Fiddling and Twiddling

March 27th, 2020

They say that Nero fiddled (in the musical sense) while Rome burned.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  If so, it was not with a fiddle as we know the instrument.  Violins did not come into play (ahem) for another fifteen centuries.  But he could have been using a lyre.  Those had been in use for several thousand years already.  Or maybe Nero was fiddling in a different sense of the word.  As we know, leaders do that under stress.

In this day and age, twiddling is more apt to be the time-waster, not fiddling.   Our thumbs, especially our leaders’ thumbs are busy, busy, busy.  In fact all of us have busy thumbs these days.  Facebook has never been more full of itself and I’m sure twitter is much the same.  Perhaps fiddling and twiddling under pressure is what we all do best.

Most of us, though, expect more of our leaders.  But have you considered that perhaps we should be thankful that they are twiddling?  Or fiddling?  Either way, those thumbs are busy.  Otherwise, no telling just where those thumbs would be.  Or can thumbs be used for twiddling, fiddling, and shoving out of sight all at the same time?  A whole new meaning, perhaps, for being all thumbs?

Word of the Day! Illustration for the ages!

March 26th, 2020

A few days back, I wrote:  I’m also thinking of carrying a yardstick when I go outside.  Added to the length of my arm, it’s still a foot short of the six-feet rule.  But, even so, I’ve found that many people “forget” or have a truncated idea of what six feet looks like. And even though it  couldn’t be used in the post office, it might serve as a reminder to  the stubborn and the gormless.

My son, who is way smarter than I am, wrote, “What’s gormless?”  I was just going to send him the standard dictionary definition (though I think it lacks the true essence) when a headline in the online  Chinook Observer caught my eye:  Car driven into Port of Peninsula Mooring Basin 

As I read about the two women who had spent from midnight until seven in the morning sitting beside the mooring basin near the spot where their car was resting in the bay, my incredulity grew.  Then,  halfway through the article I read: “They thought their car was overrheating and they parked it in the bay.”

I immediately forwarded the article to Charlie.  “Read this and you’ll understand the meaning of gormless,” I told him.  “It’s perfect!”


Sheltering, Sewing, and Stylin’

March 25th, 2020


“One thing about quilters,” says my friend Sue Grennan, “they can sew!” And she should know.  A quilter, herself, for fifty years and a member of the Peninsula Quilt Guild since moving to the beach sixteen years ago, she is an expert when it comes to stitches and seams and patterns and speed.  “I thought that making masks might be something some of us could do to help during this crisis.”

“Every quilter has a stash,” she told me.  “That’s a stack (or sometimes a box or ten boxes) of bits and pieces of fabric — left-overs from the quilts we’ve been working on.  They’d be perfect!  And I’m sure we can find mask patterns on line…”

She called the Pacific County Health Department and told them her idea.  Could you use them?  Yes, indeed, they could.  So she pitched the idea to some of the quilters last week and they are off and running… well, sewing.  “Mostly we’re experimenting right now,” she told me.  “… working out the kinks.”

Patterns and Prototypes

For one thing, there is no elastic to be found right now.  Not in the fabric stores, not at Amazon, not online or from the usual sources.  “We’re trying to figure out exact;y what we might get from craft stores, but they are asking for diameters in millimeters…” she told me.  So, for now, they are using bias tape and fashioning loops to go over the ears or ties to go around the head.  “They are definitely a work in progress. It’s a bit of a learning curve.”

This is an individual effort on the part of the quilters — not a Guild sanctioned activity.  Not like the place mats they made to be distributed by Meals on Wheels.  And not like the quilts that some members make for cancer and heart patients at various hospitals.  For the moment the masks are in the experimental stage.   Some are being made with pockets inside so you can slip in a non-porous tissue or paper for more protection.  Some masks are reversible (like the Sue and Bill are modeling here).


Today 90 masks will be delivered to Gloria Park’s quilting studio  —  a batch of 75 and another of 15  — the first day’s work by two of the quilters.  Eventually — maybe this afternoon — they will go to the Naselle Fire Department.  Another group of quilters are making masks for the Ocean Park Fire Department.  “I hope that, eventually, we’ll have enough available for any one who wants one,” says Sue.

There will be no charge.  Only the hope that the masks will offer “some” protection but, more importantly, will provide a colorful reminder to use good health habits, good sense, and good manners during these days of distancing and sheltering.  “I’m working on one with a chicken pattern on the fabric,” Sue told me.  For Farmer Nyel, I wondered?  Or maybe me. Wow!

“Garden of Eating” by Sue Grennan, 2014

And it suddenly occurred to me that just about now is when the 25th Annual Quilt Show was scheduled at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum.  Not a word did anyone say about the cancelled show.  Not “if only” or “it’s too bad.”  Not the quilters.  They’re much too busy with the here and now.  Masks!

Walk softly and carry a yardstick!

March 24th, 2020

“Social Distancing.”  “Shelter in Place.”  “The Six-Foot Rule.”  “Wash Your Hands.”  “Don’t Touch Your Face.”

Whoda thunk these would be the Words To Live By for the 2020s?  Perhaps just for this year and, even better, perhaps just for this month.  But…  bottom line, we don’t really know.  With that in mind, I thought Governor Inslee’s tone was a bit soft last night.  After what many experienced along our coast this past weekend — an onslaught of tourists, apparently — I’m not sure he was firm enough.

I’ve always said  the bay side of the Peninsula is by and far the best side when it comes to living here.  This last weekend, for instance, while thousands of people headed for our beaches, we had very few visitors here in town.  Only two or three cars stopped at the church and one or two went (too fast!) through town toward Oysterville Sea Farms.  It was actually eerily quiet for a beautiful weekend in Spring.

Nyel and I have been sheltering in place for two full weeks now.  Nyel hasn’t been off our property at all and I’ve only been out to Jack’s (once), the  pharmacy (once), and the post office.  Oh… and to the bank once before they limited access.

But I’ve been working on complete isolation.  By doing that mobile app deposit thing, I’ve now cut out the necessity of the bank.  We’ve been ordering groceries online so that necessity is taken care of.  And, yesterday I read that the pharmacies of Long Beach and Ilwaco have a “delivery service for seniors” arranged with the local police.  I hope Ocean Park is figuring out a similar plan.  We don’t have police at this end and I know Deputy Sheriffs are already spread thin, but maybe there’s another way.  If there is, I’m sure the O.P. staff will figure it out.  They are THE BEST.

So, for me, that just leaves the post office.  I’ve been limiting my visits to three times a week but I can probably cut down to one or two.  Even so, yesterday I had to mail a package and, in the time that took, three people popped in to get their mail.  In case you haven’t been in our post office and don’t know it’s size, I can tell you unequivocally there is no way two people can be in there and have six feet between them.  I am tempted to make a big sign for the door:  ONE PERSON AT A TIME, PLEASE.  But I’d no doubt get in big trouble; the P.O. has lots of “can” and “cannot” rules about posting signs and notices..

Inside the Oysterville Post Office

I’m also thinking of carrying a yardstick when I go outside.  Added to the length of my arm, it’s still a foot short of the six-feet rule.  But, even so, I’ve found that many people “forget” or have a truncated idea of what six feet looks like. And even though it  couldn’t be used in the post office, it might serve as a reminder to  the stubborn and the gormless.

A Pair, A Spare, The Devil, & The Details

March 23rd, 2020

One of the distinctive characteristics of our old house is its “gingerbread” — defined as “those elaborately detailed embellishments  specifically used by American designers in the late 1860s and ’70s.”   This place, built in 1869, fits that niche perfectly.

Aging gracefully house-wise is much the same as with the rest of us.  Lots of attention to details is required.  Thank goodness, the noticing is not left to me!  I am the master of myopia when it comes to keeping track, paying attention, and finding the experts needed to do what is necessary.  Nyel is the hero in that department!

Years ago, a big chunk of the gingerbread on the wesr side of the house was actually falling to pieces.  Our go-to guy then was Bob Bredfield — his attention to detail and his ingenuity in recreating long-forgotten construction techniques were legendary.  He took down the chunk of gingerbread and copied it perfectly — twice.  That was at Nyel’s request, knowing full-well we’d need that extra piece someday.  Fortunately, someday has not yet arrived.

The latest in the gingerbread maintenance program are the finials that used to top the four supporting posts for the east balcony railing.  Gone!  One by one they have come loose from their moorings and fallen off.  Some time ago, Nyel-the-hero noticed one hiding in a garden bed and rescued it.  It wasn’t until Jay Short painted the east side of the house last summer that we realized there are no finials in situ anymore.

Cousins Cheryl and Virg to the rescue.  When they visited on Valentine weekend, Virg took the finial Nyel had saved.  He had access to a big chunk of cedar from a friend’s logging operation, and their neighbor in Lacey enjoys woodworking.  Not long ago, Cheryl sent me a picture of the results — three beautiful new finials!  Virg plans to prime the new ones and then they’ll send them to us for the final coat and installation!  Yay!

I haven’t yet mentioned to Nyel that I’ve been thinking about the shutters that this house used to have —  before storm windows. I wonder what it would take to replicate them…


The Stalwart Three

March 22nd, 2020

If there were chicken police, they would no doubt arrest me for stupidity or inattentiveness or something of the sort.  Fortunately, I don’t think the girls have tried reporting me yet.  I’ve do make every effort to keep them informed about my plans and good intentions for them, and I think they (except for Slutvana) are trying to understand.  As I often say, it’s hard to tell with chickens.

To recap recent traumas in the coop:  within the last month, we have “lost” both the Big Red Rooster and the Big Red Hen.  Their absences occurred about two weeks apart — first the rooster, then the hen.  Both, perhaps, due to wanderlust.

Though our garden is completely fenced, all the chickens we’ve ever had (since those first two roosters arrived unannounced in 2008 and stayed for a year or so) — all of them have found ways to get out and explore the world beyond.  Some squeeze through, some dig under, some fly over.  One way or another, chicken curiosity will out.  The expression really should be, “curiosity killed the chicken.”

So, now we are down to three hens, all good layers.  But, we also have a rat.  We’ve not yet met face-to-face, but he leaves his calling cards (many of them) in the food trough, which he (or maybe they) are sharing with the chickens.  The trouble is, I fear the chickens don’t discriminate between rat droppings and food pellets when they are eating.  It’s not that they gobble.  They simply peck-peck-peck.  Relentlessly.  And without appearing to look at their targets.

Obviously, the usual kinds of rat traps won’t work unless my intent is to maime a chicken.  So we got a special one — pet safe! — that is supposed to be fool proof.  Apparently our Mr. Rat is no fool.  So… in desperation, I closed the girls out of the coop yesterday and set up glue traps (in addition to the “fool proof” rat trap) in the coop.  Meanwhile, I’ve opened the broody pen at the end of the run so the girls have an alternate place to eat and sleep.

They, of course, are having no part of “alternate.”  They disappeared last night at bedtime and I held my breath until morning light.  Back they came, looking perky and asking for treats.  I’m working on an alternate kiss-and-lie-down plan for tonight’s sleeping arrangements.

It’s not easy being a chicken farmer — even a substitute one!

Wow! Be careful what (and who) you ask!

March 21st, 2020

I try to avoid political commentary if I can.  But, in the face of our current crisis — one that is unlike anything in the experience of anyone now living — I have to register my horror and flat out disgust at yesterday’s outburst by our country’s man-in-charge.  In case you missed it, this is what happened according to Oliver Darcy of CNN:

In an extraordinary exchange on Friday, President Donald Trump attacked an NBC News reporter who asked what his message would be to Americans who are frightened by the coronavirus pandemic that is spreading across the country.

The exchange, which occurred at the White House’s daily coronavirus task force briefing, began when NBC News reporter Peter Alexander asked Trump whether he was giving Americans “false hope” by touting unproven coronavirus drugs.

Peter Alexander

Toward the end of the exchange, Alexander cited the latest pandemic statistics showing thousands of Americans are now infected and millions are scared.
Alexander asked, “What do you say to Americans who are scared?”
Trump, shaking his head, ripped into Alexander in response.
“I say that you are a terrible reporter,” Trump replied. “That’s what I say.”

I can’t imagine ANYone answering a question in that manner — not a parent to a child, not a teacher to a student, not a doctor to a patient.  Such a response goes against every bit of socialization that I have been subjected to in my 84 years of existence.

I can’t find a single logical rationale for that answer to a very caring and concerned question.  I immediately thought of the oft-quoted statement by FDR in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933: …the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Personally, I think Mr. Trump is scared witless.  And I, for one, am afraid of that!

First Picnic of the Season!

March 20th, 2020

Basking Nyel

I guess summer is usually considered the “Picnic Season,”  not spring.  But what the heck?  The sun was out, the sky was blue, the wind wafted (never mind the chill), and we had plenty of turkey for sandwiches.  So, while Nyel got the picnic lunch together, I hauled a card table and chair (one chair; Nyel’s comes with him) out to our South Garden.

Bundled Sydney

It was lovely!  Nyel closed his eyes, leaned back and basked.  I, the perennially cold one, was bundled up to the eyeballs.  Both of us were content.  And the food was delish — celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, dill pickles, and thick turkey sandwiches.   A few chips would have made it better but… oh well!  There was even a chocolate cupcake to split for dessert!

The only folks who dropped by were the chickens and, even though we had some treats for them, they kept a wary distance.  (I wondered what they’d heard…)  Snowhite headed for our sunny wooden porch where she fluffed herself all up, spread her wings, and lay down to do her own basking.  Slutvana poked and pecked under the rhododendrons.  Little Red Hen ran off to the coop to lay an egg.

Basking Snowhite

It was absolutely splendid.  Not a car on the street; not a soul to be seen.  Good!  I hope everyone was sheltering in a place as delightful as ours!

I wonder if my grandparents knew…

March 19th, 2020

Harry Albert Espy c. 1895

Today, March 19, 2020, is the first day of Spring.  It’s the earliest arrival of this romantic season since 1896!

My grandfather, Harry Espy, was not yet twenty years old in March of 1896.  He was a student at California College in East Oakland, California, and he, like his older brother and younger sister, were boarding at the home of Dan and Annie Richardson.  And Harry was smitten!

The object of his affections was the oldest Richardson child, seventeen-year-old Helen Medora.  She was beautiful; he was handsome. Their courtship took place under the watchful eyes of her mother or in the company of good friends.  Except, maybe, once. In the Spring of 1896.

“Mama” – Helen Richardson, 1896

Many years later, my grandmother would tell me about taking a ferry from the dock in Berkeley and going clear over to Marin County for the day — to Muir Woods for a picnic  They took a large hamper with cold roasted chicken and sliced ham and potato salad and lemonade.  They ate under a large oak tree.  “Our tree” she still called it.  It was there that Harry proposed and carved their initials in the trunk of the old tree..

I’m not quite sure whether they were escorted that day.  And I would bet dollars to donuts that they weren’t aware that Spring had come early that year…  no doubt, just for them!

I’m gonna get alot of flack for this…

March 18th, 2020


Do I remember from something I once read that Pacific County has more elderly residents per capita than most other counties in Washington?  I don’t know how many of us old ducks that means in actual numbers, but it’s probably more than eight.  That’s what came to mind when I read today’s paper.

Ocean Beach Hospital Medical Clinic is staffed to operate eight beds, said Blair Oman, human resources manager for the hospital.  Staffing is a key factor in hospital capacity, Oman said.  (Note that there are no quotation marks.  So maybe Blair didn’t exactly say this.  Hard to know.)

Ocean Beach Hospital

The article went on to say:  The hospital owns one ventilator, which is designed for transporting patients to another hospital…  There is enough personal protective equipment in the hospital for staff, Oman said.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love our Ocean Beach Hospital and I love the staff there.  And when it come to a situation like this when their lives are literally on the line, I have nothing but admiration and respect.  OBH has always been our hospital of choice for Nyel  — even though they have refused him on more than one occasion because his needs are too complex.  Fair enough.  We still love everything about our local hospital.

But… why are they so very unprepared for this pandemic that we’ve known for several weeks (at least)  is headed our way?  I would feel MUCH better had the article included what preparations are being made.  Surely there are some.  Is there any kind of state-wide nursing pool they can tap into?  And what supplies are on order?  What will they do with the 9th person needing hospitalization?   Or the 10th or the 100th?  Is there a plan?    A back-up plan?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Test Kit

There was no mention of test kits or numbers of people who might potentially get tested — just that the Ocean Beach Health Medical Clinic will partner with the Pacific County Health Department to ensure our most vulnerable populations receive testing…  That would be me.  And Nyel.  But, presumably only if we become symptomatic.

All-in-all, I was pretty much underwhelmed by the information in the article.  Mostly it underscored what we’ve heard over and over to this point about American communities in general:  poor preparation, uncertain planning, little reassurance.  Who handles public relations at OBH, anyway?  It would seem to me that this is the time to be pro-active.  A little reassurance — at least that they are making every effort to cover the bases — would go a long, long way.