07-10-2022 Hot August Days

The following is a photo-dense post of my overheated brain ramblings on a hot summer day. Nothing exciting here, except I wanted to remember just how I felt and how I was filling up my time.

I do remember “Hot August Night” and the days when Neil Diamond was so popular.  I loved his songs back then.  Now “Hot August Nights” is something that friends do when they drive to Reno this time of year.  We aren’t doing either, listening to Neil Diamond or driving to Reno.

August here is about cutting, trimming, more cutting and trimming, and then some more.  It is about making an attempt to keep everything at bay, to deadhead all the flowers and cut back the overgrown shrubs and grasses trying to take over the more polite blooming things.

I am cutting back the beautiful daylilies which are no longer beautiful.  After all that gorgeous bloom I am left with stiff brown sticks and floppy, strappy dull green leaves that get in the way of the lawnmower as I try to keep the lawn trimmed, a weekly chore.

Tucked away in our beautiful Japanese maple is an old birdhouse that my friend Bel made back in the mid-90’s.  Some of her creations have weathered well, for almost 3 decades now, others have been left to memory only.  My kids remember Bel, and she lives on in moments of laughter when we remember some of her antics and talk about “Crazy Bel”.  It is always with affection, and this little birdhouse is just one of many little leftovers of Bel that are lying around here at Sunset House.

In addition to the mowing and trimming, there are the moles.  We have tried most everything.  Last year the solar sonic stakes seemed to help, but this year I am afraid the dang critters have decided that the awful beeping whining noise won’t kill them and they dig holes right next to the loudest ones.  Almost always in the greenest part of the lawn, where the soil is damp from night sprinklers.  I carefully dig the piles, move the dirt, rinse off the grass and sometimes try to flood them out.  I finally resorted to the poisonous gummy worms, and stuffed them down the holes at least 12 inches to keep any animals from finding them.  Maybe they have slowed down a bit, but this morning, there was another gross, ugly, huge, muddy mound of red dirt in the middle of the lawn.

Then there are the weeds in the pasture.  Weeds on the Oregon state noxious weed list that I am technically required to manage although our neighbors have all of them including yellow starthistle which I do NOT have here.  False dandelion and the obnoxious  and very invasive redstem filaree that I have been fighting since last year.  Ugh.  I am no longer an organic gardener, tiptoing through the weedy fields, hand digging them out by the roots.  The evil spray stands at the ready. I despise those plants which take out every bit of drought tolerant grass in their shadow.

At this time of year, the roses are tattered, and the summer blooming phlox have big heads that are screaming to be trimmed. 

The dahlia that was so gorgeous a month ago seems to have some kind of browning thing on the leaves, I have no clue what, but it is ugly.  Even some of the marigolds look a bit weird.  Who can kill marigolds? 

I walked to the lower end of the pasture to try to get an image that might show how the non-irrigated pasture is much more of the property than the tiny green lawns.  As I say every time I write, I love those green lawns.  They are cool, and soft, and welcoming when it is hot and smoky outside.  At the far corner is an old English walnut tree, one of the hundreds that were planted in this area in 1906. 

The walnuts are ripening, and will no doubt be gone by the time we return in October.  The crows love them.  The apples on the antique Gravenstien tree are almost ripe, and we are counting the days, hoping for a pot of applesauce ready for jars before we leave.

We have a mama catalpa tree between the house and the RV shed that was here when we bought the cottage.  She has grown a few feet since then, but probably won’t become incredibly huge in our lifetime.  She also makes babies, and this little one seeded in a flower bed and last spring Mo and I decided to plant it in the pasture. 

It has grown almost 2 feet since then.  It is fun to watch a tree that started from seed grow to a strong tree.

My son’s memorial tree is doing great, too.  The leaves are thick and shiny, and much more filled in this year.  I know that when we return from our “big trip” the tree will have started to turn.  Sweet gums turn early here, and this one is an especially colorful variety.

Speaking of the big trip; Mo is working on finalizing all the MoHo check-ups to prepare us for 8,000 miles or so on the road.  With just over a week to our departure, it seems that we have everything on track until I suddenly remember one more thing to do.  Big job today was writing up a formal caretakers list for the people who will be watching our home and well while we are away.  Of course we are happy to have the house occupied and protected, but the bigger issue is making sure the water systems are all functioning properly as the hot summer comes to a dry, hot fall.  I am making lists, taking photos, writing down phone numbers and contacts for everyone who will be here. 

Walking around the house to check on the annual beds is part of the morning routine.  Today it was especially important, because, sure enough, at 2 AM, I discovered we had no water.  By the waning low orangey light of an almost full moon in the southern sky, I wandered around with a flashlight trying to figure out what went wrong.  Checking all the outlets for broken hose ends, or blown out drippers.  When I finally opened the well cistern that contains 1700 gallons of “bad water”, I discovered that that cistern was completely full.  Inside the pump house I could see that the pressure tank from that cistern was at full pressure, but the Reverse Osmosis unit was on red, indicating a fault somewhere.  Sure enough, the 1700 gallon tank of “good water” was completely empty.  The RO unit was caput.  Lucky for us, our water guy encouraged us to buy a backup motor for that unit last year, “just in case”.  He couldn’t get here until 2, and by then it was too late to contact Florida for some random connections he needed to understand before he could complete the installation. 

Ah yes…no water for another day, and all the little flowers are looking up at me with reproachful faces…where is our water???  Once the RO is repaired the good water cistern will have to be filled.  That takes all 1700 gallons of the bad water to make about half as much good water.  So it will be two more days before the cistern is again full and we are on track with all the timed watering that keeps everything in such a fine balance.  Are you worn out yet reading about this?  Me too!!  I am actually ready for a break, for a vacation!  I am no longer dreading being away in the hot summer, I am actually looking forward to thinking about something besides the well and the water and how much stuff is growing and what I need to cut back and trim!  I am just grateful that this big water kerfuffle happened while we were still here at home and not a few thousand miles away.

(Update: still no water, thanks to another kerfuffle with the motor our guy ordered for us last year.  However, we discovered that the water trucks going by every day on our road are just fine with delivering 2000 gallons of fresh city water to our cistern for a very reasonable $120.  Should hold us until the RO gets repaired, maybe not until Monday)

Mo and I decided that we needed a little bit of a break from everyday stuff.  It was time to get out the bikes and take an early morning ride along the Rogue River.  The Rogue River Parkway has nice parking and a paved bike trail that meanders along the river from the town of Rogue River to the Valley of the Rogue State Park a few miles south and east.  Mo filled the bike tires and then said to me, “You might want to be sure that you can still do this.”  To make a long story very short, I couldn’t.  Leg strength is too far gone to manage getting on and off the bike, much less peddling, and my balance is shot as well. 

Broke my heart.  I love my bike, even though it is 24 years old. With it I have biked Utah slickrock,  Priest Lake rocky trails, Florida Snake Valley paths around the alligators, around my lovely little Hauser Lake where I lived when I bought the bike, and so many untold rides with Mo on trails around lakes, up mountains, and exploring random rv parks.  I now have to let go of this one.  Folks mentioned an e-bike, but that wouldn’t get me off without a possible bad fall.  My legs aren’t just weak, but they can collapse at any time without warning.  So I am letting go.  My beloved bike will go to my daughter Deborah, who said she would love to have it. That makes me happy inside.  I told Mo I would donate it before I would think of selling it, so I am glad it will stay in the family.

(Another update since I finished writing yesterday:  Many suggestions have come to me, e-bike, recumbent bike, tricycle, etc.  And yes, all might be possibililties, but for one reason or another they are not options I choose to follow.  I can still kayak and walk and hike, and biking is a secondary passtime that we can only do easily when we are traveling.  There aren’t many good biking opportunities near our home here in hilly Grants Pass.  I don’t want to try to lift and haul some heavy thing in the Tracker.  So, thank you to those who saw the facebook post and offered condolences and ideas.  I am just fine with what I CAN do.  So for now no expensive heavy things are on my list of priorities!)