06-30-2021 Better Write About June Before it Disappears

Hot.  It is Hot.  A simple three letter word that at the moment seems like it should be a 4 letter word.  We do sometimes get hot spells in June, but not this long and not this hot.  As everyone out there not living under a cool rock already knows, we in the Pacific Northwest have been experiencing an “unprecedented” wave of record breaking heat caused by a phenomena called a Heat Dome.  Hot air is mounding over several states and most of British Columbia, held in place by high pressure and winds coming from the east instead of our usual cooling flow from the Pacific. 

We are laying low, with a few short hours outside in the early mornings.  Our hottest temperature was 116F degrees on Sunday afternoon, June 27.  On the hottest day the temperature never went below 70F and by 8am it was 84F. We aren’t used to that out west, with our nights cooling to something more comfortable even on the hottest days.  Word has it that the heat dome is made worse because it has come so close to the summer solstice, with long days adding many hours of heat buildup.

It seems like a very long time ago that Mo and I celebrated the Memorial Day weekend at home in Grants Pass.  Things were somewhat normal back then.  Our lovely city once again celebrated a 62 year tradition with the annual BoatNik festivities, including a parade, a carnival in the park, hydroplane races, and fireworks.  Everything was cancelled last year due to COVID, and with vaccination levels increasing in Oregon and cases going down, the rules lifted. Just two weeks prior to the celebration, permits were granted and it was a “go”.  Everyone involved received high praise for putting on such a great combination of events with such short notice.

On Memorial Day weekend we packed up a chair and my handy dandy walker chair and drove downtown for the parade.  We parked just a block away from the very center of town, and had no problem locating a nice spot in the shade.  If I remember right, it was even a bit cool.  Although remembering “cool” at the moment is somewhat difficult.

The parade was a good one, with many displays celebrating the troops, the country, the police, all the good parts of what makes a community run well.  Sadly, there was only one marching band, the bagpipes at the very beginning of the parade.  We knew that for more than a year, school bands weren’t able to practice and I missed what I consider to be the best part of a parade. 

However, toward the end of the parade, we were treated to quite a spectacle with 12 huge tow trucks stacked up end to end behind one big tow truck.  No clue how they did that, but it was impressive.  Daughter Deanna said that those tow trucks that can move semis get 10 to 12 thousand  bucks per tow and with I-5 so close to us, I guess Caveman towing gets lots of calls to pay for all these fancy trucks that cost about 500K each.

After the parade we drove to Riverside Park and found an easy spot in the parking lot reserved for people with the proper blue hang tag. I am not happy dealing with this leg thing, but that hang tag does have some perks now and then.  We were within feet of the busy carnival with rows and rows of “fair food”.  The smells reminded me of my childhood at the fair.  We bought a hot dog for Mo and a corn dog for me, my evil “notgoodforyou” favorite.  The sounds of screaming kids on the big rides and happy people were actually fun.  After months of not being around people it felt good to be in a crowd, especially when we didn’t have to wait in line for anything and could leave whenever we felt like it.  For us, that was about an hour at most just wandering a bit.

We skipped the boat races, hearing the roar of motors rising from the river all the way up the hill to our home.  We also skipped the fireworks, although I did watch a live video of them that night after Mo went to sleep.  They weren’t all that great, but with just two weeks notice and not a lot of money I was impressed that the show promoters even managed to do that.

On Monday, I set an alarm so I wouldn’t miss the F-15’s from Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls flying over the city.  We took our drinks, set up our chairs in the yard and I had the camera ready.  Lots of noise and not a plane in sight?  Geez!!  I guess I later heard that they flew very low close to the river and then west toward Brookings.  After a few minutes, without warning, they suddenly appeared flying back toward the east high enough to see them, but of course I didn’t have the camera ready. 

I stole this photo from someone who was down by the park during the flyover and sent me the photo after I commented that we missed it.

Love those planes in spite of everything.  Yes, I know, lots of money, lots of fuel, but they thrill me.  I miss the sight and sound of their weekly training flights low over my home in Klamath Falls. Mo’s brother Don was an F-16 pilot in the Air Force, so that adds some special interest in the fighter jets.

We decided to give ourselves a small treat mid week, driving half an hour south into the Applegate Valley to visit the Red Lily Vineyard. There are so many lovely wineries in the Applegate Valley in addition to a many more throughout the Rogue Valley near Jacksonville, Medford,  Ashland, and Central Point.  It will take us many years to visit them all. Especially when we tend to return to old favorites like Red Lily and Schmidt which are so close to home.

We took a picnic, homemade quiche and cucumber salad, bought several bottles of wine to take home, and ordered a bottle to drink at our picnic table.  The tasting room was closed for tasting due to COVID, but we were still allowed to go inside to order our wine and make sure that we could sit by the river for our picnic.  The people at Red Lily are so welcoming, opening our bottle and offering glasses and an ice bucket.  We had brought our own but it was a nice gesture.  We enjoyed sitting by the river in the cooling shade.

During the next week I spent time preparing for guests, making sure things were spiffy and that there was plenty of food to share.  Wes and Gayle James, our friends and neighbors from the old days in Rocky Point were traveling south from Portland and we invited them to stay with us.  We greeted them with some homemade snacks and a pitcher of bloody Mary’s.

It was a lovely time sharing memories and stories, and enjoying a lovely dinner of fajitas made with tender New York steaks.   We thought we might play a game or two, but somehow eating, visiting, and relaxing together didn’t lend itself to games. 

The next morning we had an eggs benedict casserole, with a favorite family recipe from daughter Deborah.  I didn’t find out till later that Gayle didn’t often eat eggs, but she liked it enough that she asked for the recipe.  Last week she said she was making it for company.  I love those types of recipes that can be made ahead for a group.

The day after Wes and Gayle departed, Mo’s brother Dan came south from BeaverCreek to pick up a piece of equipment that Mo wanted to give him.  Mo and Dan spent most of the afternoon fiddling with some lights on the MoHo before Dan offered to take us to dinner.  We went down to the Taprock Grill, right on the river.  This time we opted for inside seating at a table by the window since outside deck seating was at a premium.  Eating in a restaurant seems so very unique after so many months.  I find that I enjoy being around other people in a way I never imagined.  I don’t know them, but the ambience of happy people, conversation going on around me, and excellent food that I don’t cook is more fun than I ever remember it in the past.

The sweetest thing that happened mid month was a beautiful cool soaking rain that lasted for 2 days and nights.  With everything so terribly dry from the extended drought it was so very sweet to see the plants and grasses respond to the gift of moisture.  All the watering in the world can’t do the same good that a full soaking rain can do.  Now, two weeks later, that rain is a distant memory.  We probably won’t get another one until fall.  In this climate, we have winter rains, and long periods of no rain during July, August, and September.  The nice thing about that soaking rain was that it didn’t have thunder and lightning, the evil precursor to fires.  I loved the sound of it and kept the windows open all night to soak up the sound and the softness of the rain.

Mo spent a considerable amount of time during the month creating some lovely stepping stones using concrete cement and more of her antique Batchelder tiles.  It was a slow process, but by the time she had made a dozen stones she had the process perfected.  I love the colorful tiles used around the property in ways that limit walking on the gravel.

Mo and I had a week of time on our own between Dan’s visit and a scheduled trip to Portland. Once again I had to go to Oregon Health Sciences University for more tests.  Once again Dan and Chere opened their home to us to make the long drive easier.  We drove up on Wednesday, arriving in the afternoon in time for drinks on the front porch before I cooked the main dish for our supper and Chere made a salad.  A recipe for Tuscan Chicken with sun dried tomatoes and basil and cream served over angel hair pasta is always a hit and this was no exception.  It was the least we could do to say thanks for letting us stay once again.

I wasn’t concerned about the EMG scheduled for the next morning since I had one last fall which wasn’t terribly difficult. Little did I know.  This time Dr Chahin, who is head of neuromuscular medicine at OHSU conducted the test and he made sure he hit every nerve he could find.  After 11 needles in my legs and groin with electric shocks to test the nerve I was a crumbling mess.  I will NOT do that test again, no matter what.  Never.  I am still waiting for his evaluation of the results.  Still a diagnosis of IBM, but still wanting to know “more”.  Do I really need more?  No drugs work, no treatments work, there is no cure, why do I need to know more?  Ugh. Mo drove back home and I couldn’t stop crying for no reason whatsoever.  I felt weak and stupid.  As I said, won’t be doing that one again.

We were back home by Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning I had more excitement in store.  Phil and Joanne Hartwig were at last coming to Sunset House after a few aborted attempts over the last three years.  They live in Eugene and we have visited them there, but the two other times they planned to visit something came up with family and they had to cancel, and of course last year COVID intervened.

Just a bit of history: Phil was the first soil scientist to train me in 1977 on the finer details of digging soil pits, describing soils, and making soil maps in Northern Idaho when I was a brand new soil scientist.  We worked together for a few years, camping for weeks at a time at Priest Lake coming home on the weekends to our families.  We built a solid friendship, and in the process I became friends with his wife Joanne as well.  Through Joanne I got to know a large group of women in Northern Idaho that became my main support group during that time of my life.  Phil and Joanne remember my husband Lance with love, and my kids when they were young.  I knew them when their children were born and shared so much of life with them.  Joanne and I talked about how incredibly wonderful it is to have ‘old’ friends with a shared history.  Such a treasure.

This time they made it, pulling into the driveway with their rented RV early in the afternoon.  Joanne was adamant that she wanted to arrive in time to go to Schmidt Family Winery for wood fired pizza, wine, and live music.  She has seen my photos of our outings there and it was top on her list of things to do.  We had a lovely time, once again enjoying the space full of happy people and good wine.

The next day we had a late breakfast before heading downtown to check out Grants Pass.  Joanne kept exclaiming that she loved our town.  Her friends in Eugene call it Gramps Pass and she had no idea it had so many great eateries, cute shops, and a lovely historic downtown great for walking.  Once again we were treated to dinner by our guests, this time at the Twisted Cork, another favorite of ours.  With several tables under umbrellas in front of the restaurant, we opted instead for the quiet air conditioned comfort of an inside table.  Arriving at 4 pm for an early supper was smart since by 5 the line of waiting people was quite long. Lately that has been my favorite.  Late breakfast, early supper. 

On Sunday morning we had a leisurely breakfast and bid goodbye to our guests as they departed for a few days camping near Jedediah Smith Redwoods.  The heat was building here in Grants Pass, and our friends were enveloped in a thick marine layer of fog that kept their temperatures below 60 degrees for most of their 3 day coastal visit!

We had just a couple of hours to regroup before another pair of friends were due to arrive.  Merikay and Craig are in another category of friendships.  Not “old” friends, but friends we made through our blog.  We have enjoyed having them visit us in Rocky Point where we went kayaking.  They stopped by Sunset House 3 years ago as they were traveling through, and I set out a decent salmon supper and we played some games before they returned to their camp at Valley of the Rogue State Park.  This time they wanted to treat us to dinner, and Merikay rescheduled their original plans to leave this area earlier and added two extra nights to their stay in town at a local RV park so they could visit with us.  Yes, once again we were treated to dinner out.  Once again we decided to go to the Taprock Grill, hoping for a nice outside table on the deck overlooking the river.

We arrived within minutes of each other at the restaurant, taking the time while we waited for a table to wander the lovely parklike grounds along the river.  It was hot, very hot, but Merikay was still thinking it might be wise to eat outdoors rather than indoors.  By the time our table was ready about 45 minutes later, as we walked into the cool restaurant, Merikay changed her mind.  We didn’t have to wait another minute and they seated us at a nice 4 top in the air conditioned space.  We could still see the river and it was a welcome respite from the heat that was continuing to build in the Northwest. Thank you two for a lovely dinner and taking the time to meet us and treat us!

Mo and I ended the month with a visit to the English Lavender Farm celebrating the annual Lavender Trail Festival that was cancelled last year due to COVID.  There was no charge for visiting, but we were required to make online reservations in order to keep the number of people within the current COVID restrictions.  I made the reservations a month ago, not knowing the the Heat Dome was arriving on the very Saturday that we planned to visit the farm.

That morning I got a notice that restrictions were lifted and reservations were no longer required.  We wanted to go on this day specifically because a vocalist /pianist that we enjoy very much, Sarah Dion Brooks, was scheduled for the afternoon entertainment. By the time we arrived at the farm, there were a few people walking in the brilliant sunshine, cutting small bundles of lavender. I didn’t need to buy lavender since I have plenty ripening right here at home. But the smell of the fields in the hot sun was delightful and we wandered up the pathways between the blooming lavender to the only piece of shade in the fields. 

The shelter was red, very red, as were the plastic Adirondack chairs.  We managed to snag a couple and enjoyed baking in the heat under the red shade and watching the people and their kids as they explored the fields.  Finally completely overcooked, we headed back down to the main shop area where there was lavender sorbet, lavender lemonade and thankfully, some misters under the porch.

We enjoyed the music but the heat finally cut our visit short and we decided to leave.  The temperature then was only 106F.  This was the Saturday before the 114F degree day that we had last Sunday. 

It was a nice way to end the month of June, something to remember besides the relentless heat. At home we are babysitting the well, the cisterns, and the drip irrigation systems, juggling water supply with water needs that are higher than they have ever been this early in the year.  Using a sprinkler only rarely for missed hot spots. So far, so good.  The rhododendrons show signs of leaf burn, the oakleaf hydrangeas wilt in the afternoon, and the hot tub refuses to stay at the 97F degrees I have set, returning to 99 or 100 after the heat of the day.

I do hope that this is just a bit of an anomaly and not a precursor to a record breaking summer.  It has only just begun.