Posts Tagged ‘Springtime in Oysterville’

Our Community Mourns

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Kevin Soule: father, husband, son, friend.  In a small community we build relationships effortlessly.  Kevin was my student at Ocean Park School more than thirty years ago.  Tall for his age as a third grader.  Quiet.  Curious.  The kid every teacher wants a classroom full of.

I don’t think any of us who knew Kevin in those years was surprised that he grew up to be a fisherman, an oysterman, a man whose interests and livelihood centered on the bay.  There have been Soules living around our bay for generations.  Boats and saltwater were part of his DNA.

From our house in Oysterville, we all too often hear the search and rescue helicopters at work over the bay.  Just ten days ago Doug Knutzen left our House Concert and flew out to rescue a man whose canoe had capsized.  But we were unaware of the search for Kevin on Saturday.  Ironically, we were sitting in the midst of many of his colleagues at the Science Conference in Long Beach, listening to the problems and proposed solutions involving our bay, our ocean, our river.  We didn’t know that on that very day, the search began for Kevin and his boat, the Kelli J.

It stands to reason, in a small community like ours – all but surrounded by water – that our young people will gravitate to jobs that take them out on the water.  An it probably stands to reason that some won’t come home from their day’s (or night’s) work.  Fishing is hazardous.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fishers and related fishing workers deal with a set of working conditions unique among all other occupations. This occupation is characterized by strenuous work, long hours, seasonal employment, and some of the most hazardous conditions in the workforce.

And though there is a tacit understanding of those facts here in our community, it does not make it easier.  Since I moved here in 1978, I’ve known six young fishermen who have died at sea.  One was the father of two girls who were my students.  Three others were brothers of my students. Another, the son of friends. And now, Kevin.  Once again, I have no words.

I woke up thinking of Mary Garvey’s song after the Lady Cecilia went down. It began:

I wished I lived in Phoenix or some hot and dusty town
Where the ocean did not roar at night and no one had to drown
Where fish were raised in fish tanks as fish were meant to be
And no one had to risk their lives by going out to sea

In my heart there is a song for Kevin.  And for Bonnie and Ernie and Heather and his daughters.  It’s the same song we all have when tragedy strikes our community.  I hope Mary can write it for us.

Convergence at the Science Conference

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

No one asked me last night: “What was your take-away from the 2018 Annual Science Conference?”  If they had, I’d probably have answered with one word: “Convergence.”

For one thing, it had been an all-day event – multiple speakers talking about eleven different topics from the ‘History of Hatchery Reform’ to ‘Integrating Logging and Salmon Restoration – An update on Ellsworth Creek’ – and I couldn’t really believe how much I already knew about every single topic!  Enough, by far, to keep my mind engaged and my eyes glued to the various power point programs that accompanied each presentation.

Too, I knew many of the attendees and was pleased to meet many more – scientists, oystermen, politicians, writers, historians, fishermen – during the breaks and mealtimes.  (Great food, by the way!  All catered seamlessly by Bob and Judy Andrew of the Cottage Bakery.)  Plus, it was all taking place in familiar territory – the Meeting Room at the Pacific Coast Cranberry Research Foundation’s headquarters on Pioneer Road.  It was only a few weeks ago that I was writing about the creation of that very space as I finished my upcoming book, “Washington’s Cranberry Coast.”

Up first was a report on Washington’s Coastal Resilience Project, a three-year effort to rapidly increase the state’s capacity to prepare for natural events that threaten the coast — specifically,  rising sea level and, as a forerunner, an announcement about what to do if an earthquake should happen right then and there.  “Do not head for your car,” we were told, and we were given directions for walking to the nearest high ground – twenty minutes to the Lone Fir Cemetery.

Already, I felt on ‘familiar’ ground, so to speak.  It’s about a twenty-minute walk to the Oysterville Cemetery from our house.  That, also, is the highest ground near here and, as I have often said, if the big one comes, my plan is to go there, hug a tree, and if worse came to worse, I’d be exactly where I intend to end up anyway…

And, so it went.  From topic to topic I felt a personal connection.  Only a few days ago I had finished reading Robin Cody’s Another Way The River Has.  The last chapter deals with the success of reclamation efforts on the Umatilla River – reclamation of both the river and of the Chinook runs that had been long absent.  The chapter dealt with dams and hatcheries and the Umatilla tribe and federal agencies and more.  It was definitely a precursor to the second topic on the agenda – History of Hatchery Reform.

And then there was the topic about burrowing shrimp – those ghostly critters right outside my front door, on my very property, that, so far anyway, have more rights than oysters or oyster growers or any of the rest of us.  And the update on spartina… now thankfully gone from our property – and the vigilance needed to keep it that way.

And on and on.  Convergence!  I am struck once again how no one part of our lives is isolated from any other part.  If you’d ask, I’d tell you that my interest in and knowledge about this area is its history.  But this conference was a visceral reminder that nothing at all is in isolation – not even the books I read or the burial place of my ancestors or the sucking mud just a few hundred feet from my front door!

By the time you are 149… !

Friday, May 18th, 2018

Work In Progress

Even though we have been waiting eagerly for the painter to begin working on our house, seeing the leprous west façade as I returned home from erranding yesterday was a bit of a shock.  All I could think of was that old joke: “When you get to be forty, it’s patch…patch…patch.  By the time you are sixty, it’s PatchPatchPatchPatchPatch.”

Our house was built in 1869, so it stands to reason that it needs constant TLC.  Being 149 is nothing to sneeze at, even for a house.  And especially in our northwest coastal climate.  There is always something.  This year it’s painting parts of the west and south sides – the worst parts.  Which are actually the major parts of those particular sides.

More Work in Progress

Yesterday was pressure-wash-and-scrape day.  And, it was a day of reckoning because that’s the time when whatever is happening underneath the old paint comes to light. The siding on this house is redwood lumber from California.  It came up as ballast on an oyster schooner back in the early days and has lasted as well and as long as it has because redwood is quite impervious to bugs and rot.  But nothing lasts forever and a few problem areas were discovered. YIKES!

Once the house and its owners recover from this current trauma, I think we will begin planning a 150th Birthday Party.  I’m not exactly sure how one gives a party for a house or for any 150-year-old, for that matter.  Right now, my thought is that it should involve a big donation basket in preparation for the next 150 years!  Or… maybe just a cake.

Expecting the Inspector

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Ten days ago, there was a field of smooth brown dirt where the lawn used to be.  Right outside our north bedroom window.  Now?  Not so much.

It’s even-ness has given way to lumpy and chunky.  I guess those few days of “intermittent rain” were the culprit.  The dirt shifted here and puddled there.  Rocks and broken rhododendron branches (WHAT?  They broke our rhodies?!?) are peeking out.  Hills and valleys are beginning to form.  And… did I see a bit of green poking through?

You can be sure it’s not the first sprigs of new lawn that I see.  We cannot re-seed until we can fill in the trench and we cannot fill in the trench until the Inspector arrives and gives his okay.  (I don’t know why I think of the Inspector with a capital letter.  Actually, an ominous capital letter.  As in Inspector General with hardhat and clipboard.) I think he or she is a State, not a County, Inspector.  And I’m pretty sure it’s an Electrical Inspector we’re expecting.  But I’m not really sure.  It’s one of those the-customer-is-last-to-know things.

If you Google “kinds of home inspectors,” all sorts of sites pop up.  One is titled “More Than 45 Inspector Certifications (free & online for members).” Wow!  Chimney Inspector, Electrical Inspector, Stucco Inspector, Meth House Hazards Inspector, Moisture Intrusion Inspector…  The list goes on and on.

I can’t help but wonder who, if anybody, inspected this house when it was built back in 1869.  Maybe the homeowner, Tom Crellin.  Maybe not.  There might have been the presumption back in those days that a Master Carpenter knew what he was doing.  And, of course, there was no need for an electrical or plumbing inspection.  Life was simpler.  New toilet facilities needed?  Dig a hole; move the outhouse.

Not that I’m advocating giving up our modern creature comforts and safety standards, mind you.  I just wish the process was more timely.  As almost anyone can tell you, Patience is not my middle name!

Missing and Presumed…

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

“Don’t beat yourself up about it,” said Farmer Nyel.  “It wasn’t your fault.”

Maybe not.  But, anyway, I feel terrible.  The littlest black hen – the one with the injured shoulder – escaped yesterday afternoon and, try as we might, we haven’t yet found her.  It was my idea to take the chickens outside yesterday for a bit of sun.  Their older sisters had enjoyed a “field trip” to the garden a few weeks ago and I thought these two smallest girls were ready to meet the great outdoors.  Little did I think it might be “meet their maker” instead!

We knew we couldn’t put them together in the little chicken wire enclosure Nyel had fashioned.  They have been separated in their individual ICU areas for a few days now – hopefully recovering from the literal henpecking that they have recently gone through.  Nyel determined that the little black chicken would be the first one for the sunbathing expedition and set her up securely (he thought) with available water and a grassy area to explore.

In an hour or so, he went to check on her.  Gone!  No way of knowing how she got out – under? over? through?  He checked and “chick-chick-chicked” everywhere.  Not that we thought calling her would do any good.  She’s too young to have been offered scratch which is the usual reward for coming to the familiar call.  So… no little black chicken appeared.

The girls confined down at the coop (because of the septic system project) squawked and clucked thinking, no doubt, that they were missing out on a treat.  I went down to explain to them, and hoping that maybe, just maybe, the little one had gone down that way.  You know… birds of a feather and that flocking thing.  No such luck.

This morning Nyel has called again.  And looked everywhere.  “She’s gone,” he said.  He’s philosophical.  Farmers have to be, I guess.  But… I feel terrible.

Waiting for Grass to Grow

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Meadow in Spring

Halfway between our east garden fence and the bay is the swath of land we’ve always called “the meadow.”  Not ‘The Meadow’ across from the Little Red (now Gray) Cottage.  That meadow was once owned by my grandfather and was where he grew hay.  No, the meadow east of our house was pasture for a horse or two and now is just a pleasant open space, ideal for bird-watching.

In the fall, after the nesting birds have vacated, we have the meadow mowed.  It then puddles up, sometimes to pond proportions, and the ducks and brant and other waterfowl have their meetings there.  The eagles perch in the Monterey cypress trees nearby watching for voles and field mice and, often, a red-tailed hawk works the area – back and forth, forth and back in big lazy circles.

Bear in the Meadow

In late spring, when the rains abate and the meadow dries out, the grass begins to grow again.  Now, in mid-May, it is a luxuriant expanse of green and you can almost hear those stalks heading skyward.  By summer, the grass will be taller than the kids at the Red House –  my seventh generation Espy cousins.  Great cover for sneaking over to our house and checking out the nest boxes at the coop.  It’s in summer that some of the native grasses develop their red tops from which the sign on our house, TSAKO-TE-HAHSH-EETLE (place of the red-topped grass) gets its name.

Meanwhile…to the north of our house is a huge of expanse of plain old brown dirt.  I wish I could say that I’m watching it and waiting for the grass to grow.  But, so far, we haven’t even seeded it.  We are waiting for “the inspector” who must okay the work of the electricians who dug the trench for the connections to the new septic system which is under that fallow brown dirt.  Once the inspection is made, the trench can be filled in, and the seeding can take place.

Waiting to be Planted

I feel like all of the above paragraph could become a song and end with “…and the green grass grows all around, all around, and the green grass grows all around.”

You can always use a …

Monday, May 7th, 2018

Horse Trough

Just when I thought we were making progress on cleaning out the garage and back forty, Nyel went funny on me.  Anyone who has a husband who can’t resist a whatever-it-is in a junk store or at a garage sale or from a friend who is downsizing knows exactly what I mean.  This time it’s a horse trough!

“Really?  A horse trough?” I asked.  “Why?”

“You can always use a horse trough,” came the not unexpected reply.

I consoled myself that we were doing our part to help friends move from a house into an RV.  It’s difficult to justify hauling a horse trough around the countryside when space is so limited.  Especially since they have no horse.  Maybe more especially since they are already traveling with four dogs and three cats and the paraphernalia that goes with that menagerie.

Bitty Redell, Rodeo Queen, with Amber, 1947 — Ann Anderson Collection

But I am not hoodwinked one bit by all those “helping out our friends” nonsense.  We don’t have a horse, either.  And I very much hope this isn’t the excuse to get one!  It’s one thing to have a gigantic-galvanized-tub-that-neither-of-us-can-budge right in the way of everything.  Having a horse would be a whole other kettle of road apples.

Actually, we would have room for a horse.  In good weather.  And if we built a fence around the meadow.  And got all the neighbors and the county and god to agree.  I don’t think we are zoned for horses here in Oysterville anymore.  But it doesn’t seem that long ago that everyone in town had a horse.  In my mother’s childhood, every household had several horses and, here in Oysterville, several boats.  How else could you get anywhere?

Camp Willapa Horses 1940s

By the time of my childhood, adults had a car (and maybe a boat or even a fleet) and the horses belonged to the kids.  Almost every family had at least one horse and the kids of the other ‘deprived’ families had serious horse envy. Until I was ten or so, my grandfather still had Countess – the last of his work horses.  She was too old to enjoy being ridden but, somehow, taking her apples and sugar cubes satisfied my horse itch.  And besides, I spent a lot of each summer at Dorothy Elliot’s Camp Willapa down the road where there were plenty of horses to choose from.

I can’t imagine why, with all the various and sundry left-overs from my grandfather’s cattle ranch days, we didn’t already have a horse trough.  And now… we do.  All trough and no horse, as they say.

And… will that grass be greener?

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

Wow!  A day and a half and our new septic system is up and running.  There were only ten minutes of “no flushing” during the change-over from the old to the new.  Then everything was good to go, so to speak. As soon as the county signs off on the electrical part, we can think about restoring our lawn.

We’ll also be thinking about those unsightly green covers – three of them – that seem to be a crucial part of this new era of Septic Landscaping.  “Oh, don’t worry,” we were told.  Once your lawn comes up, they’ll blend right in.  No.  They. Won’t.

I was somewhat relived to learn that we can put something on top of those ugly intrusions.  Like a big pot of flowers.  I’m thinking huge tubs.  “As long as they can be moved off when needed,” we were told.  “Maybe by a derrick,” I’m thinking.

But we’ll cross that bridge later on.  I’m not really sure I want tubs of flowers out there, anyway.  It’s not like the placement of the covers was done with an eye to artistic arrangement.  It’s one of those form-follows-function things I guess, and we all know the function of a septic system.  Right now, randomly placed tubs of flowers in the middle (actually, more like on an edge) of the lawn isn’t my idea of appealing.

We’ll have some time to think about it while we watch the grass grow.  I don’t really expect that to go smoothly, either.  We’ve had experience growing lawn grass*. It was a smaller area and it finally looks great, but it took several years and more than one application of grass seed to fill in the iffy areas.  I’m already working on my Patience Factor.  I hope the girls in the coop are doing the same.  It’s likely to be a long spring and summer.  

*(Did you know that if you look up ‘growing grass’ these days you have to be specific as to lawn or marijuana?)

Yard Art?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Well, I’ve heard of the Ashcan school of art which, according to Wikipedia, “was an artistic movement in the United States during the early 20th century that is best known for portraying scenes of daily life in New York, often in the city’s poorer neighborhoods.”  What was happening on our Croquet Court today wasn’t the Ashcan School.  More like the Outhouse School.

For a fact, it was happening not far from where the old outhouse used to be. Appropriate, I thought.  It could also be termed kinetic – lots of big movement. And noise. And it looked like several things were happening at once.  Dirt coming out of a big hole while sand was going in.  It’s the beginning of our new septic system – a happening right here a stone’s throw from my bedroom window.

It’s one of those love/hate experiences that many of us here on the Peninsula eventually must face up to.  Living, as we do, on a fragile little sandspit with the water table not far from the surface during the rainy times, our septic systems are mega-important.  And, if you need to build one from scratch or even replace one after forty years like we do – mega-expensive.

On the other hand, when your pipes gurgle at you every time you shower or flush and you fear that something may come up the drain at you, the sooner the situation is corrected, the better.  It’s a complicated procedure these days.  There are specialists to hire.  First of all, an expert to draw a plan.  Then the county must approve it.  And then another expert with big equipment and a long waiting list must be engaged to do the work.  It all costs about leventy-leven times as much as it cost my grandfather to dig the hole for his outhouse.

And then, I suppose, there will be repair work to be done in the garden.  But, I console myself that the grass is always greener over the septic tank.  Erma Bombeck said so.  Right now, that’s about the only happy thought I have.  That and the end of gurgling.

Barbara or Pete or possibly both?

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Barbara Poulshock – A Cate Gable Photo

We all say it.  There are just too many great things happening here – all the time and, all too often, at the same time!

Like today.  At two o’clock the Bayside Singers are having their Spring Concert at the Lutheran Church in Ocean Park and they will be unveiling the hot-off-the-laser-quick-press book of Barbara’s compositions.  We’ve been looking forward to it for a long time.

Also, today – actually, more like tonight – at seven o’clock is Astoria’s celebration of Pete Seeger.  In a tribute to mark the late folksinger/activist’s 99th birthday, three dozen or so area musicians are getting together at the Clatsop College Performing Arts Center (PAC) to sing and play some of the beloved songs we associate with Seeger – “Kisses Sweeter than Wine,” “Goodnight Irene,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” and so many more.  The event is a fund-raiser for the Partners for the PAC, the group working to preserve the building.

Pete Seeger. 2009

Because of my last few weeks of nose-to-cranberry-book-grindstone, I’ve been oblivious to almost everything beyond my computer screen.  So, the news of the Seeger tribute came as a big surprise yesterday – ironically in an email.  There is no doubt in my mind that we will try to go.  The sticking point is a dinner date after Barbara’s event and before Pete’s.  Can we make it?

Nyel, bless him, says “Let’s try.”  He’s completely on board with the Bayside Singers, but I’m not sure he shares my love affair with all things Pete Seeger.  I was a fan back in the fifties when Seeger was black-listed during the McCarthy Era and in the sixties when he hosted a television show “Rainbow Quest.”  I loved it that the Kingston Trio formed, in part, to honor him and his music, and that Joan Baez sang his songs, as did every other folksinger I admired.

Astoria’s Performing Arts Center

Yes.  We’ll try to do it all today!  Barbara and Pete and, in between, dinner with friends.  It doesn’t get better than that!