Posts Tagged ‘Springtime in Oysterville’

Snip! Snip! And… goodbye pigtails!

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

Goodbye Pigtails!

They were fun… until they weren’t.  By the time my pigtails were getting long enough to braid — which had been my CHG (Covid Hair Goal) — I had to face up to the fact that I my old gray locks were just too wimpy to do anything with.  Eighty-five-year-old hair, at least on my particular head, doesn’t have the volume it takes for even one braid.  Damn!

Indistinctive Again

So, I called on the kindness of a friend and she did the dirty deed — a serious haircut.  I wish I could say that eleven months of sheltering robbed me of my natural curl.  But no such luck.  With each snip of the scissors, a new curl emerged.  I could clearly hear each one say a different cuss word — as in what Mary Anne Shaffer, author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society famously said: “Naturally curly hair is a curse and don’t ever let anyone tell you different.”

Fun While It Lasted

Short, curly hair is also the “norm” for almost every little old gray-haired lady who is still up and taking nourishment.   So, now I are one again. (Is the opposite of distinctive, indistinctive?)  I couldn’t even feel badly because I knew full well what would happen.  Nyel, however, apparently did not.  As I was making my to-cut-or-not-to-cut decision, I made the mistake of showing him a picture of a “pixie haircut” that I liked because it partially covered the ears.  (I hate my sticky-outie ears!).  “My hair is too curly to look like this.  I just want her to leave it long enough for ear coverage,” I told him.

He didn’t get it.  (Do guys ever?)  When I came home for the Big Reveal, he looked absolutely dumbstruck.  And not in a good way.  “What???” I asked (even though I knew.)  He hedged a bit but under pressure finally said, “But I was expecting it to look like the picture…”

Oh well.  Some days are like that.  And now, they will all be like that.  It’s a curse, for sure!

A Wonderfully Humbling Experience

Friday, April 9th, 2021

Dr. Robert Michael Pyle, American lepidopterist, writer, teacher, and founder of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

We received an invitation from Bob Pyle yesterday to “attend” the PEN America annual literary awards “at a gala ceremony to be announced live in NYC and sent out virtually to everywhere that people love books,” said Bob.  In a “normal” year we, like so many others, would never have had this opporutunity.  But, yesterday at 4:00 PDT, there we were.  OMG!  It was wonderful and totally disconcerting at the same time!

Not only had I read NONE of the books nor seen any of the plays,  I was totally ignorant regarding the authors, the playwrights, and, in some cases, even the genres — except, of course, for dear Bob and his many books.  It was hugely humbling and incredibly enlightening all at the same time.

You can check it all out by watching yesterday’s ceremony, yourself.  Just go to 2021 PEN Awards Youtube.  You’ll see what I mean… or maybe not.  Maybe you’ve read the books and know the authors.  If so, don’t tell me.  I am slowly coming to grips (AGAIN!) with the fact that I am so NOT well read and so NOT intellectual and so NOT well-informed.

Bob was nominated for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For The Art of the Essay — “For a seasoned writer whose collection of essays is an expansion on their corpus of work and preserves the distinguished art form of the essay.”  He was among the five finalists vying for the $15,000 prize and the priceless prestige that goes with such an award.  Although I’ve not yet read Nature Matrix: New and Selected Essays, I am fairly confident that I have read several of the sixteen collected essays in this new (September 2020) book.  That Bob was a finalist did not surprise me in the least.  He is not only an expert in his field, but has won numerous other literary awards over the years.  I find that reading anything Bob writes is not only a delight but is likely to expand my horizons in unexpected ways.

Nominated for the 2021 Pen America Award for PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award For The Art of the Essay

But, I have to admit that my confidence in Bob’s ability to win wavered just a bit when actor Kara Young, host of the awards ceremony, pointed out in her opening remarks:  “We stand in solidarity with all those who are threatened by anti-Black, anti-Asian, anti-Trans hatred.”  I just couldn’t help the errant thought that Dr. Robert Michael Pyle is (sorry, Bob!) “an old white guy.”  Did he have a chance in this year of women and people of color?  As it turned out, it was Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Had I Known: Collected Essays, who won the “Art of the Essay” category.

Disappointed doesn’t half describe my feelings.  However, I was bursting my buttons with pleasure and pride at knowing Bob, and so glad for this virtual stretch into the world of literature.  My must-read-list has expanded exponentially.  I wonder how many of those winning authors’ books I can read before the 2022 PEN America Awards roll around.  I doubt that I’ll be lucky enough to attend the ceremony next time — much less know one of the finalists!  Thanks for inviting us, Bob! We loved “being there!”



That Easter Bunny had nothing to do with it!

Monday, April 5th, 2021

A Rack of Lambykins

The Easter menu here in the Chef Nyel household was simple but elegant-to-the-max.  Three items only: rack of lamb;, au gratin potatoes; green beans with sesame seeds, garlic, and thyme.  Perfection on a plate!

Every time we have lamb — which isn’t all that often these days now that it’s become so expensive — I think of  Alan Greiner and Debbie Drew and a fabulous dinner we had with them at The Ark.  Not The Ark Restaurant in Nahcotta of Nancy and Jimella fame.  No.

The Ark at Camp Willapa c. 1940

We were at the Peninsula’s original Ark at Camp Willapa — the building that Dorothy Elliot used as her house and where summertime campers went once or twice a month to have a bath (bring your own fire wood, pump your own water) and, also, where we went every Sunday Night for a “sing-song” of   old-fashioned hymns.  The building had been an old oyster house on pilings in the bay and when it was close to falling in, its owners gave it to Dorothy.  She had it cut away from its moorings and lloated over to her property on the bay — hence, “The Ark.”

Easter Dinner 2021

In the ’80s and ’90s, the Ark was where Debbie and Alan lived — long after Dorothy’s Camp Willapa and Sherwood Forest had been sold to the Greiners and long after the Greiners’ Camp Sherwood had closed and things had changed quite a bit.  But what never changed was the joy of eating Debbie’s marvelous meals, the fresh produce from Alan’s garden, and the fun of renewing and sustaining long-ago friendships.  Debbie called the meat course “Lambykins.”  That has stuck, as has our friendship with Alan and his family.  Sadly, I’m not sure what has become of Debbie.  I hope, wherever she is that she, too, had Lambykins for Easter Dinner!


Contemplating “Everyday” Secrets

Sunday, April 4th, 2021

Tucker holds two halves of an alder limb – Photo by Steve McCormick

Every once in a while, we get a look at something not quite meant to be seen — not exactly a secret, but certainly not out there for general viewing and discussion.  Something interesting.  Maybe a curiosity or an oddment never before considered as a possibility for contemplation.  But, once viewed,  a conversation starter for sure.

So it was with part of Tucker’s “Show and  Tell” Friday night.  In addition to the Flicker’s nest, he brought a section of that fallen alder’s branch that had split length-wise.  On one half were a number of small nibs extending outwards; on the matching half were the little holes they had been extracted from.  The tiny points were reddish in color, though Tucker said they were white in the  beginning.

“That’s why they call it red alder,” he said.

“Really?” I asked.

A close-up from Tucker

“Maybe,” he laughed.  “I really don’t know.”  He wondered if they were the baby starts of more branches that would have eventually grown out and made themselves known.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure if these halves were from the dead tree that had hosted the Flickers’ construction or if it was from a living part of the tree that blew down.  Where was Jon Fagerland or one of the other arborists we know to give us some answers?  Or a maybe a logger would know…  But we didn’t have anyone handy just then.

Once again, I amazed at what’s out there, unseen.  Things never  even considered in our daily treks through the world.  Or at least not in mine.

Place of the Yellow-Hammers

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

Flicker Nest — Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth

My grandfather named this house “Tsako-Te-Hahsh-Eetle” which, he said, meant two things:  “place of the red-topped grass” and “place of the yellow-hammers.”  The name is Papa’s rendition of the Chinook jargon that he and his boyhood Indian friends spoke in the 1870s and 1880s.  It is not the name of this house in particular, but the name that this entire area at the Peninsula’s north end was called.

Flicker Nest Lit From Within by Flashlight – Photo by Steve McCormick

Last night we were able to see “up close and personal” what the real home of a yellow-hammer (which we call the red-shafted-flicker) looks like.  Tucker brought a part of the dead tree that Chris took down the other day– the part that had the beginnings of a flicker’s nest.  “He didn’t know it was there,” Tucker said.  But, as it turned out, Tucker had seen and heard that flicker hard at work several days previously.  My feeling of sadness almost overwhelmed my interest in a “teachable” (or maybe a “learnable”) moment.  Almost.

All of us Friday Nighters were amazed at the precision of the hole — perfectly round and absolutely smooth inside — an ideal nursery for raising a flock of 7 to 9 babies.  According to the experts, both Mom and Dad Flicker work on nest conconstruction and, during the 11-12 day incubation period, Dad takes the night shift, Mom the day.

Red Shafted Flicker

As for the tap-tap-tapping we often hear at this time of year — it’s the mating call and delineation of territory that’s happening– unless it’s nest-building.  Contrary to popular belief, Red Shafted Flickers feed mostly on the ground — they love ants! —  unlike some woodpeckers who actually listen for grubs and larvae inside of trees and then peck away to get at them.

However, there is confusion about the “yellow” part of their jargon name — I wish Papa was around to ask.  I’ve always assumed it referred to their beaks but, a close look reveals gray/black, not yellow.  Go figure.  Or maybe all beaks were called “yellow” in jargon…

It was “one of them variable days.”

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

Chef Nyel works on tomato pie.

“Old Bob,” Oysterville’s handyman in the ’60s and ’70s. used a lot of expressions that have stuck with us over the years.  He often would remark on “one of them arty fellas” when he saw someone working at an easel near the church.  And, when asked, he usually concluded that it was going to be “one of them variable days” weather-wise.  Like yesterday.

Mostly it was sunny, so Nyel wore his old Panama hat.  But it was also chilly, so he wore his vest.  It was drippy around the edges — early morning and later in the evening.  Not enough to notice, really, unless you were wearing only your “variable” outfit.

Ms. Geranium — ready for The Season after Nyel’s TLC.

For us it was clean up the hanging baskets and the potted geraniums on the porch.  I fetched and carried while Nyel did the real work.  I do believe those plants know his touch.  They seemed to perk up as soon as he began snipping away the old bits and scratching up the soil around the plants.  Everyone–twelve  fuschias and nine geraniums — except for three, wintered over just fine.  Definitely no thanks to me, their Assistant Caregiver.

Coals in the Firepit

While we worked, we could hear the chain saw across the way where Tucker, Carol, and Chris were still cleaning up the aftermath of the fallen alder tree.  And all afternoon and evening we could smell the delicious fragerance of alder smoke from T&C’s firepit where they were burning the bits and pieces.  All my senses reported that it was a perfect Spring day in the village.

It wasn’t until Nyel was almost ready to pop that tomato pie in the oven that I noticed he was still wearing his vest and his Panama hat, though he had been inside at his kitchen duties for almost an hour.  Yep!  One of them variable days!

…and just on the brink of Spring!

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

The Picket Fence Mostly Unscathed – A TW Photo

She was just beginning to leaf out for the 2021 season.  I wonder if she felt disappointment as she fell.  Or, maybe it was time and she was resigned. I’m not sure how old she was.

It seems as though that tall alder tree had been growing in the old berry patch for as long as I can remember, right next to her sister tree.  But, of course that can’t be right.  Funny, how you never have just the perfect photograph to refer to when the time comes.  And our memories are so foggy now.

Carol W. and I Take A Look –  A TW Photo

Nyel was actually outside and within a few dozen yards and even fewer minutes of the crash, but he didn’t see or hear a thing.  He was on his way inside — ironically, to get out of the wind.  His phone was ringing by the time he reached the kitchen and it was Tucker with the news.  It all happened just across from the Driscoll and Wachsmuth properties.  Part of her broke off near the ground; part of her uprooted.  The picket fence stood firm, even though she landed squarely on it.  Tucker called the PUD to tell them that the transformer had been skewed on its cement pad

“No damage.” said the PUD. A TW Photo

I went out to take a look and already one of the workers at the place next door had cut some of the branches to clear School Street.  “So cars can get through,” he said.  It’s on ORF property —  on the northeast corner of Territory Road and School Street. I think Chris has offered to do the cleanup.  That property was overgrown with blackberries all during my childhood and even into the not-so-long-ago — hence the name “the berry patch.”  A lot of pies and jellies and jams came from there.  But that was BG (Before Gentrification) and probably before the alder tree.

I wonder what she was thinking as she fell.

Hop to it! Easter’s on its way!

Monday, March 29th, 2021

Even the most recalcitrant chickens know that bunnies have nothing whatsoever to do with Easter.  Fluffy little chicks, yes.  Bunnies bearing baskets of colored eggs, definitely not.  And don’t ever bring up that discussion with Aracaunas or Americaunas or other “Easter Egger” chickens who lay those lovely blue and green and purplish eggs.    Talk about crossing their legs until further notice…

Right now, though, we have none of those colorful egg-layers.  In fact, for the past year or so we’ve wondered if our hens are over the hill, production-wise.  We have only three girls and all of them are approaching the slow-down age of three or four.  When they were producing, their eggs ranged in color from a warm beige to a dark brown.

So imagine our surprise these last few evenings when I’ve checked the nest boxes and have found, in the northern one, a light-almost-white egg — and getting lighter each day!  What the…?  My first thought was that one of those girls must be laying for the first time ever.  But after a lengthy discussion with Farmer Nyel and a review of past performance by each of the hens, we are pretty sure that’s not the case.  So the only conclusion to be drawn is that they are preparing the household for Easter.

Two out of three – suitable for dying?

Even chickens can figure out, evidently, that the lighter the egg, the more succesful the dying process will be.  We don’t pretend to know how they can adjust their internal spigots to a desired shell color, but that’s what one of those feathered ladies has done.  Apparently.

Unfortunately,  we have no little kids in residence so we aren’t planning on the dying-and-hiding ritual.  But please don’t tell the chickens.

Fee Fi Fo Fum! And how his garden grows!

Sunday, March 28th, 2021

Nyel’s Magic Beans

The stalks on Nyel’s magic beans from Timberland Library look stronger every day.  Soon they will be ready to move outside, so Farmer Nyel spent a few hours yesterday ‘mid pots and tubs in the Kitchen Garden getting their bed ready.  He also transplanted chives and parsley that had run amok and tidied up the tubs of bay and mint while making room for onion sets and lettuces.

My brown thumb and I looked on in amazed appreciation.  Mostly, I’m stuck at the Fee Fi Fo Fum stage.  I really do believe in the giant at the top of the magic bean stalk and I was just a tad disappointed to learn that these give-away beans from the library are going to produce bush beans, not pole beans.  I just can’t imagine a giant (or anyone else) living at the top of a bush bean plant.  Not any more than I can imagine that one of our chickens might lay a golden egg.  Just not possible.

Farmer Nyel Among His Garden Pots

And, do I want to take my chances on a goose?  That would be a resounding “No!”  My goose experiences are a lot like my rooster experiences.  The first geese I ever encountered in the flesh were a small flock being marched along the Neckar River on the outskirts of Heidleberg, Germany.  We were staying at a little inn there for a few weeks and I had taken two-year-old Charlie down to the waterside behind the inn’s garden.

We heard the geese before we saw them and, as they emerged from around the bend, it was like looking at a fairy-story-come-to-life!  The goose-girl drove them from behind with a very long stick — which was all very good and well until the gander spied little Charlie and perceived him as a threat!  Out stretched his wings and out stretched his neck and he rain honking like a New York taxi right at us!   I scooped up my son and ran back to the garden while the goose girl yelled at her misbehaving fowl.

“To Pastures New” by James Guthrie

So… maybe it’s just as well these are bush beans.  Wasn’t it up at the top of the beanstalk that Jack encountered both the Giant and the Goose That Laid the Golden Egg??  Or do I have my fairy tales scrambled?  It wouldn’t be the first time.

With an Understanding Nod to Tom Lehrer

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Musician Tom Lehrer (r.) and Friend

The gloom and mist of six ayem greeted us as we entered the half-underground parking garage this morning. We could see our car waiting patiently over against the concrete wall.  Several other vehicles were scattered here and there.  They didn’t seem to be the source of the persistent moaning we heard as we hurried along.  Not moans of pain; not  of pleasure.  Just an incessant, hair-raising moan.

“What the hell is that?” I asked Nyel.  I thought how vulnerable we must appear — a gray-haired old lady pushing a white-haired cripple in his wheelchair.  I hoped we weren’t in the middle of something scary.

“Pigeons,” Nyel answered.   Of course.  We had seen them flying in to roost last night as we had driven in.  But this wasn’t cooing.  This was definitely moaning.  Perhaps their night had been no more restful than ours up at the third-floor Sleep Clinic.  Actually, Nyel said he had slept just fine wired up and masked and monitored.  I was the one feeling a bit bleary after a night spent curled on a noisy, leather couch that was jammed halfway under one of those tall hospital rolling tables.  I had the urge to sing Tom Lehrer’s “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” — but maybe I could make it “… in the Parking Garage ” instead.

Pigeons At Roost In A Parking Garage

Nyel hoisted himself into the passenger seat and I removed the seat cushion and legs of his wheelchair, collapsed and rolled it around the car to stow behind the driver’s seat.  The pigeons moaned.  We were out of there and arrived home without incident.  As we pulled up to the garage door and prepared to get Nyel out, up walked our neighbor Chris looking like he wanted to talk.  I turned the ignition back on and lowered the window.  We chatted for 15 minutes or so.  Tucker drove by on his way to a doctor’s appointment; Dan S. walked by with a darling new German Shepherd puppy.

When everyone had gone on, I tried to roll up the window.  Nada.  I realized that I had left the key in the ignition and it was turned to the ‘on’ position.  Dead battery.  This time it wasn’t the pigeons moaning.  As Nyel pointed out, “It’s a new damned battery.”

“But,” said I, “It’s a Subaru Forrester — what can I say?  They are known to be battery-guzzlers…”  Some mornings are like that.