Posts Tagged ‘Summer in Oysterville’

Farmer Nyel is back on duty!

Saturday, August 24th, 2019

Nyel Approaches The Coop

Yesterday, Nyel completed a trip that he began on February 28th.  That was the evening (my birthday!) that he fell on the way out to the chicken coop to collect the day’s eggs and say goodnight to the girls.  It was the evening he fractured his hip which ultimately led to several surgeries, many weeks in the hospital, and, ultimately, to no hip at all.

This time, it was broad daylight and he approached the coop from his regal position on his new electric all-terrain wheelchair.  He had gone out the garage door, up the middle of the street (well, it’s Oysterville!), through the gates that barricade the cannon, and over the expanse of abnormally mole-ridden lawn!  He had done it with the singular nonchalance and aplomb that I associate with the bearing of kings!

Farmer Nyel Back On Duty!

An electric wheelchair!!!  Can you imagine?  We certainly couldn’t — not in our wildest dreams.  And then, for reasons that will probably always remain mysterious, we were handed a huge check from unknown benefactors.  They must be people we know — why else would anyone just give money to a little old couple from Oysterville?  To say we were gobsmacked — both of us — doesn’t begin to describe it.

And then… how to honor this gift in the best possible way?  Weeks before, we had briefly considered getting Nyel a sturdy electric wheelchair so that he could safely resume his rightful place on the property as “Farmer Nyel.”  But we had discarded that thought almost immediately.  Too spendy and, perhaps, not really necessary.

But, now?  The more we talked, the more it seemed like the perfect idea.  And so. yesterday, Farmer Nyel was back on chicken duty!  And rhododendron-trimming duty.  And if he’s not careful, mail-fetching and even grocery-shopping duty!  (I jest, but the batteries — two of them — will take him twelve miles before they need to be recharged.  I’m sure Jack’s is only about five miles away…)

We are SO grateful for the generosity of whoever you are out there!  You have no idea how the atmosphere in and out of the coop has changed!  Overnight!  The girls and I are ever-grateful, to say nothing of Farmer Nyel.

Just when I thought I could breathe again…

Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Jay and the Finished Product!

Yesterday, our friend Jay finished painting the east (the front) of our house.  It was the last portion of the house to be done.  He’s refurbished each side over the past few years and saved “the best for last” — or something like that.  It is definitely the side with the most gingerbread, the highest gable peaks and, from my point of view, the scariest ladder approaches.  I mostly couldn’t look.

Consequently, I have no photographs of Jay at work on the house, much to my chagrin.  In fact, the only picture I took of Jay-at-work this time around was one of him painting the post that holds up the bird feeder!  It was a complete serendipity painting-wise — not at all part of the plan.  “I just thought it should look nice for your Grand Affair,” Jay said.  What a guy!

Tucker at the bottom; Jay at the top

But even as he was beginning to pack up his truck yesterday, Tucker was crossing the street to talk with him.  Apparently, the two had talked before and Jay had agreed to use his long extension ladder to climb up to the steeple and have a look at the church bell.  It sometimes gets stuck in the upside-down position and, for several years, has sounded more like a cowbell than a church bell.  Tucker had asked Jay if he’d take a look.

So it was that yesterday afternoon, Jay climbed to the top of his ‘leventy-‘leven foot ladder, exited at the top and knelt on the outer edge of the steeple to take a look.  (My palms are sweating as I write this; I can’t believe I actually took a picture of “Jay at the Top!”)  Unfortunately, he was in his painting-whites and he sort of blends in with the steeple but, he’s documented none-the-less!

His report:  the bell-rope is very frayed and needs replacing and the bell is iron, not bronze, so it has become rusty since 1892 — which may account for the ‘cowbell’ sound.  “Every time you ring it, a shower of rust comes down.  Eventually, it might sound better,” Jay laughed.

Tucker will talk to the Oysterville Restoration Foundation Board of Trustees.  His recommendation:  replace the rope and then ring the bell on every possible occasion to see if we can improve the sound.  Yay!   I know the brides and grooms would be pleased (they often ask for permission) and wouldn’t it be great to toll the bell before every Vespers service in the summer?  I’m all for it!

SRO at Oysterville Music Vespers!

Monday, August 19th, 2019

Oysterville Church, Aug. 18, 2019 – A Tucker Wachsmuth Photo

In general this summer, attendance has been light at the Oysterville Music Vesper services.  The folding chairs in the Sunday School room have had few takers and, on one or two occasions, there have been empty pews in the main room (“the auditorium” it is called on the original plans.)  Not so, though, the last two weeks!

On August 11th, Cate and Starla Gable played to a full house.  They had planned a few participatory numbers and when the audience joined in on “This Land Is Your Land,” I’m sure the little building rocked on its old foundation!  The very air was filled to capacity with sweet harmony and the wonderful acoustics could strut their stuff to the max!  It was fantastic!

SRO at Vespers – A Tucker Wachsmuth Photo

Yesterday, too, it was standing room only.  However, part of the reason was that the Lyrica Ladies Choral Ensemble of Puget Sound utilized the Sunday School Room as a “staging area” so audience/congregation seating was confined to the pews of the auditorium.   People seemed perfectly willing to stand around the edges, though — but even that was tricky as the popular choral group used the north aisle throughout their performance.  Again, the music was spectacular and the surround-sound effect worked wonderfully.

Business as Usual on the Church Porch – A Tucker Wachsmuth Photo

Outside, it was business as usual, though.  I don’t know how sensitive swallows are to the music of us big earthbound creatures, but the mom and dad feeding babies in their front porch nest didn’t seem to break stride (or glide) in their feeding duties.  Somehow, I think they were enjoying the concert in their own feathery way.  I hope so.  It was SRO in the nest, too — sitting room only, doncha know!

It’s Sunday Already!

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Lyrica in Oysterville, 2018

In a few hours the Lyrica Ladies Choral Ensemble of Puget Sound will be gathering at the church for their afternoon Vespers performance.  How in the world could it be Sunday already?  Again?  The summer has swept by in a fury (not a flurry) and I’m sure I need another month or two to do those summer things.

I congratulate myself that we’ve managed one picnic.  But, only one.  I’m sure that it wasn’t very many summers ago that we had two or three picnics a month.  Plus outings to the beach and over to the island and, sometimes, even took a canoe trip up the Naselle.  Those were the summers that stretched out endlessly before us — the same summers that fill our memories with a treasure trove of  reminiscences.

Jazz and Oysters 8-17-19

So… whatever happened?  Everything seems faster-paced these days — even time. And,  there is definitely more, more, more to do.  Not just in terms of the patch-patch-patch needs of passing time, but also by way of choices.  The weekends are crowded with things we’d love to “take in” — music to listen to, festivals to attend, out-of-towners who come visiting.  I remember when events of that sort happened once or twice a season.

Those were the days when we still thought of ourselves as “isolated”  — a long, hard trip to or from.  I wonder what my great-grandparents or even my grandparents would have thought of the steady stream of tourists visiting the church and walking through the village — not just on holidays or on important occasions, either.   Every single day!

Gordon and Sydney in the ’70s

Well… perhaps the time flies by because I spend too much of it reflecting upon the past.  I don’t think I’ll change that habit, though.  As I age, I find that my memories become more precious and the future more uncertain.  Who wouldn’t immerse themselves in delicious long-ago when given the choice?

What’s in a name?

Friday, August 16th, 2019

Jay and Helper – 2018

It was at one of those “Oysterville Meetings” — you know, the ones that happen spontaneously and very often in the street — that the name of our 150th birthday bash for the house arrived.  Neighbor Tucker, house painter Jay, and I were talking about party plans.  Jay (whose last name is Short, though he is six-foot-a-hundred-and-something) is in the process of painting the east side of our house. It’s the final side over the last four years and I am, of course, eager that it be completed “in time.”

“It will be done in plenty of time for your Grand Affair,” Jay assured me.  Tucker and I laughed at that but Jay said, “that’s how I think of your party in my mind.”  And he went on to tell about a book that he had picked up at Powell’s years ago — a kid’s book that he read over and over again to his children when they were young.  “It’s a sort of a mystery.  The clues are in the pictures,” he said.  “It was called A Grand Affair or something like that.  You probably read it to your school kids,” Jay said.

By Graeme Base

The next day, he arrived with the book in hand.  The Eleventh Hour was its actual name, and the minute I saw the cover I remembered it perfectly!  “It was the mouse!  The culprit was the mouse!”  It’s a Graeme Base book — one of my all-time favorite children’s illustrators.  I sat down almost immediately and re-visited it cover to cover.

And… even though the title wasn’t quite as Jay remembered, he wasn’t far off at all.  On the first paragraph of the second page:
Now Horace was a clever lad; he planned his day with care,
Ensuring that his party would be quite a Grand Affair.

There it was!  The name that we hope will perfectly describe our grand old lady’s birthday celebration.  “Our Grand Affair!”  Thanks to Jay and hats off to yet another successful Oysterville Meeting!

Chicken and Vegetables

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

Svetlana on Okra

The ladies of the coop like their vegetables.  Whether they are eating leftovers or sitting on an unopened bag straight from the freezer, there is nothing that quite approaches the busy contentment of chickens with veggies.

Last night I waited until almost-dark  to try to break Svetlana’s hopeless broody cycle.  “Put a bag of frozen peas or some such under her.  Her body temperature will drop and she will no longer feel broody.”  Or so I read.  So, about nine o’clock — just before the flashlight hour had arrived — I took (at no sacrifice at all) a frozen bag of okra down to the coop.

First, I reached under her and fetched a warm, brown egg.  She was still awake enough to give me a cursory peck but I persevered and slipped the bag of okra under her ample, feathery bosom.  She didn’t seem to notice — just shifted and squirmed a bit and then settled back down to her broody duties.  I left her to it and wondered what hatched okra would look like…

White Hen and Corn-on-the-Cob

This morning I had treats to take to the girls — corn cob left-overs, some tomato ends and part of a corn tortilla.  The red and white hens were up and awaiting my early a.m. visit but… no Svetlana.  Upon investigation, I found her still sitting on the now unfrozen (and squishy) bag of okra.  She gave me another warning peck as felt around to see if there was another egg under her but stayed settled in to her duty.

However, when I pulled the bag of okra out from under her, she was up in a shot, out of the nest box and out into the run to explore the morning treats.  She headed right for a corn cob and got busy.  But I noticed her looking through the chicken-wire fencing at the green grassy lawn beyond.  Was she thinking of what she might be missing by insisting that her eggs turn into chicks?

Wistful Svetlana?

Before I left the coop, I reminded her once again that there are no roosters among the little flock and reiterated that without a Papa in residence, baby chicks would not be forthcoming.  “Give it up!” I told her.

We will see.  (I wrapped the bag of okra in a clean plastic bag and set it back in the freezer… just in case.)

When is enough enough?

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

Broody Svetlana 8-5-19

Ms. Svetlana is still broody.  It’s been more than a month now.  According to the experts:  When a hen is broody, that means she wants to hatch her eggs and raise chicks. A breed known for frequent broodiness has hens that often, individually go broody. These hens may not even need eggs to set on to be broody–they may brood in a nest with no eggs. Or in a corner on rocks.

Well, Svetlana is a bit more rationale than that, but not much.  If I remove the eggs from under her (despite her pecking at me), she waits until one of the other girls lays in the nest box next door and, as soon as the hen vacates the premises, Svetlana moves in.  She is one determined fowl!

Frozen Okra

I’ve read that the chicken farmer might be able to break the broody cycle by putting a bag of frozen vegetables, say peas, under Ms. Broody.  Since a raised temperature is one of the symptoms of broodiness, the icy underpinnings may break the cycle and the unrequited mother hen will return to “normal.”  We happen to have a bag of frozen okra (OMG!) in our freezer and tomorrow I’m making the ultimate (NOT!) sacrifice.    (When I asked Nyel why the okra, he said that before he fractured his hip, he was thinking of making gumbo.  I repeat: OMG!)

And speaking of Nyel’s health matters…  we DID get an appointment in Seattle for a second opinion on his osteo-myelitis diagnosis.  Not at the University of Washington Medical Center’s Infectious Disease Department, however.  They informed us that they no longer take Medicare patients.  Say what???  I’m trying to figure out how to get them to sit on icy bags of okra — or a human equivalent of something to break through their unreasonableness.  No Medicare patients???  Really?  I wonder if that comes under elder-discrimination.  (85% of Medicare patients are over 65.)


Let me count the ways…

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Thanks for the rides, Bill and Maggie and Tucker!This past week was one of those periods when everything seemed to catch up to me.  Nothing serious or even very out of the ordinary, but I suddenly felt overwhelmed and inept.  But before I could really think about it, the days filled up with friendship and blessings!

It began last Tuesday when Maggie came over to help me put the upstairs back together.  Our painter friend Jay had re-painted two of the bedroom floors and once the furniture got moved back in, there were beds to be remade and straightening to do.  Maggie said, “I’ve always thought that if I owned a hotel, I’d hire housemaids in pairs.  It’s so much easier to make beds with two people.”  And it was!  Four beds in nothing flat!

Smiling and Sparkling with Miki

The next morning at 8:30 I delivered my car to Hill’s Auto Shop.  Bill Grennan, bless him, gave me a ride home via Adelaide’s for a coffee.  Nyel and I were to be car-less for three days.  Then, suddenly that night, Nyel went to the ER in Ilwaco by ambulance and I was car-less all by myself!  Tucker to the rescue!  He took me down to the hospital to be with Nyel and picked me up when Nyel was about to be transported to Portland.  On Friday, it was Maggie who gave me a ride to pick up my car — all shiny bright and dent-free. So many wonderful friends to help me out!

I should also mention Tom-the-Painter who got up at three in the morning to work on the car so it would be ready in time for me to beat the dark on my drive into Portland.  (I don’t do well with night driving these days…)  The car looks fabulous!  Thanks George and Tom!

It might have been Sunday that Tucker told me he was going to the dump and did I have anything for him to take.  Oh boy and how!  With everything else going on, I forgot to put out the garbage Wednesday and we were on ‘overload.’   Suddenly next Wednesday didn’t seem so impossibly far away.


Then, yesterday and today, Miki was here helping me wash and dry all the china and glassware in the dining room cupboards.  It’s a monumental task that I was ‘prepared’  to spend a week doing as I gear up for our September 150th Birthday Party for the house. But, in a FB message, Miki responded to my comment about being tired with:  “How can I help?  I’m retired now, you know!”  And it was fun!  We laughed and talked and remembered…  The most time we’ve spent together since I was teaching at Ocean Park School in the 80s and 90s!

And… Brigid came by last night with a still-warm blackberry pie and a bag of ice surrounding a quart of ice cream!  “Did you pick the berries?” I asked.  “Yep!  This morning!”  What a fabulous treat!  What a week of blessings!  We are so lucky!


It was “Happy Birthday to Nyel!”

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Oysterville Regatta 2017 – Photo by Mark Petersen

One way or another, we salvaged most of Nyel’s birthday weekend.  We made it home from Portland in time for the second and third heats (races?) of the Regatta.  Afterwards, we got Nyel into his wheelchair and wheeled him down the middle of Territory Road with half of Oysterville and the Regatta Dinner guests walking along behind us.  “The only way to travel!” Nyel said.  In my mind  seventy six trombones led the big parade.  Only appropriate for his 76th birthday!

At Lena’s, we were greeted by Tucker and Carole’s son, Charlie, who managed to wheel Nyel over gravel and lawn and rough spots to seat him at the head of the nearest table.  Soon, the table filled with friends who filled us in on the first race and proceeded to treat us both like visiting royalty! People brought us food and beverages and there was even a surprise chocolate cake (a four-layer CostCo special, I think) and the whole crowd sang Happy Birthday to Nyel.

Regatta Pinata Grandkids 2018

A dinner highlight was Tucker singing three (count ’em! Three!) Regatta songs this year.  My favorite and the one I think should become THE official regatta song — was to the tune of “Where have all the flowers gone?”  Here is the truncated version which you can probably figure out:  Where have all the lasers gone… gone to summers every one; where summers… gone to memories;  where memories… gone to stories; where stories, gone to grandkids; where grandkids… gone to lasers every one.

On Sunday our long-time friend “Tricky” came down from Bainbridge and the three of us hooked up with Noel at the Bridgewater in Astoria for Nyel’s birthday dinner.  Lotsa sharing of “geriatric war stories” and even more reminiscing about the “olden days” of forty or fifty years ago.  It was lovely to catch up with one another  though we missed Noel’s wife, Patty, who was back east at a school reunion.

At home, there were presents — all food related, including a new slow cooker (his old one died) from son Charlie plus a hefty book called  Crock Pot – The Original Slow Cooker Recipe Collection.  Nyel’s comment:
“A great birthday and a real improvement over spending the day in the hospital.”  Amen to that!


Where’s my white hat?

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

I arrived at St. Vincent’s last night to find that Nyel has been a) diagnosed with yet a new infection — chronic osteomyelitis — and that he does not “qualify” for hospitalization.  Everything that was done could have been accomplished as an outpatient says the hospital.  And, since that is so, he does not qualify for admission under Medicare Part A’s rules and we will be billed for the Part B deductible.

“So does he need to be here?” I asked.  There was quite a bit of arguing.  I don’t think Nyel and I “won” but we were told that “No, he doesn’t need to be here” and “No, they are not going to prescribe antibiotics as they are not indicated.”  Whatever that means.

“Then, get Nyel outta here!” said I.  Or something like that.

They are preparing his discharge papers as we speak.  There is far more to this story but… if we leave soon we might even catch the tail end of the Oysterville Regatta!  And, for sure, the Regatta Dinner!  The St. V saga can definitely wait.