Not enough hours in the day…

May 26th, 2023

My “state of the art” electric typewriter on which I wrote a series of social studies texts in the early 1970s.

It seems to me that I get less done as the days go by, even though I have cut out a good number of activities as the years have passed.  First and foremost, I’m retired from teaching.  By my calculations that should give me at least ten hours per day (yes, ten) every weekday and often three or four hours on each of the weekend days.  Plus I wrote a series of K-5 text books subsequently adopted by the State of California to be used by every child K-5 child in public schools.  Admittedly, all his was back in the dark ages before technology made things easier and faster.  (Or does it?)

And I now have help in the garden so I’m not slogging around in the flower beds except for the occasional Slug Patrol or Deer Fence duties.  I don’t have  help in the house — never have had in this house — but I go by my mother’s mantra — “An old place like this (built in 1869) wouldn’t feel like home without a little patina of dust.”

Oysterville Schoolhouse — 100 years old in 2008

Plus I’ve given up any duties with Oysterville organizations — volunteer or otherwise.  And The Community Historian Project has turned a corner and is not based upon 15 weekly half-day classes.  I am hoping that our fledgling plans for a monthly History Forum at the Oysterville School September through May will not require too much of my non-existent time.

So… my question is:  what has become of all those hours in my life.  I seem to be busy all the time — tidying up, writing, researching, tidying some more.  But I fail to see very much actually accomplished.

Christmastime or anytime is rocking chair time these days!

I seem to remember my mother telling me now and then that my eyes were bigger than my stomach — reminding me, of course, to eat up everything on my plate or, more importantly, not to take so much next time.  Maybe there is an expression that relates to getting things done.  Perhaps, “My expectations exceed the realities of time and energy.”  Or, more likely, “Cut yourself some slack, old lady.”  Hmm.  Words to ponder.

Some things don’t change much, thankfully!

May 25th, 2023

Memorial Day 1917

Oysterville is gearing up for Memorial Day Weekend — the biggest weekend of the year here in our little village.  Traditionally, it has been when families gather together to clean up the cemetery and decorate the graves of our forebears.  “Decoration Day” it was called from its earliest beginnings… until 1971.

Though the grave cleaning and decorating tradition goes back to our earliest settlements, it was during the years following the end of the Civil War in 1865, that so many American communities were tending to the remains and graves of an unprecedented number of war dead.

2014 Memorial Day, Oysterville Cemetery

Soon, the idea for an official, nation-wide holiday occurred on May 30, 1868 when Ohio Rep. James A Garfield, a former general and future U.S. president, addressed a crowd of 5,000 gathered at Arlington National Cemetery.  After his speech the 5,000 visitors made their way into the cemetery to visit the tens of thousands of graves in the newly formed cemetery.

Gradually over the following years, local municipalities and states adopted resolutions  to make Decoration Day an official holiday in their areas.  As time went on, “Memorial Day” began to supplant “Decoration Day” as the name of the holiday, and it soon became a day to honor all fallen American troops, not just those from the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1968 that “Memorial Day” became an official national holiday.

Here in Oysterville we’ve celebrated our loved ones at the cemetery for 150 years or more.  These days,  the weekend is replete with meetings (The Water Company, The Oysterville Restoration Foundation, The Cemetery Association) on Saturday.  Cemetery decorating occurs on Sunday.  The VFW gathering to honor the war dead occurs early on Monday followed by (since 2004) the firing of their cannon by The Honorary Oysterville Militia.

And all weekend long, it is a time for visiting and renewing old friendships, sharing meals and stories and remembering why it is we are so connected to this village  and to one another.


Please join us Monday in honor of our own.

May 24th, 2023

The Honorary Oysterville Militia (THOM) will gather at 11:00 a.m. on Memorial Day Monday, May 29th, to fire their cannon in honor of members who have died “in the line of duty” and in memory of all of our friends and loved ones who are no longer with us.

The cannon is a replica of an 1841 mountain howitzer and is fired (blank charges only) by THOM personnel on special occasions such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.  The cannon was built especially for the 2004 Sesquicentennial of Oysterville to replace the village cannon of Pioneer times.

The firing on Monday will be the first occasion of the cannon’s use since General Nyel Stevens, Founder of THOM and Caretaker of the Cannon, gave his final order to “Fire!” last Memorial Day, May 30, 2022.  He passed away a week later on June 8th, ironically followed shortly thereafter on June 23, 2022 by his friend and right-hand-THOM-assistant, Ron Biggs.

Captain Ron Biggs and General Nyel Stevens, 2015


Balderdash! There are DROVES of them!

May 22nd, 2023

Moles! Moles! Moles!

According to more than one “reliable” internet source: Moles are antisocial, solitary animals; they live alone except to breed. A mole typically travels more than one-fifth of an acre. No more than three to five moles live on each acre; two to three moles is a more common number…

Yeah!  Sure!  You betcha!   Breeding AND birthing seasons must be long over in our grassy patch in that case, and the young are grown and still taking lessons from mom on how to ruin the recently verdant vistas around my house.

Everywhere I look — more mole hills! Oh joy!

I am a bit confused about how I can legally get rid of these annoying critters.  It’s not as if there  aren’t plenty of yummy, grass covered open spaces in Oysterville that are NOT part of someone’s garden — especially not a part of MY garden.  But when I ask (again on the somewhat unreliable internet) if it is legal to kill the critters in Washington State, I get several different answers:

  1.  Moles are unclassified and people may trap or kill moles on their own property when they are causing damage to crops, domestic animals, or their property (RCW 77.36. 030).
  2. While moles are unclassified, meaning that people may trap or kill them on their own property when they are causing damage to crops, domestic animals, or property, traditionally used mole traps are illegal in Washington State due to their body-gripping design.

Lesson from our Hawthorne tree — Just rise above them!

So…it becomes another full-time occupation:  Moles and gophers can damage your lawn and garden. Control them humanely by eliminating their food source, spraying with liquid repellents, scattering repellent granules, using barriers and/or digging trenches lined with wire mesh or hardware cloth.

Yep!  I’ll get right on that.

It’s probably not every day that you…

May 21st, 2023

…go to the Long Beach Grange, but this coming Wednesday, May 24th,  is a day you can make up for other lost opportunities!  From 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Maggie Stuckey will be talking about (and selling!) her hot-off-the-press book, The Container Victory Garden.  Story-telling contributors to the book will have an opportunity to read their Victory Garden remembrances.  And, folks from the Grange will be selling plants ideal for container growing!

A few things you should know:
There will be a no-cost raffle for special plants from Maggie’s book.
Autographed copies of Maggie’s book will be for sale.  (Cash or personal checks only, please.)
A portion of the book sales will be donated to the Grange.

Do come to learn all you need to know from best-selling author Maggie Stuckey about how to become successful at vegetable container gardening,  And come, too, to honor the intrepid Victory Gardeners of World War II whose stories are also a part of this information-packed book.

The Long Beach Grange #667 is located at 5715 Sandridge Road, Long Beach. There is parking around the back and the building is wheelchair accessible.  See you there on Wednesday!






Another 1st at Our House (& not a good one)

May 20th, 2023

Susan Waters, Randal Bays, Clint Dye Maybe in the Fall??>

In all the years (22+ probably) that we’ve been hosting House Concerts here at the White House in Oysterville, today we had the first ever experience of having to cancel the day before the event.  One of the musicians, Randal Bays, called me at 8:00 this morning with what he said (thought? hoped?) was a terrible cold.  So far, he was testing negative for Covid.

Ironically, the very first House Concert Nyel and I ever hosted some twenty years ago was with Randal!  He’s probably done fifteen or more since then, has played at countless Vespers, and has included his wife Susan and sons, Willie and Owen, in most of them.  He sounded devastated.  (I was, as well, but tried mightily to sound supportive, concerned and all those other things that one feels in these all too recent days since the Pandemic.)

Randal Bays — when he was feeling plummier!

As soon as we were off the phone, I began e-mailing and calling the 30 folks who were planning to come tomorrow.  I do hope I got them all!  Everyone I talked to was amazingly sympathetic — wishing Randall and his musical companions — wife Susan and friend Clint Dye — well and hoping that we could reschedule at a later date.

Thank you all for your understanding.  And if, perchance, you know of anyone planning to come who didn’t get the word, PLEASE let them know!   This is not the hostesses worst nightmare, I’m sure… but it could be close!

A Forty-year First Outside My Window!

May 19th, 2023

Over my kitchen window — a double-decker barn swallow nest.

Several of last year’s nests appeared to be intact when the first barn swallows began to do their yearly house-hunting several weeks ago.  As usual, a pair claimed the one above the kitchen window right away.  I always think it’s a “family thing” — if not the same parents back for yet another year, probably one or more of their offspring.  Year after year, they re-line and refurbish that nest, ready to welcome yet a new generation.  And, in the years that winter storms or the occasional housepainter destroys the nest, a new one is begun.  Same spot, year after year.

So, when I saw Mr. and Mrs. arrive and get busy, I smiled at them (but mostly to myself) and left them alone.  It was only today that I went out to see why the activity seemed to have ceased.  Was mom already on the nest?  Or were they taking a break?

Above the window on the porch — a more traditional one-story nest, precariously perched as always.

I don’t think I can express to you the jumble of thoughts that flew through my head when I looked up.  A brand new nest, but INSIDE the old one!  A double-decker affair!  I have never seen anything quite like it in the barn swallow neighborhoods around this old house.  It looks like the beginnings of a high rise — although there won’t be much room for the third story.  Plus the first story looks to be all filled up — with the second nest!

What were they thinking?  Or maybe this is common practice in some areas and has just been introduced to Oysterville.  I do wish the swallows would tell me about it.  But, until they do, I think I’ll send a copy of the photograph to Dr. Madeline Kalbach.  Maybe she’s seen the “high-rise syndrome” among swallows before!   For me, it’s definitely a first!

At the Smithsonian with Maggie – tomorrow!

May 17th, 2023

As many of you know, Maggie Stuckey’s latest book. The Container Victory Garden is now out!  And, as some (but possibly not all) of you know, Maggie, herself, is out and about following a very serious surgery that unfortunately coincided with the publication of the book.  Her friends and fans were devastated that all sorts of book-signings and book talks had to be put on hold.  But tomorrow comes  a fabulous peek at the book AND at a recovering Maggie!   YAY! And of all places — at the Smithsonian Gardens in Washington D. C.  AND WE ARE ALL INVITED!   This is what Maggie says:

If you wish to join the live event, registration is necessary. Fortunately, it’s an easy and free process.
Here’s how to register:
1. Visit the “Let’s Talk Gardens” series page here.
2. Scroll to the description of my lecture.
3. Click the “register here.”
4. Follow the instructions provided.
Once you register, you’ll receive a personal email with all the login information calibrated for your time zone.
Please remember, if you’re unable to join the live event, you can still access the lecture at a later date from the Smithsonian Gardens library.

Maggie Stuckey

In addition to Maggie, you are likely to see other people you know!  According to the publicity about the Smithsonian talk:

Maggie Stuckey, bestselling garden author, tells a story on two levels in her new book, The Container Garden Victory Garden.   On one level is a detailed how-to guide to container vegetable gardens, written specifically for beginners and told with clarity and gentle wit,  The second story pays honor to the Victory Gardeners of World Wars I and 2, and the many lessons present-day gardeners can learn from them. Their legacy is highlighted in 20 first-person stories from Americans alive today who remember helping in their families’ Victory Gardens – powerful stories of patriotism, sacrifice, and hope. Maggie’s presentation weaves the two together in a program that is both educational and heartwarming.

Mark Petersen and Nyel Stevens, 2017

I’m especially looking forward to seeing Mark Peterson who kindly agreed to read Nyel’s story since Nyel is no longer around to do so.  Nyel was so pleased that the story of his beloved grandparents’ garden would be included in Maggie’s book and I’m sure he would be equally pleased that Mark agreed to stand in for him.

Imagine!  A date with Maggie at the Smithsonian!  “See you” there!





“That old lady in Oysterville…”

May 16th, 2023

Along Our Northern Border

In the great scheme of things, or at least in the world of tourism on the Peninsula, I am thankful that seven ayem is pretty early in the day.  There usually isn’t much activity over at the church or in the road in front of our house.  At least, I hope not.

The rhododendrons along most of the south, east and west garden borders are now so large that I am unaware of folks who might be walking along the lane toward the bay or stopping along their way to take pictures.  And so it is that I am often out walking the garden perimeter and having a righteous conversation with my beautiful co-residents, happily under the illusion that no one but the flowers can hear me!

Mother Lilac and Jean Marues by the east Oircg

This morning I apologized profusely to the camellias for neglecting them a few weeks back, somehow forgetting to spray them with Deer and Rabbit Fence, the surest protection I know of against our voracious local ungulates.  Sadly, therefore, from knees to bellies (theirs) they have been chomped and chewed to an unsightly, extremely un-camellia-like display of shorn leaves.  “I’m so sorry!” I said over and over.  “But you’re doing a great job at recovery!  You’ll soon look good as new!”

And then there are the lilacs — back again for the umpty-umpth year and nearby their “babies” that Nyel had dug up and planted hither and thither beginning to bloom for the first time!    “How I wish Nyel could see you,” I said.  “He would be so proud of you!”

Mrs. G.W. Leal! A force to be reckoned with!

Then there are the overwhelming Mrs. G.W. Leaks who must be over thirty feet tall now:  “OMG, Mrs. Leak!  You have outdone yourselves this year!  You are beyond gorgeous!  Thank you so much!”

And on I went… It wasn’t until well after I came indoors that I wondered if there were listeners — perhaps dog-walkers and their four-legged companionswondering who the old nit-wit is that wanders the garden praising and scolding and carrying on, apparently all by herself.  Oh well!  I know the flowers love our morning conversations — they show me their appreciation every single day!  Bless them for making the world seem so simple — at least within my garden fence.

And speaking of nicknames…

May 15th, 2023

Charlie, 1974

Perhaps you’ve already read Cate Gable’s “Coast Chronicles” column which will be out in print on Wednesday.  Right now, you can find it online by googling chinook observer coast chronicles the indomitable Pat Akehurst.  It’s a fun article about a wonderful woman who came to the Peninsula in the seventies and who remembers it all — the people, the places, the views and vistas, the jobs she had and the paintings she made.  She is remarkable and, if you have been here for even half that long, you will find yourself nodding about things you lost sight of long ago.

Writing Partners Gordon Bressack and Charles Howell with their first (of many) Emmys

For me, it was Pat’s fond memories of my son Charlie.  “He just shimmered,” she said!  I knew he would do something wonderful with his life!”  Just the words any mom wants to hear — especially when it has turned out to be true!

But… she remembered him as Quad or Quaddie.  That surprised me because, indeed, that was his nickname, but I thought that he became “Charlie” under the rather gimlet eye of Miss Blewitt, his Kindergarten teacher in Castro Valley, California.  By the time Pat met him, he was in high school and I can’t imagine that my mother (who Pat also remembered) was still calling him “Quad.”

He was named Charles Morgan Howell, IV after his dad and since his dad went by “Morgan” and his grandfather Howell was called “Chick,” we somehow connected the IV with the Latin for four and he became “Quad.”  Besides, he was born on May 30th of my Junior year and he and I spent many hours in and around the Stanford Quad (short for Quadrangle) during his first year.  It’s where he took his first steps.

Sydney and Quaddie in the Stanford Quad, 1957

It was such a delight that Pat remembered “Quad.”  I must remember to ask Charlie just how long Granny (and maybe Grandpa) called him by that name and how he felt about it.  (I never did have a nickname except for the butcher at the  corner grocery in Alameda who always called me “Syd, Syd, the Chinese Kid” which I didn’t get at all.)

Come to think of it, my father often called me “Syd” — but somehow I never really thought of that as a nickname.  I wonder if that’s how Charlie felt about Granny calling him “Quad.”