Looking for Clara

April 28th, 2021

The Three Friends – February 2020

Nyel’s eyes are sharper than mine.  So is his mind.  When he volunteered to go outside and have a look around for Missing Clara, I was all for it.  So were Slutvana and Little Red Hen.

The three of them traversed the the garden looking in all the hidey places, likely and unlikely.  No luck.  Nyel thought the two girls were just following along hoping for treats, but I’m not so sure.  I think they were counting on Farmer Nyel to find their missing friend.  No such luck.

Perhaps she went under the house.  “If she died there, will she smell?” I worried.   “Probably some critter or other has gotten her by now,” was the not-so-very reassuring answer

Dear, beautiful Clara.  We are so sorry.  We wish we knew what happened  We wish we could have helped.

It’s often hard with chickens…


Fear and Foreboding Among the Girls

April 27th, 2021


Last night Clara was missing from the roost.  Not only that, although it was almost dark, Slutvana left her perch and came out into the run to talk to me.  She was agitated but I couldn’t make out what the trouble was.

Then I heard just the smallest “pprrrtt” sound from way over in the corner underneath the coop — in an area that I can’t reach, of course.  I went outside and peered through the hog wire and there she was!  Clara!  All huddled up and rheumy-eyed making little “pprrrtt” sounds.

I squatted down and talked to her for a while.  Asked if she was okay (which I’m pretty sure she wasn’t) and asked her to come out so I could take her to Dr. Farmer Nyel.  With one last little pathetic sound, she closed her eye in dismissal.  I didn’t know if she was dead.  It’s hard to tell with chickens.

Slutvana pacing, pacing, pacing.

By then, Slutvana had gone back to roost and Little Red Hen was still asleep, apparently oblivious to the drama going on nearby.  I wish I could say I spent a restless night…  But when the alarm rang, I did pull on my boots and headed out.  “Pprrrtt” I heard right away.  Same spot.  Slutvana and LRH nervously pacing in the run.  They weren’t the least bit interested in the cracked corn treats I offered — just boogied off across the lawn toward the house and disappeared underneath leaving Clara huddled in her corner.

Little Red Hen — Nowhere To Be Seen.

Nyel and I spent a good part of the day across the river doing errands.  I dreaded going down to the coop when I got home and hated it that Slutvana met me right at the corner of the house and clucked and clacked all the way to the coop.  No Clara.  No LRH.  Slutvana a bundle of nerves.  What the heck?

A walk-about in the garden  revealed nothing chicken-wise.  I called and Slutvana clucked.  Nothing.  I soothed myself by admiring the rhododendrons that are bursting forth in all their glory. Slutvana went to the East Door hoping Nyel would show up with treats.

Maybe when the sun goes down all three girls will be back at the coop.  We can but hope.

Hooray (mostly) for the rain!

April 26th, 2021

My Leaky Rain Boots

As everyone knows, the importance of rain boots is keeping your feet dry.  When that function fails… well, what is there to say?

It’s not that my boots are all that old.  Pat Fagerland had a pair that she loved and I asked her where she got them.  I think that was about three years ago.  I sent for a pair to use when I am out in the garden.  But mostly for going back and forth to the chickens through the wet grass.  The grass doesn’t even have to be very long nor does it have to be rainy before the dew-soaked blades force the moisture right in among your toes.  That is, unless you are wearing “proper waterproof gear” as one of my friends calls slickers, sou’westers, and boots.

Howeever… following a chicken run a few days ago, I noticed that my socks were quite damp when I took off my boots.  “Couldn’t be!” I thought.  The next time, I shoved bare (not sock-encased) feet into those boots and, sure enough, I could actually feel the slight trickle of cold water on my toes.  Both feet!  Design flaw?  Factory defect?  Built-in obsolecence?  What the heck?

Clara Mae’s Fantasy

How could both boots fail simultaneously?  Three years might be too long to expect my money back.  Or even a replacement which is what I would prefer.  Pursuing it all seems like more trouble than it’s worth.  Maybe I’ll just settle for  three-years-is-good-enough and order new boots.

But… since when did rubber rain boots become a disposable item? Or does three years exceed the rule for “disposable?”  Life gets complicated for the conscientious — don’t you think?

Oh… and did I mention that the chickens have expressed some Rain Boot Envy on these wet days? I hate to disappoint them but I’m just not sure how to explain why we aren’t investing in rainy day footwear for them after all.

That damned walrus!

April 25th, 2021

Farmers’ Bulletin No. 2130
U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1959

For some time now in this household, a periodic topic of discussion has been “downsizing.”  Not for traditional reasons as in we are considering a move to smaller quarters.  No.   And not even for reasons of kindness as in whoever comes next shouldn’t have to deal with all this — although that is part of it.  No.  The real “reason” has something to do with Lewis Carroll and Alice Through The Looking Glass and that pesky walrus of “The Walrus and the Carpenter” fame.  In a nutshell (or in this case, perhaps, an oyster shell):  “The time has come…”

We are beginning ever-so-slowly to purge the back storage area where several shelves of vases and partial sets of dishes and extra waffle irons that might-be-useful-someday reside.  And then there are boxes of my folks’ photographs — so many people we wouldn’t know even if names were on the back.  Which, of course, they aren’t.  And all those boxes labeled “Sydney’s School Stuff” that I sure was going to go through for book-writing fodder.  And on and on.  There are also a lot of books — mostly paperbacks or thrift store finds belonging to Nyel — that there wasn’t room for in the house.  He hasn’t looked at them in twenty years which, of course, is neither here nor there when it comes to getting rid of them.

Edited by the Staff of Yanke Magazine, Dublin New Hampshire, 1971

Even I am having trouble relegating some of those titles to the Friends of the Library box.  So many of them conjure up memories of something incredible Nyel has been able to jerry rig or build or repair — a tool he’s made for singular purpose or a formula he’s applied to solve a particular problem.  The time he found a way to repair my grandmother’s old Oriental carpet.  Or the deer hide he tanned using cow brains he ordered from the butcher at Jack’s…  The memories are endless and just seeing the book titles conjures up a story or two.

It’s not so much that he’ll never need to build that stone wall.  Or even want to.  And it’s certainly not that we couldn’t find most of the information on line.  No.  It’s just that the walrus was right.  It’s time.  I wonder if either Nyel or I will ever be totally convinced.

Lest you have doubts…

April 24th, 2021

Driving across the frozen Columbia River – January 25, 1930

I’m not sure who brought it up last night, but suddenly the focus was on ice and snow and if there had ever been much freezing weather in our neck of the woods.   And was it true that the Columbia had frozen completely over back in the twenties or thirties.  And questions about other snow stories that I thought were common knowledge.

I was so glad there were a number of people among us who had been on (or associated with) the Peninsula for five or six decades and more.  And,  I was a bit amazed that those who really didn’t know “for sure” hadn’t at least read about some of our cold weather episodes.  (Or maybe, I was just disappointed that they hadn’t read what I’ve written along those lines.)  Maybe it’s time to tell some of those tales again.

Charles Fitzpatrick photographed the Troyer Fox on frozen Willapa Bay near Nahcotta, January 19, 1930 — CPHM

Like this story from my book Oysterville, Arcadia Publishing ©2007: “On the night of January 1, 1875, the weather turned sharply cold, and the thermometer hovered at zero.  When morning dawned, parts of the bay were sheets of solid ice, with the oysters embedded within it.  As the tide moved in and then out, the oyster-laden ice simply floated out to sea, totally wiping out many beds.  The freezing weather continued for eight long days and nights.”

Dennis Driscoll’s Snowman in Oysterville – February 2014

Or from Dear Medora, WSU Press, ©2007:
Monday, January 11, 1908
Mama, I wish you could see me.  My cheeks are as red as my sweater.  Skating yesterday, snowballing and sliding today.  It has snowed all day long exsepting [sic] a little this evening. The weather here gets worse and worse all the time.  Papa says it will soon be too cold to snow.

I’m not sure if the conversation last night began with commentary about climate change.  But, if there’s doubt in anyone’s mind about long-ago (or  even short-ago) weather events here at the beach, I recommend a little reading about local history.  And just as important — write up some of your own “weather reports” — for the Friday Night Gatherings of posterity.



Cinderella II — the good twin, we hope.

April 23rd, 2021

Cinderella or me? Hard to tell.


I can’t remember where we left off in the story of Cinderella and her nervous breakdown.  For weeks and weeks Nyel has been in communication with her handlers by email and by phone as they have tried to diagnose the problem.  The bottom line:  she could not communicate with the Mother Ship and Vice Versa.  Time went by and, finally, the Roomba folks sent us a new i-robot — Cinderella II.  But being in cyberhell as we were, she couldn’t communicate with the Mother Ship either.

After talking with the ever-patient techies at Roomba.com and having the problem referred to “a higher level” and yet “a higher level,” Nyel was finally asked AGAIN to find out the firewall settings  from our Modem provider.  I may have reported previously that the provider is CenturyLink (RED ALERT! RED ALERT!) who informed Nyel after a half day on the telephone that our particular CenturyLink Modem has no firewalls.

That, of course, turned out to be untrue. At my suggestion (ahem!) Nyel searched online for the CenturyLink Modem firewall settings, got a long list of them plus a matched list of open and closed ports.  He laboriously wrote out the information (having found no way to send a link or to forward a “legible copy”), sent it to the (apparently) highest level techie trouble shooter at the Mother Ship and voilà!  Cinderella II is hard at it “learning” our house and mapping her routes.

Basically, we are back in the vacuuming biz and can only hope that the situation remains stable.  You never can tell with robots.  And certainly not with CenturyLink.


It could kinda take the edge off…

April 22nd, 2021

Sky: blue.  Clouds: not a one.  Wind: a zephyr.  Oysterville: quietly anticipating  whatever the tides might bring.

It’s Thursday morning about dawn-thirty and promises to be a gorgeous day — though yesterday the weather man predicted it would “deteriorate.” Along those lines, Cate says we are definitely  in for it.  “A big drought coming to this neck of the woods.”  I’m trying not to let that prophesy take the edge off the here-and-now.

But it is scary.  Droughts mean dry surroundings.  Tinder dry.  The Californians are moving up here to get away from their own drought-related horrors.  Where will we go when it’s our turn?  I don’t think Canada wants us.  And, besides, this is where I belong.  As in Mary Englebreit’s cheery card, “Bloom where you’re planted.”   Though I don’t think she had droughts or climate change in mind.

Besides… if blooming is in store for me, this is certainly where I want it to happen.  Right here in Oysterville.

Joe Knowles Among Our Rhodies?

April 21st, 2021

The mind (well, MY mind) never ceases to amaze me!  I can’t remember where I put my car keys or my coffee cup — can’t see them, sometimes, when I’m looking right at them — yet Joe Knowles came to mind as clearly as clearly could be this morning.  Right among our struggling rhododendrons.

Well, perhaps not Joe exactly.  Rather it was the title of a book about him called Naked In The Woods:  Joseph Knowles and the Legacy of Frontier Fakery.  I happened to see it on a bookshelf the other day — probably while I was looking for something else.  I think it was the sight of our still naked rhodies (even though they aren’t in the woods) that triggered my train of thought. Maybe.

Our “Naked” Rhododendrons

It was the Maine Woods that Joe went into back in the summer of 1913, “nearly” naked and taking with him nothing but his trusty Boy Scout friction firebox.  He may have had a knife with him, too.  I don’t remember (ahem.)  It was, of course a big publicity stunt — vaudeville on the nature circuit, you might say.

My dad, who was born in Boston in 1909, grew up on Joe Knowles stories.  So, when he (dad) first came to the Peninsula (when he was courting my mother) he lost no time in going to meet Mr. Knowles who was living out near the Seaview Beach approach by then.  Dad bought two of Knowles’ etchings — “Mid-Watch” and “The Flying Dutchman” — as gifts for his parents.  (They are now back here on the Peninsula in Oysterville– the  etchings, not Dad’s parents.)  My father greatly admired Joe Knowles, the artist, and I think he put the Maine Woods adventure right up there with the showmanship of P.T. Barnum — which he also thought was admirable.

Promises of Things to Come

So… that’s what I thought about this morning as I checked out our “naked” rhododendrons — the ones out around the area where the cannon lives in good weather.  I’m happy to report that there are little sprouts, albeit ever so small, on every single one of those well-trimmed rhodies.  In a few years they may even produce thick foliage and blossoms once again and, perhaps, Joe Knowles could truly lurk among them.  In my mind, anyway.

Louise Penny and Me!

April 19th, 2021

At Three Pines, 2016

Perhaps you know Louise Penny, author of the award-winning Armand Gamache series and founder of the almost-real village of Three Pines in the Eastern Townships of Canada.  A few years back — well, almost five — we went with friends on a trek to Montreal and Quebec City and many points in between to find the places, actual and imaginary, that Louise Penny writes about.  We also hoped against hope that we would meet a few of her characters and, I must say, we came home thinking that maybe — just maybe– we had!

To say that I am a huge fan of Louise Penny’s is a flat-out understatement  To imply that I have anything in common with her is totally nuts.  But… this morning, just for a minute, I felt a sort of kinship.  It happened when I saw that my new book (as yet coverless), Historic Haunts of the Long Beach Peninsula, is due to be published on June 21st and it is now offered for pre-sale on Amazon.com!  Wow!  Just like Louise Penny’s yet unpublished books.  Wow some more!

Of course, if you live locally and intend to get the book, it would be better for me and for our local booksellers if you got Historic Haunts right here on the Peninsula.  And, if you time it right, you might even connect with a book-signing event — Just like the people of who attend Brome Lake Books in Knowlton for all of Louise Penny’s book launches.

See?  Only a national border and a few dozen degrees of separation between Louise and me!  At least in my wildest imagination!


Metes and Bounds and Willow Posts

April 18th, 2021

Repair Work on Oysterville Road, 1880s

It seems to me that almost every time a property is re-surveyed here in Oysterville, the new dimensions are off a little from the last known survey.  The former surveyor is usually blamed for that and probably that surveyor blames the one before him.  I know less than nothing about surveying, but I blame change.  Yes — changing landscapes, changing landmarks, and changing technology.

I do believe it all began with metes and bounds.  In case you don’t know what those are, here is an explanation from the PDH Academy (look it up):  “Metes and bounds is a method of surveying land that is centuries old. It was the principle way to measure land before the Land Act of 1785, when parcels were often defined by formations such as rivers, trees, roads, or other landmarks.”  It seemed to stand everyone in good stead until more sophisticated measuring instruments (and then technology) came into play.

Oysterville Methodist Church (1872-1921) – First Church in Pacific County

Here is what the 1880 survey for the Oysterville Road said:
Begin in Oysterville at a Rock marked R.O.B. and continued by naming Corner of Caruthers [sic] Hotel… – Corner of Briscoe’s fense [sic] … Corner of M.E. Church…  Door of Saloon…  Culbert 2500 top of hill or Sandridge by F.C, Davis House… a Sanded Bridg [sic]… a Willow Post marked R1N…

 The ‘Caruthers Hotel’ was Richard Carruthers Pacific House built in 1873 and located on the northeast corner of what is now Oysterville Road and Main Street.  The M. E. Church refers to the Methodist Episcopal Church built in 1872 and also located just across Main Street to the east.  F.C, Davis lived to the west at the base of the hill now known as Davis or Cemetery Hill.  That Willow Post is anybody’s guess!

I’m not sure if this was the first official survey of the road but I do know that the road, itself, was there from the very earliest days of Oysterville.  Perhaps it had followed an Indian trail.  And even though I don’t know whether there was a survey, I do know that there was a petition:

Jim Kemmer, Aunt Rye, Judy Heckes circa 1943 – at the west end of Oysterville Road

Petition, October 1857
We the undersigned would respectfully represent to your honorable body by petition that we are without a direct road from Oysterville, Pacific County, W.T. westwardly to the Pacific Ocean on weather beach and knowing that it is essential for it would be a general benefit to the travelling wayfarer or emigrant who is looking for a home and by locating this road, it being only one and half miles from Oysterville directly westward to the Sea Shore and from thence southerly toward Bakers Bay on the Mouth of the Columbia River for eighteen or twenty miles an excellent hard Sea beach Shore but aside from that it would connect a few miles South with the Territorial Road from Pacific City, Columbia River to Narcata landing in Shoal Water Bay, and would afford an easy ingress and egress, both to citizens and travelers and then would have both to choose whether to take Mail Stage or his own private conveyance in the more rugged way in an open sailboat up to the portage, through or over that dismal road (especially for families at any season of the year is unfit) to get at Baker’s Bay on the Columbia River…

I think of these matters occasionally when I travel along the Oysterville Road to get the mail.  And sometimes I wonder just where that Willow Post was…