Archive for the ‘Country Living’ Category

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…

Where is that damned fairy godmother?

Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Yesterday Nyel and I — sometimes separately and sometimes together — spent seven f***ing hours on the telephone trying to solve Cinderella’s broken heart.  First we spoke with her Mother Ship; then with the Mother Ship’s Controller.  That took three hours.  They needed us to find out some information about our modem and its firewalls.  That required several phone calls to CenturyLink who was the supplier of our Modem and our internet service.  Need I say more?  But… just in case you don’t realize… here in the greater downtown rural center of things, CenturyLink is the only show in town landline-wise , and for medical reasons – see below — we need the landline.

Proudly CenturyLink’s robotic voice told us how they are completely automated now but… if we needed to talk to a representative, just say “representative” at any time.  I cannot even begin to tell you how many different responses that got us — including several complete hang-ups,  a robotic question “I understand you want to speak with a representative” followed by several more minutes of automated voice and THEN a hang-up.  ad-nauseum.

When we finally got a live CenturyLink voice and told her our problem, she asked a number of questions about our question — as in what exactly did we need to know about the firewalls (which we had already told her) and why did we need to know etc. etc.  We answered each question to the best of our ability — several times.  Finally, after more due deliberation, she said, “Your modem does not have any firewalls.”  “Then why,” asked my ever-patient husband, “are the Roomba people asking us to find out about them?”  Would you believe… another hang up!

At one point, I was on hold with my faithful cell phone, hearing over and over and yet again over, “Your call is very important to us.”  After forty-four minutes and constant repeats of my call’s importance, they hung up. Apparently the call wasn’t THAT important.

Cinderella Stuck on her Home Base

We would cut our CenturyLink connection in a nano-second but Nyel’s daily CardioMems* report is sent each morning via our landline.  CenturyLink is the only show in town.  And that report, literally, is a lifeline for him.  Need I tell you how very scary it is that said lifeline depends upon CenturyLink?  I wonder if there are T Shirts that say Rural Lives Matter.  Probably not.  And, in case you are wondering, Cinderella’s problem has not yet been fixed.  Actually… not even diagnosed as far as we can tell.  But then, after 24 hours, our internet access is still intermittent so perhaps the Fairy Godmother hasn’t been able to wave her magic wand yet…

*A CardioMEMS device is implanted in Nyel’s pulmonary artery via a short, femoral vein access cath procedure. It measures changes in pulmonary artery pressure, which are a surrogate measure for fluid retention in the lungs due to worsening heart failure conditions.

Speaking of local color…

Monday, July 27th, 2020

Finally!  Those recalcitrant mastershalums are blooming!  And everything else is, too.  I love it!  Even though there’s always something to be done around the edges, the blossoms hither and thither take my mind off the needy spots!

September Dahlias in July!

The dahlias, bless their pointy little heads, are earlier than ever.  I wonder if it’s part of Mother Nature’s nourishment formula —  giving us something beautiful to carry us through these ugly times we are enduring.  I’m not one to think that there has been some grand plan afoot since the beginning of time, but it is interesting that in this bleakest and scariest of summers our gardens flourish and soothe our souls.

Tostada with Rice and Salsa

Tostada with Rice and Salsa

Our garden isn’t the only colorful location in this particular sheltering spot.  The kitchen table at any given mealtime is a sight to behold.  Usually, I’m so eager to tuck into whatever Nyel is offering, I don’t give a thought to the photo opportunities right in front of me.  Friday’s tostada dinner called out “photo op” just in time!

For all the worries and scary parts of right now, it’s reassuring to look a little more closely right here at home.  We count our blessings every day and pray that we all reach November intact.

Let them eat bread! Nyel’s sourdough bread!

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Hot Our Of The Oven

The day after the Madigans brought their bread-baking care package to Nyel, he was feeding his sourdough starter…  Two days later, he baked.  Just one loaf (more’s the pity) but it was “a little bit experimental,” he said.  It was his third time trying a particular no-knead recipe and he wasn’t about to waste time or ingredients if it failed.  Not that the first two trials were failures, but he is SUCH a perfectionist.

The problem hadn’t been in the finished product.  Far from it!  So I probably hadn’t been as sympathetic as I could have been.  (I was much too busy scarfing down bread-hot-out-of-the-oven-and-dripping-with-melting-butter!) The difficulty had been in the process, with bread dough so sticky he could hardly handle it.

Michael was familiar with the recipe.  “You can add as much as 10 grams more flour,” he told Nyel.  Plus, he suggested being very liberal with the flour on counter and hands as Nyel was forming the loaf… The bread turned out perfectly!  There’s nothing like getting advice from an expert.

I know it’s a bit of a quantum leap, but I was wondering if the protesters on Capitol Hill in Seattle would have been so destructive if they could have had a few pieces of that fabulous loaf — as in “let them eat bread” and having enough for the multitudes as in the loaves and fishes story in the Good Book.

And, I’d definitely like to share with Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan and with our Governor Jay Inslee.  They each deserve a loaf and more for their tweets in response to the threats by the prez.  “Make us all safe. Go back to your bunker!” Durkan tweeted. And in a tweet using one of Trump’s own mis-spellings, Inslee said, “A man who is totally incapable of governing should stay out of Washington state’s business. ‘Stoop’ tweeting.”

Let them all eat bread, I say.  Nyel’s sourdough perfection!  It would mellow things right out as breaking bread together is meant to do.


Springtime Visitors Some More

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

In The Wachsmuths’ Backyard – Photo by Tucker Wachsmuth 4-28-20

The birds start gathering about seven each morning at the Wachsmuth house in Oysterville.  By ones and twos, in  small groups and large, shyly, boldly — they wait and watch for the wild birdseed that they know will soon arrive.  There will be something for everyone and it will vary by season — suet in the winter for woodpeckers and jays; thistle seed for the goldfinches and chickadees in the spring.

Of course, the birds aren’t the only ones fond of treats.  A pesky raccoon hangs around periodically and the squirrels have caused a bit of havoc in the lettuce patch, digging around the plants to bury nuts for “later.”  Ever-patient Carol has replanted and put up a netting barrier.

One Morning in March 2017 at Wachsmuths’ — Photo by Sydney

The last few days, it’s the bears that have been checking things out.  Sunday, one made off with the suet.  (“We won’t be replacing it until winter,” Tucker told us later.)  But, yesterday the lack of suet didn’t stop Mama Bear bringing two cubs over on a reconnaissance mission.

“They didn’t hang around very long, but they were so cute. I was lucky to get this one picture,” Tucker wrote.

We wondered if it was Sunday’s bear, back with the two little ones.  Or were these unrelated to the first one?  Hard to tell from her backside.  But… the odds are, whoever they are, they’ll be back.  And who knows what others?  The word is definitely out.  Those birds aren’t too good at secrets!




They didn’t hang around very long, but they were so cute. I was lucky to get this one picture.

A Sign of Heightened Awareness

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

From Days Gone By

For as long as I can remember, there has been an old “Quarantine” sign hanging above the kitchen door in the Red House.  That’s what we’ve called my great-grandfather R.H. Espy’s house ever since my uncle Willard painted it barn red in the mid-1940s.  The house has remained in the family since it was built in 1872 and many of its contents have remained as well.

No one knows when that Quarantine Sign was used or even if it was recycled for more than one go-round.  It could have been used as early as 1903 when a scarlet fever epidemic swept the area.  Or, it could have been used during the 1918 flu epidemic — the “Spanish inflenza” as it was called, believed to have been brought to the United States by WWI soldiers returning home.

“The Red House” by Sedem Akposoee

With all the family correspondence and Oysterville School documents that I’ve perused over the years, I have never seen reference to either of those epidemics.   I have no knowledge concerning any of our family members being affected by either scarlet fever or influenza.  The closest I can come is my mother’s memory of neighbors vaccinating one another against smallpox with an early vaccine, perhaps derived from cowpox.

I don’t know if that Quarantine sign is still in the Red House.  My fondest desire is that we will have no use for it during this current Coronavirus pandemic.  Meanwhile, we continue to wash our hands, sing the Happy Birthday song, and limit our forays out and about.  No hugging, no hand-shaking — but many admonitions to “Stay Well!”


Check, Double-Check, And We’re Off!

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

5:00 A.M. Alarm — CHECK!

Up, bathed, coiffed — CHECK!

Aunt Rye with Banty Chicks c. 1940

Pills taken, breakfast eaten — CHECK!

Chickens fed and watered — CHECK!

Lunches made, thermos of decaf filled — CHECK!

Books for inevitable waits ready — CHECK!

Car packed  — CHECK!

7:00 a.m. off to Seattle — CHECK!

We hope and pray that this specialist has some

Oysterville Stagecoach c 1880

positive suggestions for Nyel’s “next steps.”  It sure will be worth this and every other up-and-back trip to Seattle no-matter-what-and-weather-be-damned!  Cross your fingers for us!

This Early Winter Morning…

Saturday, January 11th, 2020

The Lights Weren’t Working

Nyel’s cellphone alarm went off at 5:30 as usual and I heard him turn on his bedside light.  “I think my bulb burned out,” he said.

I tried the light on my side.  “I think the power is out,” I said.

So we debated whether to stay warm and snug where we were or start our day as usual.  It was really my call,  our “usual” being me who goes to the kitchen to make coffee.  Which I did, returning with two cups which we drank, propped up in bed as is our habit.

At The Ready

We discussed options.  Our friend Cate is coming over at ten and the plan was to offer her “real” coffee (grind the beans, etc.} “I was going to make cookies,” Nyel said.  “Oatmeal raisin.”

“Well… no cookies,” I said, “but we can still have the real coffee I promised.  I think there are some (fairly) fresh ground beans in the freezer.”  Unstated was “thank goodness for a duel fuel stove.”  And we discussed the possibility of “baking” cookies in the Dutch oven on the stovetop. Or in the fireplace.

My part of the preparation for Cate’s visit was to have the fire going in library. No change of plans needed there except that we don’t have very much dry wood.  “We’ll just have to bundle up until she comes and then huddle around the fire when she gets here,” we agreed.

And about then, the power was back on.  Yay!  And a big thanks to whoever might have been out in the cold and dark and wind seeing to it that Nyel can bake those cookies!

Another Mystery In the Coop

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Wind-proof Latch

The gate into our side yard (where the cannon lives in the good-weather months) was wide open yesterday when we returned from erranding.  I’d like to say that’s  not an unusual occurrence and lately that’s been true.  But there was a time, when it happened all too often.  Mostly on weekends.

Nyel thought that it was blowing open (mostly on weekends?) and so Tucker replaced the latch (which is on the inside) and adjusted the gate props that keep it closed.  Still… once in a while it is somehow opened and, with free range chickens, it is worrisome.

We know it wasn’t anyone trying to get a better look at the cannon.  It’s put away for the winter these days. It could have been the propane guy but, until we get the bill, we have no way of knowing if he was here.  It could have been kids, but as far as I know, there were none in town yesterday.  Another one of life’s little mysteries…

Open Coop Gate

A little later when I went down to the coop at dusk, the coop gate was closed and the chickens were clucking and clacking outside it — wanting to get into the coop to roost for the night.  Four chickens.  One missing.  Slutvana!   I called and called, even after the others were snugged in for the night.  No Slutvana.

“The coop gate could have blown shut,” Nyel said.  Yes, maybe.  But it seems odd that the garden gate was open and the coop gate was shut, both on the same day. My own clucking and worrying was rewarded today with the sight of Slutvana joining the others for morning snacks.

I should say trying to join the others.  They were all huffy toward her — did not let her near the treats.  They seemed to be scolding her for not waiting patiently with them at the coop gate.  And for staying out all night.  I wonder if she has learned a lesson?  I know I have.  I’m propping that gate open from now on.  With a heavy cement block.