07-17-2021 Fun times in Early July


Early July began with record breaking temperatures for Southern Oregon, and for much of the west.  For us, the 116 degree temperatures moderated a bit to a livable 100 degrees.  Amazing how good that feels even when the thermometer hits 100 several days in a row.  So far, a couple of weeks into the month we haven’t experienced those awful 100 teens plus days since that first week.  I hope we don’t get them again.  In addition, in spite of the seriously hot weather and afternoon winds, we don’t have any fires locally.  The biggest fire in the country right now is the Bootleg Fire, northeast of Kamath Falls, but the smoke is heading east and here in Grants Pass the skies are a gorgeous clear blue.

Going to the Lavender Festival inspired me and on the first day of the month I decided I should cut the lavender.  The bees weren’t happy with me. They seem to love lavender more than just about anything in the yard, except for the bird bath which they have taken over completely as their very own summer water fountain.  I try to be sure it is full every day.  Bees need water and these are very sweet friendly honey bees that buzz around like crazy but never bother me.

A photo from my little shop in Wallace, Idaho

I decided it was time to make a wreath.  I used to make so many of them when I was making a living growing and selling crafted dried flowers on the show circuit and in my little shop in Wallace, Idaho.  After I let that business go to once again make my living digging holes in the dirt, I never made another wreath until now.  I tried a small wreath of lavender.  It took four full large bushes of fully blooming lavender to finish that wreath.  Hanging it on the door, I delighted in the fragrance, if not the tiny little lavender flowers that shed all over the porch every time I open and close the front door.  Who knows how long it will last or how long it will keep shedding.

July 4th this year was a treat.  Especially after our nothing celebration last year because of Covid and everyone feeling much safer just staying at home.  This year I asked Daughter Melody if we could come to her house for the day.  She was thrilled, and even gave up the annual Fourth of July party that she traditionally shares with her Albany friends.  Daughter Deb was going too, and decided to drive her own car since we had a bunch of “stuff” in our car.  Grandson Matthew was going to go but at the last minute he had to opt out due to concerns with the couple that he helps to caretake.  He had no one at the house to help and couldn’t leave Karen alone with the blood pressure and heart rate issues she was having.  Next year we will celebrate minus Melody, but with a local picnic maybe Matthew will be able to participate.  So hard to get everyone in the same place anymore.

The drive north on the Fourth was easy, just 3 hours to Melody’s house in the car.  We opted to leave the MoHo at home since there really isn’t any place to park it at Melody’s house.  Daughter Melody and Robert did a great job fixing up the guest bedroom with a cooling gel mattress pad, new comfy sheets and pillows, and a big fan in the window.  Such a nice retreat it was for us.

By the time we arrived just after 11, Deborah was already there helping Melody lay out the huge feast of goodies she had prepared for the family.  Somehow the giant tray of veggies and dip went by the wayside as we all gobbled up Robert’s traditional deviled eggs.  No longer just for Easter, Robert’s eggs are a tradition whenever we all get together.  Deborah made a delicious guacamole which kept me quite happy. 

Grandkids,  Axel and Xavier, with Axel’s sweetie, Pi, showed up by early afternoon. Axel and Pi are “new” even though they have known each other for over two years.  At 28 years old, it is a good thing that Axel now at last has a solid, good relationship to enjoy.

My grandson Xavier was looking wonderful as well, putting on some weight and working at a job he loves. He is working in telephone sales for Cricket.  Indoors, air conditioning, no heavy lifting, and plenty of percs and benefits.  He likes it a LOT better than working in the produce department at Fred Meyer, which was the job he had before COVID required that he not work in that unsafe environment.  Type 1 Diabetes is nothing to fool with, and he couldn’t risk being exposed to COVID. The entire family is fully vaccinated now and it is such a relief to worry a bit less about exposure to the virus at last.

The day was simple and easy with lots of talking and visiting.  Melody and the kids and I walked the two blocks to the city park and the river.  Pioneer Park is a popular place on the fourth and many families were camping and enjoying picnics at the big tables in the shade.  Mattie went completely crazy with all the excitement of the river, the kids, and all the people. I did not manage to take a single photo of the excitement.  It was hot and we were all quite happy to return to the cool living room for the rest of the afternoon.

Somehow we didn’t manage time for games, and by 3:30 Robert fired up the grill for supper by 5.  It was amazing watching him manage all the different requests from each guest.  Robert cooked filet mignon steaks, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken legs, and four racks of ribs.  Everything turned out perfectly, well almost.  Some of us thought the ribs were a bit too done, but the kids loved them and took all the leftovers home.  Not a thing went to waste….then again I am sure much went to our waists!

After dinner we visited some more. The kids left around 7 since they didn’t want to drive back to Albany after dark.  It’s only a 20 minute drive or so for them, but with holiday crazies running around on the highway between Brownsville and Albany they thought it would be better to lay low in their own apartment for the evening.

The five of us ate some more goodies and waited until about 9 to gather up our chairs and walk down to the park once again for the fireworks.

The show was put on by the Brownsville Fire Department and they did a spectacular job.  I have seen shows in much bigger cities that weren’t as wonderful as this show.  It was also good to know that the fire department was making sure that everyone was safe and no stray sparks were unattended.  I loved every minute of it.

The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast with bagels and Deborah’s egg bake casserole and more visiting before Deborah left for home and Mo and I headed south toward our next adventure.

July 5 Visiting Wildlife Safari in Winston

I think I went to Wildlife Safari a very long time ago, when Melody lived in Medford.  All I remember is being with Melody and her mother-in-law, Donna, and Axel who was just a little one.  I remember the cheetahs behind the fence and how much Axel loved cheetahs.  Mo had never been to the Wildlife Safari.  It isn’t far from Grants Pass, maybe 80 miles or so, and is a popular place to take out of town guests.  Crater Lake, the Coast, Wildlife Safari, and the Hellgate Jetboats on the Rogue are the go to activities for company. Pretty sure Crater Lake and the Coast win hands down.  We have talked about going the Safari a few times, and yesterday when I mentioned it again, Mo said, why not tomorrow on our way home from Brownsville.

In spite of the mid day hour, the heat, and the holiday, we decided to give it a try.  We were happy to learn that even though dogs are not allowed in your car when traveling through the park, there are nice kennels provided for them to be safely housed during your visit.  The kennels are free if you bring your own lock, but they will provide a padlock that you can keep for $5.  Not bad to keep Mattie cool and safe while we explored.  We decided to do the walkable portion of the park first.  The area isn’t too big to walk in a short time and the gardens and shade trees are lovely.  Most of the animals were lounging in the shade, too hot to move around much, and often hidden in their dark lairs so we weren’t able to see all of them.  The tortoise was slowly meandering around his enclosure with a leaf in his mouth.  Such fascinating creatures!  The lions were pacing near the feeding area, but too far from the viewing platform to see them very well.  The wolves from South America were completely zonked in the heat, very little movement from them.

The rest of the area is geared to families and kids, with a couple of eating establishments for snack food, and some exhibits geared to kids enjoyment.  I think we stayed maybe an hour at most before getting in line for the slow meander in our car around the wild animal area where most animals roam freely and humans must remain in their cars. 

Some of the animals from Africa, who seemed to be immune to the intense heat, were roaming about.  Several were eating in the shade shelters which made photography a bit difficult, but as we rounded a curve to the area where feeding cups could be purchased, the emus, rheas, and several varieties of young deer were milling about begging for food from people in their cars.  A lovely rhea poked his head in our window and looked rather disgusted that we had no food for him.

As we approached the cheetah area, there wasn’t a cheetah in sight, but there was a big jam up of cars.  People were instructed at the beginning of the tour to stay to the right to let people pass if they wished, but many folks had no clue about how to do that.  Drivers of cars full of young kids parked in the middle of the road, with no room on either side for passing. 

We finally meandered along with the rest, but not without a few impatient exclamations from Mo and from me now and then.  It was hot and many of the animals were not to be seen.  We missed the rhino, the cheetahs, the yaks, and the hippos.  Actually, we didn’t miss the hippos completely because as we passed I am pretty sure that two large gray rocks were actually hippos.

We enjoyed the Safari somewhat, but I think the most excitement came from Mattie when I picked her up from the kennel.

07-08 Driving up to Recreation Creek and Malone Springs.

With the heat in triple digits for days on end, Mo and I wondered when we might have a chance to get our butts in the boats again.  We scheduled a day trip to Rocky Point for a nice early morning kayak after I looked at the temperatures and decided Thursday was the only day that it was to be less than 100 degrees in the Basin.  We planned to leave early, and I packed a tuna sandwich lunch for us and we were in the truck by 7.  When we travel, the kayaks are lifted on top of the Tracker and tied down.  Requires quite a bit of effort, climbing up and down on a step to reach the straps, and getting all safely balanced and secured.  We decided that for a simple day trip we could take the pickup.  Loading the kayaks is considerably easier with the pickup.  They still have to be lifted, but not nearly as high, and strapping them down is much simpler.

The route to Malone Springs, a few miles north of Rocky Point, is easy, and requires traveling from Grants Pass toward Medford, turning east near Central Point and traveling Highway 140 over the High Lakes Pass toward the east slope of the Cascades.  Malone Springs is about half way between the Rocky Point boat launch and the northern terminus of Crystal Creek at Crystal Springs.  We have kayaked the entire length of the canoe trail from end to end and through the marsh many times.  This time, however, we decided to put in at Malone Springs and kayak south toward Rocky Point.  We haven’t been in the kayaks since last year, and both of us were just a little bit apprehensive about our ability to get back out of the kayaks at the end of our paddle.  We decided on paddling south for just and hour before turning around to be sure we didn’t do more than we could manage.

I was worried about my left shoulder which has been acting up lately with either arthritis or bursitis, legs with muscle atrophy which may or may not hold up when I try to rise from the boat, and now a silly trigger thumb that has been giving me a bit of trouble.  Mo had been dealing with knee and ankle issues.  It was time to get back in practice and see just how much we could manage.  We also wanted to paddle in a place that didn’t have too many people around to witness our attempts at exiting our kayaks.

Nothing to worry about in the least.  I was thrilled to be on the water again after so long.  The morning was marred a bit by smoky skies from a large fire to the east of the Klamath Basin.  Our views were up close, with the distant mountains of Crater Lake and Harriman Peak completely obscured by the smoke.  Still, the wocus were blooming, although this late in the season there were only a few blossoms.  The creek level was quite low, but not so much that we had any difficulty paddling, and the section of the creek that we followed wasn’t terribly weedy. 

The water was clear and we were completely alone for the entire route, up and back.  We turned around after an hour and 15 minutes to paddle upstream.  As often happens on Recreation Creek, a slight breeze from the south made paddling against the gently current nearly effortless and the return trip was a bit shorter than the trip downriver.  The views were limited by smoke and in the distance where we usually see the rim of Crater Lake to the north and Mt. Harriman to the south, we only saw murky skies.  Birds were few and far between as well, except for the red winged blackbirds, many little brown twittery birds, a kingfisher and one great blue heron. 

The canoe trail sign is very high above the water, indicating how low the water level is this year already.  Often those signs are only a foot or two above the water level.

After all that time alone, I was exclaiming to Mo how lucky we were to have the creek to ourselves on this gorgeous summer day when suddenly ten kayaks rounded a curve and entered the Malone Springs area.  We looked at each other, wondering if they planned to lunch there, and wondered when we would have the nerve to try to get out of the kayaks with ten people observing!  The young woman who was guiding the group said they were leaving, and began loading all their kayaks onto a big trailer.  Whew.  Mo and I paddled around a bit in the spring waiting for everyone to leave.  Along comes another kayaker, with a young lab puppy, and she kindly agreed to wait until we could get Mattie out of the boat.

We had nothing to worry about.  I decided to exit my boat on the side opposite the shoreline in knee deep water.  It was perfect.  I didn’t even have to roll into the water as I did last summer to get out of the boat.  The knee deep water did a great job of giving me the extra boost I need to rise from a sitting position.  Mo tried the same maneuver and did just fine.  We are now much more comfortable with our planned kayak day with family during the first week in August. No matter how understanding folks might be about our ungainly attempts to exit the kayaks, it is much nicer to not have to look silly in front of everyone.

After loading up the boats we settled in to the nearby picnic table for our packed picnic lunch.  Malone Springs is known for having hordes of mosquitoes and yet with the heat and drought this year there were very few around to bother us.

We returned to Grants Pass, happy that we could do a simple day trip to find good kayak waters.  Of course, being in the outdoors triggered the need to check for possible reservations available at any of the many campgrounds in the Cascades, or even perhaps farther east.  We try to be sure to get at least one trip away in the MoHo each month and July was passing quickly.  Lo and Behold…everything was blocked out and reserved every place I looked, except suddenly an opening appeared at a campground we have visited in the past and loved.  The reservation was open for three days beginning on the 12th, giving us just two days to make the decision to go.

But that is for the next story….

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.



04-20 to 04-24-2021 Another Little Beach Trip

We hadn’t planned on returning to the beach, but when Mo’s brothers said they were gathering in Nehalem for some family time we decided to go.  At this time of year the mountains are still getting snow flurries, the California deserts are getting a bit too warm, and most of the waters we love to kayak are still a bit chilly.  Another trip to the Oregon Coast was added to our calendar for the month of April. 

Ever since we have had the MoHo we try to make sure that we get out at least once a month on some sort of camping adventure.  The only years we didn’t completely succeed was when we were selling our homes and the apartment building in Klamath Falls and Rocky Point and building our present home here in Grants Pass.  It was a bit hard to get away then, especially when our lives seemed to be all about hauling the trailer around with mowers and yard equipment trying to keep all our places in order.  Whew!  So glad we have only one home and yard to manage now.

Even though we had a few warm days here at home, the weather on the coast was predicted to be chilly and possibly rainy.  What is new!?  We planned accordingly, and decided that hauling the kayaks along wasn’t particularly important.  Dan and Don recently purchased new inflatable kayaks and planned to try them out for the first time on the Nehalem River.  Last time we kayaked with them on the Nehalem, Mo and I both decided that exiting our kayaks from the water to the dock was way more work than we wanted to do.  Never again.  From now on kayaking for us will be in warm water with nice easy launches so we can get back out of the boats without a lot of pain.   I discovered last summer that if the water is warm and the launch is reasonable I can get out with a simple roll into the water. Looking forward to more kayak time as the weather warms.

After our days at the beach, with some lovely sunshine interspersed with lots of wind and chilly clouds we were glad we hadn’t bothered to load up the boats.  With only three days to spend with family, kayaking wasn’t a top priority.

Dan had saved a spot for us in Nehalem Bay State Park, in Loop F.  Loops A, B, and C are all reservation only throughout the year, but D, E, and F are first come first serve through April.  It was surprising how full the park was, with A, B, and C completely filled.  Dan and Chere, and Don and Wynn arrived on Monday to get sites for all of us so we had a place to be when we arrived.  By the time we left, most of loops D, E, and F were almost full.

Most of the state parks along the beaches in Oregon are a bit inland, with a trek over various distances of sand dunes to get to the beach.  South Beach, where we often go near Newport, is especially distant with a long sandy slog for at least half a mile to get to the beach.  Here at Nehalem Bay, the slog over the dunes is only a few hundred yards.  Still a bit difficult for old legs and knees, but at least we can get there without having to drive a long distance to an easier access point.

The arrangement was for each family to bring their own main dish but share our evening meals together.  On our first night, Wynn assured us she had plenty of soup for all.  She made a yummy tortellini soup with a rich full tasting clear broth that was a delicious and warm meal for the windy, chilly evening.  It was so windy and cold that Mo and I didn’t even bother to trek the few hundred yards to the beach.  Instead we hunkered down after supper in the warm MoHo to watch a bit of Netflix cast from the phone.  With a great cellular signal and no local TV to speak of, this is a great option for us.  Especially since we are so spoiled with recorded TV that we can barely stand to watch commercials.

The next morning dawned beautifully.  It was Chere’s birthday, but she told Dan that she didn’t mind him spending some time with his new boat as long as she got to pick where we had her birthday dinner.  The guys readied Don’s boat for its first launch while Dan explained why his boat was still at home.  Seemed there was a problem and the company has to replace the boat they sent him. 

We drove the short few miles back to Nehalem and the river launch in the brilliant morning sunshine.  The guys managed to get the boat in the water and to figure out how to get in the rubber boat.  One of the reasons for the inflatables is that Dan and Don think their ladies will have an easier time getting in and out of them than they do with the hardside boats.  I had no desire to even try.  The Saturn is a bit more like a sit on top, with a strong bottom that is rigid.  You can supposedly stand up in one.  Not me!  I’ll stick with my treasured Adirondack until I can no longer figure out a way to exit.  One nice thing about the Saturn inflatable however, is that it is self bailing.  It is actually a sea worthy kayak that can take the waves and when water gets in, it flows out without letting more in.  A nice feature.  On a warm day I would love to launch it on a beach somewhere in some nice easy waves.  Mo thought it might be a good idea to be sure to tether the thing to your body somehow in case it dumped. 

The guys and their wives went back home while Mo and I drove to Manzanita, another nearby town, to visit the beach.  Chere said that is where they often go because the parking area along the beach is right adjacent to the water, without all the dune hiking.  The beach was nice, and there were lots of dogs and people walking about in spite of the windy chilly air.  Even though the sun was brilliant in Nehalem, it was foggy and windy at the ocean.  Mattie did her thing, running wildly in the sand until she finally stopped, panting.  She loves doing that, but I have noticed that she wears out a bit sooner than she used to.  Maybe a bit like her moms.

We drove around Manzanita a bit to explore the small, somewhat upscale town.  Unlike Nehalem, Manzanita has some fancy shops, eateries, art galleries, and a coffee place that fit in perfectly with the vibe of the town.  Signs for Black Lives Matter, organic dark chocolate, hand dyed yarns, and organic candles were scattered throughout the shop.  I stood in line for a really good cappuccino while Mo waited in the car.  Couldn’t resist taking photos of the charming little place.  It reminded me of places we visited in California coastal towns.

By noon we returned to camp to meet with family for the drive to Tillamook, where Chere was excited to visit an area with several food trucks, her choice for an early birthday meal.  When we arrived, however, most of the trucks were closed and the stiff chilly breeze made outside dining less than pleasant.  We decided instead to hunt for an indoor dining venue.  The Pelican Brewery was just across the street, but with limited inside dining, it was more than an hour wait.  Chere suggested returning to Manzanita but Dan was much too hungry to wait another hour for our meal.  We searched around town and finally found a place to park right in front of The Dutch Mill Diner

 Dan and Chere with a pal

Wynn and Don

It was a 50’s diner with juke boxes, lots of 50’s music, and hamburgers and milk shakes.  I think it was a perfect choice for Chere who loves all the 50’s stuff.  Lunch was good too, and Mo and I shared our sandwich and milk shake.  We have been doing that more often lately, a great solution to the huge meals that most restaurants like to serve.

Dan and Chere’s rig with his crabbing boat parked in front. 

Dan loves to go crabbing, but he doesn’t like crab that much.  He had a successful day on Monday, but none of us were in the mood for it for dinner, so instead Dan offered his big beautiful crab to some campground walkers who were thrilled to get it.  They couldn’t believe their luck.

Returning back to camp, we rested a bit before joining the rest of the family at Dan and Chere’s place for a birthday celebration. I made a lemon cake with lemon curd filling and cream cheese frosting back home, packing the parts and waiting until this day to put it all together.  Funny moment was when we realized that the MoHo might not be perfectly level when I couldn’t get the 4 cake layers to stay upright, sliding sideways on the lemon curd filling.  Took a bit of doing, but finally the cake was good enough to take over to Chere’s for the candles and birthday song.  After cake we laughed and visited, skipping the fir since the evening was so chilly.

On Thursday, Mo took another walk on the beautiful Nehalem Beach.  The dune hike wasn’t too much, and we spent a long time out there walking and enjoying the sound of the ocean.  Mattie had her usual wild run, eventually settling down into a nice walk with us.  Mattie is almost 7 years old, and does seem to be slowing a bit in her healthy middle age.

Mo and I played some cards and as evening came we all gathered at Chere and Dan’s camp table for shared supper.  This time we did eat our own food, splitting a hot dog between us, and sharing the mac salad I had brought from home.  Again, I made all the parts at home, but didn’t build the salad until that afternoon.  It is still fresh and homemade, but much easier than taking time during a camping day to chop stuff, and boiling macaroni and eggs.  We circled around the lovely campfire for a time before calling it a night.  Once again, with the chill and our full tummies I didn’t bother to bring out the marshmallows.

When we originally planned this trip, we though it would be fun to travel east from Nehalem toward Silver Falls State Park to visit the waterfalls and maybe check out the Oregon Gardens near Silverton.  I tried to get reservations at Silver Falls, but not surprisingly, the park was completely full.  There are 12 first come first served sites in the park and we thought we might take a chance to see if we could get one.  Our backup plan was to attempt to get a space at the Silver Spur RV Park, a decent enough place near Silverton where we have stayed in the past.

With hard rain predicted for the rest of the weekend at Silverton, and no sure place to stay, we had second thoughts about driving inland.  There are very few ways to get across the coastal mountains between the Willamette Valley and the Oregon Coast that don’t involve curvy, narrow roads.  We decided that if we had to drive a curvy narrow road in the rain we might as well take the coast route home.  Somehow once we had decided to do that I felt much better.  We could check for possible open sites at any of the beachside state parks that dot the coast route all the way to Brookings.

Beachside State Park with no dunes between the campground and the beach

As expected, it was raining hard when we got on the road Friday morning, but as always, rain or shine, the Oregon Coast is incredibly beautiful.  Driving south toward Newport and Florence I realized once again that the section of the coast between Newport and Florence is my favorite.  Highway 101 in this section is curvy, perched high above the ocean with views that stretch forever.  It is here that the famous lighthouse at Heceta Head is located, one of the most photographed places in Oregon.  Of course, my only photo was through an open window in the rain this time, but I took it anyway.

Many of the state parks along the route had “campground full” signs posted on the highway, especially the ones near the bigger cities.  South Beach was full, and that is a big park!  It was Friday after all and we knew that getting a spot could be iffy.  Just about half way between South Beach and Florence, is Beachside State Park.  It is smaller and closer than many of the other state parks, and the camp sites are right on the beach, no intervening dunes.  However, the campground is sandwiched tightly between the beach and the highway, without a lot of spaces for rally big rigs.  That and its lack of proximity to a bigger town might have something to do with the fact that there were spaces available on this Friday afternoon.

We settled in and realized that it was barely noon and we had plenty of time to relax.  We walked the beach, played cards, and took a short walk or two around  with Mattie.  It was a quiet time, much different than it might have been if we had tried to go inland.

On Saturday morning we left around 8:30, traveling Highway 42 inland from the coast toward Roseburg.  In my opinion, this is one of the better roads between the coast and I-5.  This time of year everything is greening up beautifully.  I was surprised at how much farther along the springtime green was here than it had been farther north toward Nehalem.  Amazing how much difference a latitude difference of a couple of hundred miles can make from north to south.

I’ll leave you with a photo of the MOST PERFECT marshmallow I have ever roasted.  No dry crackers or chocolate needed. Mo’s campfire at Beachside was a perfect bed of coals for this one.


December 2020

The sun is shining brilliantly through the office windows.  After a morning thick with heavy fog, it seems almost a miracle. Maybe that is what we need.  A miracle to come after the difficulties of the day before this one.  We need some sunlight to shine on us.  On all of us.  Some optimism, a reason to hope for a better year ahead.  I have struggled with trying to write this post.  It is easy to write about travels and camping trips, fish and chips at the coast, rain on the roof of the MoHo.  It is easy to be in the moment when traveling, maybe that is why we love it so much.

The rare sunny afternoon at Sunset House in December

The break in fog and rain gave us a chance to rake and haul the last of the oak leaves

It isn’t so easy to write about family gatherings, holidays that have been quite different than past years.  December darkness, more days of deep fog and dark skies than I remember even in Grants Pass.  We wake in the morning and it is dark, with light penetrating the fog only after 7:30 or so.  By 3:30 we are surprised to see the darkness descending again and by 5:15 it is pitch dark. 

This is actually a bit better than it was two weeks ago when it was pitch dark at 5.  Solstice has come and gone and the days are getting longer, miniscule second by second. I guess that is why a day like this, when the sun bursts through illuminating every tiny green blade of grass with a golden halo it seems like a miracle.

The Christmas season for us started even before Thanksgiving when I put up the outside Christmas lights.  Once again, we had help from Grandson Matthew, young and agile enough to climb our tall roof and line the edges of the gutters and the roof shingles all the way around the house.  Even though our home is just one story, the western side of the house is more than 18 feet off the ground, thanks to our sloping lot.  I know I wouldn’t manage to get up on the roof and even though Mo was a famed roof climber not so long ago, she isn’t about to climb up there either.  If Matthew moves away we are in big trouble.

Here in Southern Oregon our restaurants opened enough that one of our favorites, The Twisted Cork, advertised a special Sunday brunch, reservations only, limited indoor seating.  We were excited, made reservations for a birthday celebration downtown with friends Maryruth and Gerald, who celebrate December birthdays, and Daughter Deborah and Grandson Matthew to join us for the party limited to six guests.  Sadly that all fell apart when the numbers in our county began rising and once again dining was limited to outdoor seating only.  The Twisted Cork decided that with the cold and very wet weather, it was too much, and cancelled the party.

Mo and I decided the heck with that and I called Deborah and said, “Let’s do our own brunch for Maryruth and Gerald!”  Daughter Melody also drove south from Eugene for a Christmas time visit.  Her honey Robert had to travel for two weeks, returning before Christmas so she decided to quarantine at home for Christmas Day rather than taking a chance on Robert carrying the virus with him from Texas on an airplane. We had our little bubble of six and Deborah and I had fun trying to make the Sunday brunch as decadent as possible. 

We made real eggs benedict, and had lots of fruit and fruit dip choices, and Deborah made homemade pastries and we had lots of very cold champagne to wash it down.  It was such a simple but lovely way to spend a day with our friends.  In fact, we all decided that it was much more fun that it would have been in the restaurant.

The next week before Christmas we made a date with Maryruth and Gerald to drive around town to see all the Christmas lights.  It was great fun, and there were some truly fabulous light shows to enjoy.  I must say that the winner, a computerized laser light show with music to match, left me unmoved.  It wasn’t very Christmasy, and while quite loud and glitzy, it didn’t feel right. 

We discovered that the people in cars piling up all around in the tiny cul de sac where the lights were blaring didn’t agree with us.  It was incredibly popular.  We tried to follow the newspaper printed maps, tried to use google, but the four of us wore out before we could see all the various neighborhoods that were recommended. 

Grants Pass isn’t very big, but it was too big for us to cover it all that night.  Maryruth and I both grew up in Southern California, with amazing memories of Christmas Tree Lane and Story Book Lane in Pasadena, and the most amazing Christmas light neighborhood ever in a high end housing development that at the time was called Hastings Ranch.  Every single street was decorated with a matching theme for each one,  It was something to see and one of my best kid memories.  Maryruth felt exactly the same way. Still, we loved our lighted evening in Grants Pass and topped it off with hot chocolate from the downtown Dutch Brothers, just a block from where the chain was first established.

When Christmas actually came, Mo and I were perfectly content to enjoy Christmas Eve with just the two of us and probably the very best clam chowder I have ever made.  It’s a tradition for us, the closest I am willing to get to my childhood Christmas Eve oyster stew, which thank goodness I was never forced to eat. We topped off our evening with another drive around Grants Pass, finding the neighborhoods that we had previously missed and noticing with surprise how many homes were surrounded by many cars as people were gathering for the holiday in spite of the warnings.

On Christmas Day I invited Maryruth and Gerald and Deborah again for Christmas ham, another tradition that we seem to repeat each year.  I buy ham once a year, either Christmas or Easter, and the leftovers in the freezer are enough for some bean soup and scalloped potatoes and ham throughout the year.  We sat around in the living room together with whatever YouTube channel was Christmasy and enjoyed the company until early evening when Deborah decided to brave the heavy rain to drive the hour long trip back to Shady Cove and Maryruth and Gerald retreated the short mile back to their home.

The day after Christmas, with no more company to come for a meal, we pulled out another great puzzle.  The Paint the Town series by Eric Dowdle is great fun, and he even has a PBS show about each town that he visits.  It only took us a bit less than 3 days to find all the little people and figure out the many high rise buildings in the beautiful Portland puzzle.

New Years Eve was even more quiet than Christmas, with no visits and no real celebrations except for the local fireworks and gunshots that in our somewhat rural neighborhood started up around 9 and kept going until long after midnight.  I think I woke up for a minute or two at 12, and thought about the New Year to come.  The calendar is such a man made thing, and the days just shift as they will do.  Who knows if the energy of a year changes just because a man made number has changed, but this afternoon in the sunlight I can feel a bit of hope.  Vaccines are coming…eventually.

One more Christmas behind us and look at that sunshine

Our travels for the coming year have already shifted in spite of the hope of 2021 being a bit more free than 2020 was.  We had planned to travel south to California for our annual desert trip toward the end of January, but have put that plan on hold.  I just can’t get really excited about traveling through California yet.  I called Catalina Spa and learned that the pools are open but the spa and showers are closed as are most of the other amenities.  With restaurants and movies and such being closed in Southern California, and COVID numbers off the charts, the trip just didn’t seem very smart.  We will wait, and maybe travel south in March.  If things in California haven’t improved by then, we may slide south through Nevada into wild places in the desert where we can boondock without worrying much about running into too many people.

Our other big travel plans included a May cruise to Scotland, cancelled last year but still on the books to depart from London on May 22.  We will wait for Oceania to cancel this one before we make any big decisions about it, but something tells me our cruise to Scotland will not happen again this year.  It takes a long time for cruise ships to get going again, if they ever do.  I spoke with my doctor this week during a virtual checkup and was told that I shouldn’t expect to get a vaccination for weeks and possibly months in this part of Oregon.  Each state has their own priorities, and for Oregon it is health care workers with folks over 75 a bit farther down on the list.  I guess, just like 2020, 2021 is still a wait and see year. 

12-08-2020 Writing About November

It seems that as we travel through almost a year of COVID-19 life, I am lucky to get in one blog post a month.  It isn’t as if I don’t have time.  It has to do with inspiration.  Every day runs into the next, bleeds over from the previous day, moves slowly through time only to completely disappear into one long running sentence.

I realized a few days ago that I hadn’t even processed the photos that I took throughout the month to mark the changing of the seasons.  The leaves remained on our huge old oaks long into November, and now in early December there are still some clinging to the branches.  Sitting in the hot tub in the dark, we see one or two flutter down, illuminated by the nearby Christmas lights.  They look ever so much like lighted butterflies.  The next morning there are more on the ground, slowly littering the work that Mo completed the previous day.

Mo seems to be the one doing almost all the raking this year.  I have managed a bit here and there, and we travel together to the compost facility to empty the trailer, but raking times for me have been rare.  I try to make up for her extra effort with house chores but it isn’t much of a trade in my opinion.  Leaf raking really needs to be a two person operation. 

Early in the month we needed to make a quick trip to Portland to meet with the new neuromuscular specialist at Oregon Health Sciences University who will be taking over my case.  We are lucky that Mo’s brother Dan and his wife Chere live in the Portland area and are kind enough to let us stay at their home.  We arrived in time for dinner, which I provided as a way of saying thank you and spent a great evening visiting and laughing together. My visit at 8am the next morning went smoothly and the drive through morning traffic in downtown Portland wasn’t difficult.

In mid November, restaurants in Oregon were still open for inside dining with social distancing.  We decided to take a chance and made our annual trek to Applebee’s to enjoy Mo’s free dinner for veterans.  We wore masks, as did everyone else entering the restaurant, and the servers were all masked as well.  There were plexiglass barriers between booths and every other table was unoccupied.  I was a bit nervous at first, but it seemed safe enough.  We had a simple meal and enjoyed it thoroughly.  We don’t eat out all that often, but when we can’t, I notice how much I miss that small bit of entertainment.   It was a good day.

The weather was till nice enough mid month that we were able to plant the tree that the girls and I bought to mark my son’s passing last year.  We chose a beautiful sweet gum tree will honor his life. Deborah and Matthew were here to help Mo and I dig the hole and set the tree, but with COVID rampant in Oregon and Washington Deanna and Melody decided that they would stay home and stay safe.

(The funny part about this part of the story is that we actually planted the tree in late October and I somehow lost track of the day and the photos until now)

We originally planned a small Thanksgiving dinner celebration at daughter Melody and Robert’s new home, looking forward to her turn to host the big family dinner. Then COVID reared it’s ugly head in a more personal way, with Robert required to travel by plane to Texas for his work two weeks prior to the holiday.  All plans were put on hold.  There wasn’t time for Robert and Melody to quarantine before Thanksgiving Day.

Mattie LOVES Robert  and Melody and LOVES being at their home

Mattie has learned to be calm around the cats and they do great together

Instead, we made hasty plans for an early celebration on a Saturday before Robert left.  Mo and I drove the MoHo to Brownsville, where the city administrator was kind enough to let us park overnight in the city recreation parking lot, right in front of the “no overnight parking” sign.  Deborah came, but her son Matthew couldn’t make it at the last minute, so we had a lovely turkey dinner with just the five of us.  Melody, Robert, Deborah, Mo and me.  We enjoyed all the yummy traditional foods with an extra dose of sweetness because we knew we were lucky to have even this small celebration.

Wonderful table with Melody’s Spode China

We got a lot of laughs getting this photo is the big dining room mirror

Melody and Deborah enjoying the front porch on Sunday morning

Deb stayed in Melody’s guest room, and Mo and I returned to the MoHo where a sheriff was waiting for us in the pouring rain.  Somehow he hadn’t received the message that we were approved to stay there.  It was a little bit of a touchy moment, but he smiled and said all was good and we could stay.  The pouring rain kept us company throughout the night.  The next morning Mo and I joined everyone for a wonderful breakfast and some more visiting time before we returned home to Grants Pass. 

Once home again, we returned to our daily schedule of raking and hauling leaves, and Matthew and I started the annual Christmas lighting project. This year we opted for replacing our white icicle incandescent lights with old fashioned looking lights, modernized with LEDs. We replaced 13 strings of hundreds of lights with 8 strings of LED’s and according to the packaging, our power output was about 10 percent of what it had been in previous years.  It is a good investment and will help considerably on the power bill.

LED Christmas Lights 2020

Christmas Lights from 2018

I also decided to put up the Christmas Village even before Thanksgiving Day.  Usually it doesn’t go up until early December. Deborah stopped by for one of her Sunday visits at just the right moment, and was a great help with unpackaging  and placing all the little “stuff” that makes the village so charming. 

It started with just the village, but within a few days the house was filled with all our Christmas decor and the outside was sparkling with lights on all sides of the house.  It makes for a bit of cheeriness during the darkest time of year, both literally and figuratively.  I love Christmas lights and decorations, and it matters not that there will be no visitors this year, once again, COVID is keeping our family celebrations to a minimum.

Mo and I decided that rather than sit home for Thanksgiving, we would pack up ourselves, the dog, and our Thanksgiving dinner and head for the Coast.  We made reservations at Bandon, where the choices were slim. There are three loops at Bullard’s Beach State Park, and 2 are closed for the season.  We were lucky to get a spot on the inside of the loop, something we usually avoid. 

It was a great way to spend a few the holiday isolated in our MoHo  Next post will tell the story.