I was suddenly awakened from my blogging slumber when I read Janna’s blog this afternoon, Restoration Cowboy Style. Blogging has become a chore for her and she is no longer going to blog about their great ranch life in Montana and Arizona. After so many years, Janna’s blog remains one of the few that I still read and I am sad to see it go.
I know that with my commitment to very little more than a post or two for each month my own readership has waned. At least I suspect that it has, although the counters on the blog dashboard pages insist there are thousands of folks reading every time I post some mundane thing about every day life. Bots, I am sure…not real people.
Still, I am not ready to give it up, in spite of the fact that it can sometimes be a chore. For me, it is only a chore when I am thinking about doing it, but after I begin, most of the time it becomes a sweet delight. Sad to say, I enjoy my own writing! Is that embarrassing or what? I write as I think. My grammar and syntax aren’t always by the rules. Incomplete sentences. Incorrect punctuation. Too many or too few commas. Mo tries to keep me in line, reviewing the blog and making suggestions. I usually edit accordingly but not always. Hence, you get what you get. But the better story is that I get what I want. I get stories that remind me of how it felt to be doing whatever we were doing at the time. So it is, my faithful handful of readers, that you still get my stories, and I have something fun to print in a book and read again as the years pass by.
We are in the deepest of the “dog days of summer”, with August burning holes in my brain with heat and smoke. I check the fire and smoke maps on a daily basis, hoping for a hint of some relief. Once again, Grants Pass is thick with smoke from the many fires in California, in addition to the chain of fires ignited by lightning along the Cascade crest to our east. Winds are predicted to come to help clear out the smoke, but they have yet to appear.
Most of the time there is a nice view of mountains in the distance beyond the trees when the smoke clears.
I walk around the property, the ground beneath my feet cracked and hard as cement except for the small patches of green grass that we tend carefully. I know about xeri-scaping, planting drought tolerant species instead of water hungry lawns. We don’t water half of our property in the summer.
I also know that when it is 105 degrees or so for days on end, those small patches of green make stepping outside the front door almost tolerable, a bit of an oasis.
I spend the mornings checking the well and the cistern levels, and calculating our water budget for the day. With extended days of triple digit temperatures, everything suffers. I ease my frustrations by going to the computer and looking at the photos of summers past, and hunting for the images that reflect that a change is in the air. Maybe by mid-September? Most certainly by the first of October, although rain may not appear until November and hopefully by then the fires will be snuffed out completely.
Such is life in the heat of summer in Southern Oregon. Such is life in summers that each year break records for the hottest temperatures and the highest number of acres burned in the fires.
The big gravel driveway on the side of the property is great for getting in and out with the Motorhome, and for hosting guests occasionally. It does capture a LOT of debris from our ancient black oaks. It is too hot to rake, even in the early mornings.
Still, there is a silver lining, or maybe I should call it a silvery gray fog lining. Just a short distance west, the Oregon Coast waits with cool temperatures, foggy days, and only rare hints of the smoke that lies to the east.
The Oukrop Family gathering had been planned for several months. Roger, Mo’s brother, passed away just four years ago, but his wife Nancy took it upon herself to make reservations for the extended family at South Beach State Park once again, a favorite of Roger’s.
Family members came from Oregon, Washington, Illinois, and Colorado to gather at the beach. We stayed in a mixture of motorhomes, trailers, yurts and local hotels. A few members of the family couldn’t make it this time, including Mo’s sister Edna and her youngest brother Don and his extended family. We missed them all. I think we tried to count a few times and got up to 33 before losing count once again because it was hard to get everyone in the same place at the same time.
South Beach State Park is about 5 hours north from Grants Pass. There are several options for crossing the coast range between I-5 and the beach, and this time we chose to travel north to Sutherlin and follow the Umpqua River Highway 138 toward Reedsport, turning north towards Newport on Highway 101. South Beach is just two miles or so south of the lovely coastal city of Newport, famous for the Newport Aquarium and one of the prettiest bridges on the Oregon Coast.
When we arrived Monday afternoon, the skies were surprisingly clear and surprisingly chilly at 59 degrees F. A big difference from what we left behind at home! I was surprised that even though I was craving cooler temperatures I had a bit of a time adjusting to the chill on that first evening.
Since much of the family was still in transit, Mo and I decided to go out to eat in Newport with brother Dan and wife Chere and their daughter Rachel and son-in-law Mike. Many of the restaurant choices in Newport were closed, with several reasons posted on websites. Some said they couldn’t get employees, some said they couldn’t get enough food, some were closed completely due to the limitations of the past year of COVID. We did finally find an open restaurant, The Taphouse Brewery at Nye Creek. The wait to be seated was over an hour and with a chill wind blowing we were at a bit of a loss as to what to do during the wait. The beach was just down the block, so we braved the wind and wandered down to watch the waves and the few people who were doing the same.
Our dinner was a mixed bag of not so good and absolutely delicious. We were seated at a large table, with plenty of social distance between tables, but still had another hour or so wait for our food to arrive. The ordered appetizers didn’t show up until after the main courses were delivered and seemed a bit redundant by then. The sweet potato fries and french fries on some of the meals were literally cold. Who knows my luck, but my sweet potato fries and fish tacos were hot and some of the best fish tacos with the most interesting condiments I have ever tasted!
“Semolina crusted NW Pacific cod, Taphouse slaw, chipotle aioli, pomegranate chili molasses syrup, avocado, lime, smoky tomato salsa and house made tortilla chips.”
I was in heaven. In fairness, the server found some hot fries for the rest of the people at our table and took the cost of the appetizers off the final bill. The entire evening was just a taste of what small towns are experiencing during this time of COVID shortages with food and personnel. Sad.
We settled in quietly that first evening, and slept well with the distant sound of waves and the foghorn on the jetty just north of the beach. Tuesday morning dawned surprisingly clear. I had somehow expected fog. I offered to take Mattie for her morning walk and ended up following the path to the beach. We were camped in the A loop, a choice I learned to love because the beach walk was just 1/4 mile from our site. When we have camped in the loops to the north the walks to the beach aren’t paved all the way and are 1/3 and 1/2 mile respectively from the campsites to the beach.
That first morning was gorgeous. I wasn’t up to slogging down the sandy slope that morning and with an empty beach it was easy to let Mattie off-leash to run in the sand. If you have read this blog much in the past, you know that running in soft beach sand it Mattie’s favorite thing.
Look closely (click on the photo above to enlarge) and you can see Mattie running freely on the empty beach and my shadow at the top of the dune taking her photo
By the time I returned and Mo and I had coffee and a bit of breakfast, family members were gathering at Dan and Chere’s campsite with discussions of what might happen during the day. Our choice was to walk back to the beach once again with one group while another group chose to visit Newport.
Left to right: Rachel, Susan, Danny, Marci, and her husband Jon, with Dan and his dog Sophie on the low far right in the distance.
Jon, Sue, Mo, Sophie, and Brother Dan
The wind was blowing and the temps were quite chilly, but the dogs and kids didn’t mind in the least. I discovered that it was much warmer sitting in the sand and I realized that I could actually enjoy sitting at the beach rather than walking along the shore for miles and miles. Learning to sit and enjoy and be quiet rather than having to be on the move all the time is quite a lesson for me. I had to have help getting up, but it was worth it to just relax and enjoy with Mo’s nieces, Susan, Rachel, and Marci, and watching the younger kids play.
Rachel, Susan, and Marci
The afternoon slid by with a bit of reading and napping for Mo and I before we walked across the campground road from our place to Dan’s place. Most of the family gathered for a meal with some folks bringing their own food in addition to the spaghetti that Chere provided.
Mo’s niece Juli and her husband Hallie on the right, with another niece Angi in the blue hat. Angie’s daughter Ashli and her beau Evan facing the camera.
We enjoyed watching Dan and Jon teach Mo’s great-nephews, Danny and David, how to chop wood and build a fire. We didn’t last long that evening thanks to the chill but the fire was nice.
The next morning again dawned bright and sunny with no fog in sight. That is rather unusual for the Oregon Coast in summer where a chilly marine layer often hangs over the beaches. The plan for the day featured some kayak time on Beaver Creek, a wildlife area where we have kayaked in the past when visiting South Beach.
We offered our kayaks to Susan and Danny , and Dan took the younger David on his inflatable kayak. The group only had about 90 minutes on the water because it was important for them to get back to camp in time for the next exciting activity.
Mo’s nieces Juli and Susan trying to get David into his wetsuit. Right: David, Kalli, and Danny
Kalli, (Mo’s great-niece), had arranged to rent skip boards and wet suits for ocean play. The best entertainment of the day was watching the kids try to get the wet suits on and the biggest laugh of the trip was the moment when Danny suddenly realized that his wetsuit had a space for boobs. He and Kalli had somehow managed to put on each other’s suits.
We all walked to the beach once again to watch the kids play. This time however, I chose to remain high on the dunes and watch from a distance. My rubber IBM legs were complaining a bit with all the walking I had been doing and deep, soft sand isn’t easy even when everything is working properly.
After a wonderful afternoon watching the kids play in the waves we meandered back home to relax a bit before supper. Several of us thought it would be nice to get everyone together, so made a plan to meet at 5 at Dan and Chere’s place. With different folks arriving at different times we did finally manage to have some time with the entire family together for a meal and a campfire. Dan brought out an antique corn popper that Mo had given him years ago and the boys were delighted to try some real campfire popcorn, not something out of a microwave.
Different groups managed to enjoy some of the other sights along the coast, with side trips made by some to the Newport Aquarium, the Tillamook Cheese Factory, Depot Bay, and portside shopping in Newport. Mo and I skipped the excursions since we have spent lots of time seeing the Oregon Coast.
Our last full day at the beach dawned foggy and cool. Once again the plan was to spend time on Beaver Creek with the kayaks. We left camp around 11, with the tides turning around noon. It is helpful to go with the tides in the coastal waterways so that you aren’t fighting the tide coming out in addition to the natural current.
Dan took Kalli in his kayak and the four of us paddled about 3.5 miles up Beaver Creek toward the end of the wildlife area. Even with the overcast, it was a beautiful morning with very little wind to trouble us on the trip back down the river toward the ocean. We saw two eagles in the same area where yesterday’s group had seen them in the firs near the creek. We also saw otters, and many ducks.
Once again I had an opportunity to exit my kayak without much difficulty in knee deep water at an easy launch without any current to fight and a smooth bottom. Every year at the beginning of the kayak season I worry, and yet so far so good and I am grateful.
The rest of the day was quiet, with a walk to the beach and a quiet afternoon in camp. Some of the family played horseshoes and some folks gathered at Dan and Chere’s place with others at Mo’s niece Juli’s yurt. Mo and I gave up on visiting and hung out at home watching one of our TV series on Netflix cast on to the MoHo TV. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time with family, but all the visiting, talking, and fun times wore us out.
The evening rain that was predicted never showed up, but the next morning Mo and I were still happy that we had packed up the outside rug and chairs the night before. Breakfast was easy, and we spent a bit of time visiting with everyone before each group began the process of packing up and heading out. The skies were gray with threatening rain that never materialized as we hooked up the Tracker and headed south on Highway 101 toward Florence.
Many years ago I discovered a wonderful quilt shop in Florence, Joy of Quilting. Sadly, it was sold and I thought the owners went out of business. Just recently on a Facebook quilt group I heard that they had opened a new store in Florence down in the old port area where the cute shops are located. We arrived in Newport right at 11 when the shop opened and I delighted in the new shop. It wasn’t as extensive as the old store was but they still had beautiful floral quilt fabrics that are sometimes hard to find elsewhere.
The drive home from Florence was easy. We enjoyed the brilliant clear skies along the route beside the Umpqua River, savoring the 80 degree temperatures and the lack of smoke or haze. It wasn’t until we gassed up the rig at Seven Feathers on I-5 that hints of the smoky conditions south of the Umpqua Divide appeared. By the time we reached Sexton Mountain Pass north of Grants Pass it was apparent that we were returning from our cool, smoke-free, idyllic time on the coast the the heat and smoke that has been plaguing our part of Oregon for so many days.
It was nearly 100 degrees when we arrived at home, and Mo and I for once decided that we didn’t need to empty the MoHo completely right away. We got out the food and our night bags and escaped into the blessedly cool house.
That was ten days ago, and I have no idea how time has passed so quickly. I have been completing the binding on the king sized quilt I made for daughter Deanna. I also was under a deadline to complete a small lap quilt for daughter Melody’s birthday on the 12th. Sadly, I didn’t make it in time, so her birthday present will be a bit late. Lucky for me, she had somewhere to go for her long 4 day birthday weekend so a late present isn’t quite as awful as it could have been.
The rest of the time we have been managing the well, hand watering mornings when the cistern is full, and scheduling laundry loads between weekly shrub waterings. As I write, at this very moment, a slight breeze is beginning to blow some of the smoke from our valley. I just stepped outside and I can see the peak Mo and I lovingly call “Pointy Mountain”. I haven’t seen that peak in at least two weeks. It is a good sign that maybe we get a bit of relief from the smoke and heat.
It is easy to get down in the dumps with the heat and smoke. Sometimes Facebook does good things, even though I usually just scroll past all the memes. Recently a note came up from my youngest daughter, asking what you do that makes you want to get up in the morning, that feeds your soul each day. I was especially shaky the morning that message showed up, and I had to think about it a bit. But each day since I have paid more attention to the things that bring me delight, a reason to get up.
One of them is watching Mattie wake up. Every single morning she sleeps till 8, and when we let her out of her crate she does big long stretches on the rug before tearing down the hallway to spin around in front of the back door. I love the rat a tat tat of her paws on the hardwood, and am glad it doesn’t damage the wood! She does little doggie dances waiting for us to catch up and let her out. She then races around the property for a few minutes, doing her business as far away as possible along the fenceline, and then races back up the stairs.
She waits till we tell her she can come in, races past the kitchen island, does a two circle dance on the Turkish rug before racing down the hallway away for her breakfast. Her tiny portion of breakfast finished, she races to the rug again for her morning treats, each earned with a trick: lie down, sit up, roll over. Next on the agenda is a run to my lap, making sure that I have the appropriate quilt over my legs where she can snuggle. I can’t tell you have wonderful this little morning routine feels. Such a lesson in joy that isn’t dependent on a single thing except life itself.