Wanted: Under-the-House Belly-Wrigglers!

October 8th, 2017

Red House Cuzzins, 2014

Quick!  Before you kids get too big!  We need a few of you fifth generation Red House Cuzzins to come for an egg hunt.  But not in the usual nest boxes down at the coop.  Way too easy.  And not an Easter Egg hunt, either.  This egg hunt would take you into the secret spaces around our yard and maybe into the creepy crawl-spaces under the house.

As you might know if you or your folks have been checking my blog in recent months, our hens have not been laying much lately.  In fact, weeks go by and… no eggs in the nest boxes!  We don’t think the girls are ailing in any way – good appetites, good foraging skills, full of clack and cluck!  And we don’t really think they are on strike – no marching up and down in front of the house with signs!

Chickens On Strike

Our friends in Seaview have chickens and they had the same problem recently.  Erik thought that maybe, since they, too, are free-rangers… just maybe they had decided to lay their eggs in some secret place out in the garden.  So, he went hunting.  And, sure enough!  He found their stash – eleven eggs out behind a big clump of rhododendrons!

Erik and the Stash

I’ve read that hens like to lay their eggs alongside other eggs which explains why, even though we have three nest boxes, we used to find three or four eggs in one nest box and none in the others.  That bit of information makes me wonder. Plus the fact that I noticed a number of times this summer that our alpha hen heads right for the rhododendrons near the house when we let the girls out in the morning…  And, I strongly suspect the others follow suit later in the day.

Behind the Rhododendrons

At first, I thought that the area under the rhodies must be especially good pickings, bug and worm-wise.  But… maybe not.  Maybe it’s that dark, quiet area just behind that is calling out to them – the opening to the crawl space under the house.  I’ve scrunched down to see what I can see, but I’m too old and unbending to manage a thorough search.  What I need are some of you brave, agile cousins to scoot underneath and have a look around.  While you’re at it, you could be searching for other treasure, as well.  You never know what might show up under a 148-year-old house!

Fairy Eggs! Who knew?

October 7th, 2017

Oysterville Bounty! February 2014

Had you asked me a week or so ago, I’d have been relatively confident that I knew a lot about eggs.  Hen’s eggs, that is.  After all, we’ve had chickens for years and years.  Ever since we were adopted by a pair of absolutely gorgeous young roosters that were so young we thought they were hens, at least for a while!  Then they began crowing and strutting their stuff and our ignorance became obvious.  That was in 2008 and we’ve come a long way in the chicken and egg department since then.

But, even back in 2008 when we bought our first little peeps, we knew that hens lay eggs with or without roosters in the mix. (Contrary to what you might think, not everyone does know that!)  What we learned about egg-laying is that it begins when hens get to be about six months old and will continue, for most breeds, for six or seven years. Hens have been known to lay for as long as seventeen years but not ‘productively’ – just now and then instead at the four-or-five-a-week rate.

Still Life – “Teaspoon with Eggs in Two Sizes”

We also knew that eggs come in a variety of colors, depending upon the chicken breed, and also with some variation in size (within reason.) and, of course, we knew that the shell color does not affect the quality, nutritional value, or taste of the eggs.  We didn’t know (but have learned) that some breeds of chickens lay more double-yolked eggs than others but, for the most part, this tendency has been bred out of modern chickens by poultry farmers who have been seeking ‘uniformity of product’ – no doubt for their economic ‘bottom line.’

Well… it’s not that we thought we knew it all… but still it came as a great surprise when, night before last, the only egg is in the nest box was about the size of a large marble – what we would have called a ‘jumbo shooter’ when I was a kid.  At first, I wasn’t sure it even was an egg, though I couldn’t imagine what else it could be.  It was the right color – brown, in this case – but with a rough exterior and more round than egg-shaped.  And heavy for its size!

When I brought it in and presented it to Farmer Nyel, he too was skeptical.  “But what else could it be?” he also asked and pinched it enough to crack the shell.  Empty!  And very, very weird.  Of course, I went online and discovered that these sorts of eggs do happen occasionally.  “Fairy Eggs” they are called!  And this is what I read on fresheggsdaily.com:

Nyel Holds The Fairy 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.

So, there you have it!  Though… all our girls are two to four years old and should be in prime laying fettle.  As we so often comment… you never can tell with chickens.

Celebration of Hispanic Culture

October 6th, 2017

Poster at the Oysterville Post Office

Two weeks from tonight – Friday, October 20th – there will be a Fundraiser and Celebration in honor of our Hispanic Community.  For the many folks who have been reading my “Stories from the Heart” series in the Chinook Observer and who have been asking, “How can we help?” – this is your opportunity.

The event will take place at the Chautauqua Lodge in Long Beach from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. and is a described on posters around town as: “Fundraiser to help peninsula Hispanic families disrupted by ICE detainment and incarceration.”  Included during the evening will be guest speakers, displays, refreshments, Latino music and community-sponsored piñatas for auction.  It is my understanding that there will be other auction items, as well, including several B&B donated gift certificates.


Arrangements and planning have been done by Dr. Robert Brake, his wife Gwen, and their group of “DoGoodnics.”  According to Dr. Brake’s FaceBook site:  Here’s my short list of other things we need: 1. additional piñatas for auction, 2. Mexican art/artifacts for display, 3. Mexican table cloth(s), and donation jars (at least two).

Would also appreciate assistance with setup on Friday, October 20 at the Chautauqua, say 10 a.m.
Let me know what you can do to help. DoGoodnics hopes to raise $2000 to help Hispanics.
Robert and Gwen Brake 360-665-2784 oobear@centurytel.net.

Mark your calendar!  We’ll see you there!

Excuses and Reasons and Cop-outs, Oh My!

October 5th, 2017

In Long Beach, WA

The front-page headline in yesterday’s Chinook ObserverFireworks flip-flop unlikely after survey.  The subheading:  Not a Ban, a Better Plan’s survey doesn’t sway Peninsula’s leaders.

Why am I not surprised?  Same old, same old.  Lots of rhetoric but no action by the leadership of our county.  Despite a 76.7 percent support for some sort of limits according to the informal survey by the local ‘Not a Ban, a Better Plan’ group, our leaders are not planning to take any action.

It seems to all boil down to the fact that there is “…no simple solution” according to one of our County Commissioners.  I don’t remember that the survey had anything to do with “simple.”  Once again, our leadership seems to be flummoxed by the complexities of ‘just say no.’

In Long Beach, CA

I am reminded of our County’s Comprehensive Zoning hearing that my folks attended back in the 1970s.  One of the proposals (which ultimately passed) was to number and alphabetize the streets on the Long Beach Peninsula.  My mother was appalled.  She hated the idea of getting rid of all the many traditional names like “Huckleberry Lane” and “Skating Lake Road.”  And she said so.

But, of course, our leadership prevailed.  “To make it easier for our EMTs” they said.  (That was in the days before we used fancy terms like ‘first responders.’)  “I just moved back to Oysterville from the San Francisco Bay Area,” my mom argued.  “San Francisco, as you might know, is quite a bit larger than the Peninsula.  They have never found a need to change their charming, old-fashioned street names, nor have there been any complaints from their emergency personnel.  Are you saying that our EMTs are not as smart as their EMTs?”

Successful Gun Amnesty Campaign, Austrailia

Well… there you have it.  The beat goes on.  Perhaps we need to wait until a real disaster occurs – like all the homes on the beach front go up in flames – for anything to change.  Although… maybe not.  Our national leadership certainly hasn’t pointed the way in the matter of disasters and law-making.  “1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days” here in America according to theguardian.  Meanwhile, Congress hasn’t passed a single piece of gun control legislation, beyond voting in 2013 to renew an expiring ban on plastic firearms, which could potentially bypass security checkpoints at airports and other locations.

But, I digress.

Remembering the Nouns

October 4th, 2017

Conversation starters in our household run the gamut, at least when I’m the initiator.  It might be, “Do you know where I put my thingamajig?”  Or it could be “Remind me where to turn to get to Kay’s house.”  Or, it could even be a whispered “What is that woman’s name – the one in the red coat?”

It’s the nouns I have difficulty with.  I learned my parts of speech from Mrs. Barnes in the 8th grade at E Street Grammar School in San Rafael.  Nouns were the easiest – a person, place, or thing.  Unfortunately, those are what are escaping me these days.  Not always.  Not yet, anyway.  A few years back when I worried about it to my son, he reminded me (not very reassuringly) of the old joke – just because you can’t remember what your keys are called doesn’t mean you have dementia; it’s when you don’t remember what they’re for that you might have a problem.

Papa’s Coffee Cup

I have had a couple of good role models in my lifetime as far as dementia is concerned.  My mother, who lived to be 97, began to show signs of dementia at 79 or 80.  Her father, my beloved grandfather ‘Papa,’ became “forgetful” in his late sixties and lived well into his eighties.  Both of them retained their humor, their kindness, and their basic personalities, until the end – even when most of their physical abilities were also gone.

If dementia is to be my lot in life, I hope I can manage it with the same grace as they seemed to.  Of course, the real heroes were their friends and family – the people who treated them with dignity, no matter what.  I well remember watching “The Dinah Shore Show” here with my Aunt Mona and Papa back in the 1950s.  Papa was enchanted with Dinah Shore.  “Get that gal a cup of coffee,” he said to Mona.  And Mona went to the kitchen and brought a cup for Papa who, by that time, had forgotten his request.  “Thank you, girlie,” he told Mona with a smile.  “Just what the doctor ordered!”

Nan and Jack, 2012

My girlhood friend Nan, who was also in Mrs. Barnes’ 8th grade class with me all those years ago, wrote to me Monday:  … and the next line will be a shocker, I was diagnosed last Friday as having dementia. Oh, my dear, dear friend!  How I wish I were nearby to reassure and to help in any way possible as you journey down this unfamiliar path!  And I am so thankful that you have a loving husband and nearby family to give you the support you need.  To fill your coffee cup just as the doctor ordered!


When public pools were not an option…

October 3rd, 2017

FDR, October 27, 1944

I don’t remember if there was more than one public swimming pool in Alameda when I was growing up.  All I know is that I wasn’t allowed to go.  Not in all the years we lived there – from 1941 to 1947.  The reason I couldn’t go, no matter how hot it was in the summer, all boiled (ahem!) down to one word: polio.  Or, if you wanted to sound important, two words:  infantile paralysis.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was our president when we moved to Alameda, just a few months ‘before Pearl Harbor.’  (That’s how we marked time in those years:  ‘before Pearl Harbor’ or ‘during the Depression’ or ‘after World War Two.)  President Roosevelt was a polio victim and, in an effort uncover its mysteries and to lend a helping hand to Americans suffering from the disease, he founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis in 1938.

Football Fans in Indiana

Every school child knew of his Foundation.  We called it “The March of Dimes.  And until Jonas Salk, a grantee of some of the Foundation’s funding, developed his famous vaccine and it became available to the public in 1955, we gave our pennies and nickels and dimes and quarters to the effort.  And, in my case anyway, no going to public swimming pools.  That’s where (I was taught) you were most likely to catch the dreaded disease.

I thought about that a lot yesterday.  I wondered if our present-day ‘concert culture’ will change now that it seems to be a focal point for shooters.  I have never gone to a concert – never even been tempted. (Oh.  Maybe that’s a lie.  Maybe I went to a Grateful Dead concert at the Fillmore Auditorium in the 1960s.  If so, it wasn’t that memorable…) Nor have I gone to a football game since I graduated from college – or, indeed to any other venue where thousands of people gather.  I think I was adversely imprinted during my childhood – no public pools, no public gatherings. I wonder if I’m wrong not to feel deprived…

University of Michigan – Photo by Andrew Home

I’m also beginning to feel uncomfortable about going to malls, college campuses, government buildings and on and on.  And, I’m sick to the point of revulsion at the gun debates.  It took almost no time at all for the government and the airlines to put in massive security measures at airports all over the United States after 9/11.  Were there huge arguments then about our second amendment rights?  If there were, we seem to have gotten over it.  Why is it taking so long to solve the assault weapon problem?  There is absolutely no rhetoric/excuse/reason/argument that I’m willing to listen to anymore.  It’s no longer up for ‘discussion’ in my book.

Oh.  And BTW.  If you are tempted to tell (again!) ‘the other side’ of the gun story, do it on your own blog or your own FB site.  Not on mine.

Reconnecting with Old Friends

October 2nd, 2017

Amelia Aubichon Petit, c. 1920s

It’s probably a product of my aging and addled mind and, if so, I’m glad.  I’m beginning to think of people I’ve written about (but have never met) as ‘friends.’  In the same way that I ‘know’ many of my ancestors through family stories and bits of save memorabilia, I have gathered about me the forebears of many other people over the years.

That amazing realization came to me yesterday with an email request from a woman named Donna Sinclair who introduced herself thus:  I just stumbled across your wonderful website as I was looking for an image of Amelia Aubichon for a website I’m working on with the Chinook Indian Nation, via Portland State University.

North Beach Girls: The Herrold Twins, Catherine and Charlotte

Amelia Aubichon (Petit)!  I know Amelia!  She was Grandmère to my friend Charlotte Herrold Davis (1911-2010) and her twin sister Catherine Davis Troeh (1911-2007).  She is one of the amazing Peninsula residents featured in my Legendary Locals of the Long Beach Peninsula.  She was born on October 6, 1830 (almost exactly 187 years ago) and died in 1924.  Charlotte and Catherine remembered that “When Grandmère Petit died, the Indians all came from Bay Center and sat cross-legged facing the Presbyterian Church during her funeral.”

Donna Sinclair went on to say:  We began this project in 2009 and then our organization, the Center for Columbia River History (part of WSU Vancouver, PSU, and the Washington State Historical Society), was defunded. Since then, I have worked with students from PSU and Professor Katy Barber to complete the site. We’ve faced some roadblocks, including having been hacked, but we are almost there. One of the pages I am working on now is about the Pillar Rock area and the descendants of Os-wal-licks and Arkensee (Amelia’s parents).

I know very little about her parents but I know some fascinating bits about Amelia, herself.  She had many interesting experiences during her long life.  She remembered watching Mount St. Helens “burst” in the mid-1840s; she knew Dr. John McLoughlin, factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company; and she knew a young man named Ulysses S. Grant who would go on to become a Civil War General and, later, president of the United States.  She remembered when a bob-tailed pony and a range of mountains shared a common name, “Skuse.” (The pony is now called Cayuse and the mountains are the Siskiyous.)

John McLoughlin (1784-1857)

She also remembered the beginning of the wheat-raising industry in Oregon Territory when the sacked grain from French Prairie was brought down the Willamette River in bateaux operated by Indians and how it eventually was taken to ships waiting at a place called ‘Boatland’ by the whites, but that was pronounced ‘Portland’ by the Indians.  The name for the new city was chosen by the flip of a coin.  In 1866, she and her husband, Amable, settled in Chinookville with the first seven of their ten children.  In later years, as Chinookville began to wash away into the river, the Petits moved downstream to Ilwaco.

Of course, I sent a copy of the photograph to Donna Sinclair with my best wishes for success in completing their project.  I was pleased to be of help.  But I was especially pleased to be reconnected with an old friend.

Thou shalt not…

October 1st, 2017

Painting by Hunter Esmon

I know that this knot in my stomach is a shared condition.  It’s the knot I wake up with every morning.  The knot that gets bigger every time I see or hear any news about America and its so-called ‘leadership’.  The knot that may never go away in my lifetime.  It’s not exactly that it’s contagious, but it’s a condition that many of us are experiencing these days.

It is a dense gathering there in the pit of my being – made up of despair and horror, of disbelief and outrage, and… of hate.  Yes, hate.  That may be the worst part of it.  There is no doubt in my mind that hate is an unhealthy emotion.

Not that there is a commandment about it.  There are ten clear ‘thou shalt nots’ but there is no “Thou shalt not hate.”  Even so, I was taught that hating is wrong.  Trying to fix a bad situation is right.  Trying to understand another’s point of view is right.  But… hating is wrong. I grew up and grew old in the belief that hating is wrong.

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch, 1893

Hate festers I was told.  It foments and gathers and leads to nothing good.  I still believe that.  But that knot of hate in my stomach not only persists – it grows.  It grows with each mention of “investigation” or promise of “plan to impeach” or commentary on “disarray.”  It grows with each tick of my grandfather’s clock and with each new and darker dawn that arrives.

Psychologists tell us that the antidote to hate is forgiveness.  Really?  I, for one, have no desire to forgive the perpetrators and perpetuators of the evils in our current Other Washington Leadership.  I don’t know the solution and I don’t buy into platitudes about being part of the problem if you aren’t working to solve it.  Unless you believe that speaking out helps.  Which I don’t but will no doubt continue to do.

And FYI – perhaps you remember those those letters I wrote to Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell on June 25th regarding the plight of our Hispanic neighbors (http://sydneyofoysterville.com/2017/dear-patty-murray-dear-maria-cantwell/).  I have never received an answer from either of those women.  Not from the Senator.  Not from the Representative.  Not a whisper.  Just sayin’…

And, speaking of garbage cans…

September 30th, 2017

It’s curious what we remember and even more curious what we forget.  Take garbage cans.  Nyel and I got into an early morning reverie about the dumpsters and garbage cans of our past and discovered that there are several big blanks – entire decades, even, that are unclear in the garbage disposal arena. Surely we had a method of getting rid of our trash?

The discussion was triggered by the dumpster that is sitting in front of the house next door.  During the time that Nyel was in the hospital, the sale of that house closed and, though we have spoken to the new owner on the phone, we have not yet had the pleasure of a face-to-face meeting.  When I saw the dumpster, I was concerned that it might have been put out waiting for pick-up and I wondered if the bear Tucker saw on School Street would be back.

Last night at the Friday Gathering, I was disabused of that concern.  It’s a brand-new dumpster, delivered by Peninsula Sanitation at the request of the new neighbor.  Not a bear-invitation yet.  But then I wondered what their garbage routine would eventually become.  Wednesday is garbage day here in the village – not always a convenient day for part-time residents.  Either arrangements need to be made for getting the dumpster out to the street on garbage day and back inside to a safe haven again or… an alternative garbage plan altogether.

Which led to our morning discussion topic:  How did we deal with our garbage for the twenty years we lived on the bay at the end of a thousand-foot drive?  We burned yard debris.  We recycled what we could, although for much of that time there were limited recycling collection spots on the Peninsula.  We used our garbage disposal for any ‘wet garbage’ but… what about the rest?  No memory.  Blank.  Nada.

Before Nyel came into my life, I lived in that house by myself.  I’m sure I didn’t haul a garbage can, full or empty, the length of that driveway.  And, in those days, I had only a VW bug, so even if I’d been able to wrestle a full can into a pickup to take it up the road, it wouldn’t have been an option.  I think I would remember if I had utilized the dumpster service at Jack’s Country Store.  Maybe I brought a garbage bag here to the folks’ place and put it in their garbage can or dumpster now and then.  And when did the Peninsula Sanitation segue to dumpsters, anyway?

Well… we never did solve the ‘problem.’  Nyel thinks that when we owned the bookstore we added our garbage (which is never more than a small garbage bag a week) to our dumpster there.  Our first memory of any garbage service at all is in 1999 or 2000 when we moved ‘into town’ full time and arranged for once-a-month pickup…  It’s odd what you remember.  And what you don’t.

Another Unexpected Delight!

September 29th, 2017

The View from Our East Windows

Our trip back from Portland yesterday afternoon couldn’t have been better.  It was a gorgeous day for a drive and we reveled in the scenery all the way to our front door.  What a beautiful area we live in!  It never ceases to bring us pleasure.

And, then when we got here, we found the biggest surprise of all.  Despite months of deferred maintenance and neglect on our part, our garden looks spiffier than it has for a long, long time!  The lawns (yes, we have several!) have been mowed and trimmed, and the rhododendrons along our east fence – which had been threatening to totally block our view of the bay – have been beautifully pruned.  And besides that — the meadow has been mowed!  Our view is back!  Our yard looks like someone lives here!  We keep going to the windows and looking out – totally enchanted with all of it.

The Newly Mown Meadow

Big kudos to Chuck Messing and Vivian Wattum – the lawn fairies – and to Jay Short and his crew of hedge-pruning elves  and to Jim Kurtz, the meadow-mowing-man.  We feel hugely indebted to all of you.  I’m thinking hugs and chocolate-something-or-other for starters…

And it wasn’t only the garden that surprised us.  We had left in a frightful scurry two weeks ago today, with a Poetry Gathering scheduled for Sunday afternoon – a gathering of thirty or so, at least according to the RSVPs.  Three poets, a potluck dinner, and no host or hostess.  Neighbors Carol and Tucker to the rescue!  A hurried meeting as I packed the car and Nyel struggled to get ready for yet another hospital stay. Little did we know it would be for two whole weeks.

I showed Carol some of the tricks of getting the house ready but realized long afterward that I hadn’t shown her where the plates or silverware was.  Tucker knew (from many previous events) how to move the furniture.  Charlie Talbot would be here the following day to help set up.  I showed Tucker where the vacuum lived and where the breaker switches are in case the stove should go wonky again.  And what else???  I wondered what would greet us yesterday when we opened the door.

Burn Pile

But, like the garden, the house looked to be in apple-pie order.  Furniture returned to familiar spots.  The carpet, far cleaner than the way we left it.  The kitchen neat and tidy – the dishwasher empty.  And, as far as we know to this point, everything returned to its proper place.  Wow!!  The best homecoming imaginable!  Thank you, everyone who helped!  We are ever-grateful!

P.S. – If this blog goes up later than usual, it’s because I keep going to the windows to look outside!  Wow!  Even though it’s raining… wow!