Archive for the ‘Autumn in Oysterville’ Category

When is enough enough?

Saturday, November 27th, 2021

As we reviewed our blessings on Thursday, we were beginning to think that a return to “normalcy” might be around the corner with a big Christmas Party here — the first in several years.  Son Charlie has been encouraging us.  Nyel has already arranged for Pam-the-Bartending-Elf to assist. Some specialty food items have been ordered.  We’ve set the date and are considering the parameters — as in boosters required, masks optional, no hugging or smooching. (And with that last one, part of me says, “Why bother?’)

But then yesterday’s news was full of concerns about the newest Covid-19 variant — omicron.  Stock prices were falling, travel restrictions from the U.S. to South Africa and seven other countries are being put into place, and… on and on it goes.  Again.  Black Friday turned into Bleak Friday before our eyes and there wasn’t a word of advice to Sydney and Nyel Stevens concerning “to have or not to have” their gala Christmas party.

So, I put it to you.  Factor in the age and health cards — as in, with one of us almost 86 and the other wheelchair bound, how many more Christmas galas can we muster up?  And factor in the community card — as in, how much more time do we have to put off seeing friends and loved ones, especially those we see far too infrequently as it is?  But… how would any of us feel if even one person got sick after being here — even if it wasn’t a direct connection?

We are pondering.  No.  Actually we are agonizing.  We wonder who would come to Oysterville in any case?  And, we sympathize with the many others who are going through similar torments regarding their own holiday plans.

What to do?  What to do?  I hope the answer isn’t blowin’ in the wind.  We all know how that’s worked out…

How far have we come? How far yet to go?

Friday, November 19th, 2021

Abraham Lincoln

On November 19, 1863 — 158 years ago today — at the dedication of a military cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, during the American Civil War,  President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most memorable speeches in American history. In fewer than 275 words, he brilliantly and movingly reminded a war-weary public why the Union had to fight, and win, the Civil War.

It used to be that every school child could recite at least the beginning sentence of the Gettysburg Address:  Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.    But, all these years later we still argue the fine points of that very sentence and, sometimes, it seems as though we might be, yet again, on the brink of a mammoth civil conflict.

And perhaps we are — it’s just that it happens on the streets during “protest marches” and in the courts during “fair trials” and in our free press in hateful words and “fake” news.  As if these thoughts don’t bum me out enough, I looked up how many wars the United States of America has been involved in since our beginnings in 1776.  Want to hazard a guess?

“Freedom From Want” by Norman Rockwell

Since the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War with the Treaty of Paris in 1783 in which Britain recognized the independence of the United States of America and the colonies, we have been involved in 92 wars, three of which are ongoing.  Granted, this information comes from Wikipedia which is not necessarily known for its accuracy and even it has a disclaimer of sorts at the top of the page:  The neutrality of this article is disputed  Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page.  Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met. (August 2021)

Nevertheless… were the number of wars even half that amount, it is a scary proposition.  I wonder what Lincoln would have to say about our situation today.  And could he confine his remarks to  two minutes and 272 words?  Today, less than a week before our traditional Thanksgiving here in America, it is surely something to think about.


Willapa Harbor Pilot, May 1, 1908

Sunday, November 14th, 2021

J.C. Johnson (1839-1908) – Willapa Harbor Pilot photo

There’s nothing that slows me down more in my sorting and organizing of those boxes of  “stuff” in the back forty than running across an old newspaper.  If it’s a local paper such as the South Bend Willapa Harbor Pilot, I might as well pack it in for the rest of the day.  I feel compelled to read it, front to back, and am invariably rewarded with information about something or someone I’m “acquainted” with. Often, too, I find yet another answer to a question that has been niggling at me for a while.

Yesterday, right on the front page, was not only his obituary, but a picture of J.C. Johnson of Oysterville under the headline Pioneer Dies in Portland.  Mr. Johnson was the adopted father of George C. Johnson, a contemporary of my grandfather’s and a well-known citizen of this area.  It was just last summer that Charlotte Killien, owner of the George Johnson House Bed and Breakfast in Ocean Park, asked me if I knew anything about George’s family.  Some distant family members were coming to the area and they were looking for information.

And here it was!  Or at least some of it! As I read the lengthy article — it was a full column on the front page and another almost entire column on the back — I made a mental note to make a copy for Charlotte, but was almost immediately immersed in a part of the report that concerned J.C. Johnson’s boats.  Yes!  Not HIS heritage, but the provenance of his boats!  It has long fascinated me that boat owners often know the history of their boats including who the various owners have been, who built them, and, sometimes where the building materials came from. More than once I’ve been impressed that a boat owner knows more about his boat’s heritage than about his own.

The Julia when the Wiegardts owned her – Photo Courtesy of Dobby Wiegardt

This is what the WHP article had to say about Mr. J.C. Johnson’s boats: Mr. Johnson began in the oyster business [in 1870 – SS] by purchasing an oyster sailing bateau, named Sixty Six, from L.H. Rhoades,  He afterward sold her and bought the sloop Julia from John Crellin.  After selling the Julia to Harry Wiegardt, who now owns it, he bought the War Eagle from Amos Smith of North river.  During the fourteen years he owned the War Eagle he made trips up and down the river and bay, buying hides and pelts.  In all his business transactions he never had a lawsuit nor was sued for debt.

I was also amused by that last sentence — not something we would necessarily comment on in an obituary these days.  In his extensive research for his books about movers and shakers of this area during the nineteenth century, historian Michael Lemeshko has remarked to me numerous times about how litigious those pioneers were.  “Everyone seemed to be suing everybody about everything,” Michael has told me more than once.  So, I guess Johnson’s “clean slate” (lawsuit-wise) was, indeed, something of note for the WHP to remark upon!

There is probably fodder for many blogs to come in this old newspaper.  At the very least it seems to be a treasure-trove of information about the issues of the day — Saloons or No Saloons — and the activities of residents throughout the county — (Ilwaco) Mayor Dan Markham lost a valuable cow last week…  Reading its closely printed eight pages is a wonderful way to travel back in time on a rainy Sunday.  Or, actually, on any day at all.


And the beat goes on and off and on again.

Friday, November 12th, 2021

We’ve known that our internet service has been “intermittent” since the get-go.  And slow.  And overall, highly unreliable.  Now it’s just a plain old crap shoot.  Will it be on this morning?  Or not?  This afternoon?  Or not?  And ditto our landline.

It doesn’t help much that CenturyLink doesn’t seem to know either.  The “live voice” that Nyel finally got yesterday was telling him that they will be back up and running by five o’clock today.  But wait!  At that exact same moment  I was entering the kitchen to tell Nyel all was well.  We were online again after another dead-in-the-water day.

This morning, though… not so much.    It all seems to be an on-again, off-again proposition and reminds me a lot of what we’ve always said about our coastal weather — if you don’t like what it’s doing, wait a minute or two. Do you think CenturyLink’s landline, their internet service, and the weather gods have collided somewhere above the Pacific?  Or perhaps they have their own version of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in rehearsal for the upcoming Winter Solstice.

I asked the chickens what they thought about it all. They’re still sulking over the time change and it’s no use talking to them before nine o’clock or after four.  They have officially gone to a seven-hour day and with no guarantees in the Egg-Laying Department.  As we all know these days, good help is hard to find, even (as in this case) with housing and meals provided.




Right up there with Tom’s 2-for-1!

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021


If you’ve been around the Peninsula — especially the North End — long enough, you may remember Tom’s 2-for-1 book store — buy two used paperbacks, get one free.  The store was first located on Bay Avenue; later on Pacific Hiway.   (And never mind that you can still find it listed on the internet at where it is purported to “specialize in Bookstores.”  No matter where or when, though, it was old and funky and always seemed to be under construction.

I think it was while he was still on Bay Avenue that Tom was making improvements to his porch.  During the process, he had an assortment of lumber and other building materials stacked hither and thither and, like the merchandise in the store, itself, there seemed little rhyme nor reason to the order (read: clutter) of things.  So… it came as no surprise but with a great deal of sympathetic humor that the Chinook Observer announced that Tom had “fallen over a broad on his back porch” and had broken his leg.  I think there were probably drinks all ’round on the strength of that report… and for some time to come.

Today, I do believe that the Observer has done it again.  This time it was in Cate Gable’s column and the subject, more-or-less broadly (ahem) was our recent landline and internet outage.  Here is what she reported:  I was alerted to the situation about a week into it by dear friend Sydney Stevens.  She and Nyel both have cell phones but they had no land line and no internet service; so Sydney could not post her daily and now famous (“infamous”?) Oysterville Daybook blog. I heard tell that folks hither and yawn began calling around to find out if Sydney was OK. Her “bonus daughter” Marta in California even got calls — “What’s going on with Sydney’s radio silence?” When I caught up to her by cell, she said, “Give Cyndy Hayward a call too. She has some information you might be interested in.”  

“Hither and yawn!”  Wow!  I do hope it was a spell-check error and not just some momentary surge of truth serum relative to Cate’s feelings about the Oysterville Daybook.  Nyel and I got a great chuckle out of it.  I truly think it has more potential than Tom’s back porch broad! But I may be biased.

Gales! Hail! Gullywashers! Is winter here?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

Columbus Day Storm, 1962

I don’t think it just my protesting old bones or my fading memory.  I really think that the weather has turned ferocious earlier than usual.  One big storm toward the middle of November or maybe even a freaky October uproar like the Columbus Day Storm of 1962, maybe…  But usually, we don’t really start noticing winter weather until we have the Christmas decorations up and most of the holiday shopping and planning taken care of.  Or perhaps I’m misremembering.

If that’s  the case, the chickens are confused right along with me.  They aren’t eager to leave the coop or their run on these gusty mornings and they hunker back near the cypress tree during the day — close to their open gate and food and water and the sheltering safety of the coop.  They haven’t even come to the East Door asking for treats from Farmer Nyel — not for several weeks now.  I wish they’d tell me if they have some insider information about what’s coming.

Stormy Weather at Cape D.

The deer people, too, have kept a low profile for the last week or so.  It’s probably because they have completed their clean-up of the pear blow-down.  Not a pear in sight now and the last big wind didn’t harvest any more.  I think that they’ve all lost their grip, ripe or not, and the deer have taken care of them, ripe or not.  (I wonder if deer get belly aches?  Or do their multiple stomachs take care of the possibility before it becomes a problem?)

As for the bear people and other local hibernators — snakes, slugs, snails, skunks, for instance — they are keeping a low profile.  I don’t know if they’ve decided that winter is arriving early.  Except for the bears and slugs, we seldom see any of those critters.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a skunk around here since I was a little girl and one was living under our woodshed.  “She and her babies are very polite,” my grandmother always said.  “Just give her a little warning before you go out there for firewood… just in case.”

Wind Damage in Oystrville, 2017

It’s not that I mind hunkering down early.  I don’t even mind that the power goes out occasionally or that my aches and pains seem more noticeable in the cold and the damp.  It’s just that I hope it’s not going to become the new normal.   Or, if it is, could Spring please come early, too?

I’d really like to talk to Will Shakespeare.

Monday, November 8th, 2021

William Shakespeare, Biography Newsletter

I’m sure that Will Shakespeare did not mean to be definitive when he gave Juliet the beginning lines of her famous soliloquy:  “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet.”  Surely, if asked, he would have more to say about names than this.  I thought about him a lot this past weekend as I kept my eye out for the “King” tides were were promised — a 12.3, a 12.4 and a 12.2 for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

When none of them even crept within a foot of our east fence, I felt that Will really needed to revisit his words of wisdom (or, actually, Juliet’s) about names.  He rather ignored the entire aspect of expectations.  “Will,” I would like to have said to him, “when respected weatherpersons and commentators on the more general marine outlook — such as Joanne Rideout of KMUN renown — speak of ‘King Tides,’ those of us paying attention immediately develop high expectations.”  Yes, high.  Which is a condition directly related to those sorts of tides.  To wit:

According to NOAA’s National Ocean service, “ King Tide is a popular, non-scientific term people often use to describe exceptionally high tides that occur during a new or full moon.”  Check out that word “exceptionally.  Those tides we were watching weren’t all that exceptional, nor were they all that high.  Yes, our expectations were quite elevated; our cameras were ready; but our hopes were dashed (or perhaps dampened.)

High Tide at Our House, Dec. 20, 2018            (similar to last weekend’s “King Tides”)

“What do you say to that, Will, in answer to Juliet’s question?  You didn’t quite cover the waterfront (ahem!) did you?  The numbers looked good, but the royal personage didn’t show up to lead the flotilla.  Or maybe you weren’t so free-and-easy with your word usage in the olden days and wouldn’t have given high tides such lofty names and expectations…”

It would be a discussion worth having, doncha think?

As much as I hate to admit it…

Monday, October 18th, 2021

Debi and Sydney – Porch Visit

… I really don’t like oysters all that much.  Fried oysters, yes.    My great-grandmother’s baked oysters, yes.  Smoked oysters — especially those!  But on the half-shell or in stew or in a sandwich, I’d just as soon pass.

So, when Debi Snyder, my 4th cousin twice removed, told me that she wasn’t crazy about oysters either, I was pretty sure it’s a genetic thing.   I use as proof of this an “infamous” (in the Espy family) comment made by my redoubtable uncle Willard Espy.  When, in 1980, he was interviewed for a Seattle TV Station and was asked about his feelings concerning oysters he said in his most dramatic tones,  “Actually, I was very nearly conceived, I am sure, in an oyster bed and I certainly was reared in oyster beds.  When I was a boy when we had guests for dinner we would have oyster cocktails, oyster soup; we would have fried oysters and surely we must have had some form of oysters for dessert.  And I can’t stand an oyster!”

It was during a “porch visit” with Debi a few days ago that our Espy oyster disconnect came up.  She and her husband and daughter were here on one of their periodic Peninsula visits and had just been having a bite to eat at Oysterville Sea Farms.  “Oh!  How was it?” I asked.  “The business recently sold and we haven’t been up there as yet.”

Oysterville Sea Farms, 2015 — A Bob Duke Photo

“My husband and daughter loved it!” she said.  “And I loved the view, as always.”  And that’s when she confided that seafood — even oysters — were simply not her thing.   “I feel a little guilty saying so, right here in Oysterville!”

“I think it’s genetic,” I told her.  And we laughed.  That’s another part of being Espy that might be genetic.  We all like to laugh and we all have a great sense of humor.  Well… almost all of us!

Today’s Forecast: A Soaking Rain

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

“Really?  A  quarter inch of soaking rain this afternoon?  That’s what the weatherman had to say?”  I don’t know if I was skeptical or disappointed.  Nyel’s response, “Yup,” was not helpful.

I just think a quarter inch of rain doesn’t seem like enough to be “soaking.”  But then, I’m not a good judge of liquid quantities.

When I was young and foolish and hugely pregnant, I asked my obstetrician if I would know when my water broke.  He didn’t laugh out loud but he did twinkle a bit and said, “Have you ever spilled a cup of water?”  I hadn’t.  Charlie didn’t announce himself that way.  And I’m still not sure how far a cup of water would go…

“But,” I continued to my long-suffering husband, “is soaking rain a real term?  Does Kathleen Sayce have it on her list of 134 ways to say ‘rain’ in the Pacific Northwest?”  You know the answer — “Yup.”

So I looked it up and, of course, my husband-of-few words is correct.  Maddeningly, he is ALWAYS correct.  There it was on Kathleen’s list under the heading “Heavy Rain Terms.”  It shows up just after ‘Sleeting’ and just before ‘Sopping.’   ‘Soaking’ it says.  I can’t help but wonder if the weatherman consults Kathleen’s list or if it was vice-versa.

I still don’t know exactly what it means.  Synonyms for ‘soaking’ include waterlogged, saturated, drenched, and sodden.  No surprises there.  So I guess what confuses me is the one-quarter inch.  It doesn’t seem like enough to soak, saturate, sodden or waterlog.  In fact, it seems like a puny amount to me — maybe enough to provide a grizzle or a sprinkle or a skoosh or a mizzle, which are all on Kathleen’s list under “Light Rain Terms.”

But, then, I still don’t know how much a cup of water is when it spills.  How can I possibly judge a quarter-inch of sodden?   I’d ask Nyel, but I already know what his response would be…

Blessed bounty, thy name is Rose!

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

Salmonberries – the first to ripen each year.

The masked woman at our door held out a large yogurt container.  “I told Nyel I’d bring these over,” she said in her distinctive New Zealand accent.

Berries!  Almost every kind our Peninsula offers, lovingly picked through each of their seasons.  “I start with the salmonberries in April or May,” she told us.  “They are always the first.” In addition were blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, salal berries, and red and black huckleberries — picked throughout the summer, poured onto cookie sheets for freezing and, finally, mixed together and packaged in thirteen  24-ounce yoghurt containers.   A winter’s supply!  Unless, of course, you give them away because … because you are Rose Power.

Wild Blackberries

When we remarked on the numbers and the variety, Rose just shrugged (and probably smiled behind her mask.  “I consider myself a hunter-gatherer,” she said.  “I love doing it!”

“Are you continuing to pick?” we asked.  “Are there any berries still out there waiting for you?”

“Maybe a few black huckleberries, but berry-picking season is really over,” she said.  She didn’t mention that when the rains begin (as they did a few weeks ago), any remaining blackberries begin to mildew.  But she did say that she didn’t get any thimbleberries this year.  “They aren’t abundant, but I usually get a few.”

Rose’s bounty to us — still frosty from the freezer!

And now?  “I’m spinning like mad. ”   And knitting.  I’m knitting gloves.  I just took eight pair to BOLD and Danika called yesterday and said someone had come in and purchased five pair!  So, I’m back to making yarn!”  And off she went  — our lovely friend Rose, an earth mother for all seasons!  What a treasure she is and how lucky we are to call her a friend!