported up to the eighth floor.  Apparently, the care conference was off the table.

New Room

Initially, we were pleased.  The explanation Mario gave us led us to believe that this was so Nyel would now have better access to the cardiologists who would be taking the lead in his care.  His progress with the orthopedic part of the team had been sufficient so that, under other circumstances he would be sent home.  (And, by the way, one of the “Case Managers” dropped in to say, Ocean Beach Hospital has changed their mind; he is not a candidate for their swing bed facility.  Because of his congestive heart failure.)

We were feeling a bit blind-sided (but in a good way) about the move to this eighth-floor room until Nyel’s new nurse explained that this is not a cardio unit, as we had been led to believe.  The same hospitalist(s) will be overseeing Nyel’s care and the same physical and occupational therapists will be working with him.  The major difference in locations?  This room is on a newly renovated floor and has telemetry capabilities.  He is now hooked up to a heart monitor and someone “down the hall” can keep an eye on his heart rate and rhythms.  Otherwise… same old, same old.

3/13/19 – Another Step Toward Home

Who made the decision to move Nyel?  Why was it made?  Is it something that we are in agreement with?  All moot questions, apparently.  At least this hospital remains consistent in its determination not to involve the patient with regard to his care.  As it happens, we had a visitor all afternoon who witnessed the transfer process – from Nurse Mario’s announcement to helping schlep Nyel’s “stuff” from Floor 3 to Floor 8.  She didn’t happen to stay long enough to learn that not much has changed.  I’m eager hear what she thought had transpired.

Even though I strongly suspect that we have somehow gone through the looking glass, I am continuing to ask for a Care Team Conference.  As far as we can find out, it is the only option still available to us with regard to having a say in Nyel’s care.  Or to registering our uncertainties about what is being done for him.  The odds of it happening? Probably slim to none.