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Archive for January, 2015

Saturday, 24 January 2015

(January outings, part two)

beach clean up

Today was beach clean up day…

clean

This meant that after turning into staycation night owls, we had to get up EARLY (for us).  It was not easy, but we managed to get to the Seaview beach approach only 20 minutes late.  Our plan had been to access the beach on a roadway further south…till I realized we had forgotten garbage bags, so we had to go to an official check in point.

Allan's photo: I was met by a cute black labrador.

Allan’s photo: I was met by a cute black labrador.

Allan's photo: signing in

Allan’s photo: signing in

At the check in truck, a photo on display showed why we pick up all the teeny tiny bits of plastic.  Birds eat them.

It is sad.

It is sad to see a bird with a belly full of plastic.

The night high tide had slid up the beach approach almost all the way to where the truck was parked, so there was trash to pick all down the approach road.

Allan's photo

Allan’s photo

Allan's photo

Allan’s photo

Allan's photo: We found several of these.

Allan’s photo: We found several of these.

Allan's photo: The pile of rope was too big for us.

Allan’s photo: The pile of rope was too big for us.

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Allan's photo

Allan’s photo

Allan's photo

Allan’s photo

Allan's photo

Allan’s photo

Allan picking trash

Allan picking trash

When we are late, and thus walking behind other cleaners, we pretty much end up picking up mostly little plastic bits.  We know it is good for the birds to remove them, yet I always feel it is such an endless task as there is so much more out there in the ocean.

bits

Allan’s photo….so many plastic bits that birds ingest.

Because we are used to bending over and picking stuff, we moved fast and got ahead to where we found some larger items.

Allan's photo

Allan’s photo

a pile left for pick up

a pile left for pick up

bag

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That kelp would make great garden fertilizer.

When a cleaner fills a bag, s/he leaves it at the high tide line, and cleanup volunteer vehicles come by to pick the bags up.  This is the ONLY time I do not mind seeing driving on our beach (which is, most unfortunately, a state highway…which I find appalling).

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Usually, seeing tire tracks just spoils a good beach photo.  Today, they are there for a good purpose.  (The only other time I might concede to not minding the beach highway being open is on clamming tides when I suppose it does make the clams much more accessible to hundreds of clammers.  And I think it would be ok to have ONE section of beach, preferably not scenic Seaview, maybe in front of Long Beach, open so that people with disability permits could drive out to see the sea and the sunset.)  This is a terribly controversial point of view to have as beach drivers are adamant about not giving it up and often gets furious at the very idea that maybe the beach would be a more beautiful place without vehicles.  Today, however, I really appreciated seeing the drivers removing the piles of debris.

Volunteers in a cute old truck.

Volunteers in a cute old truck.

Maddeningly (for us), this driver told us he had found glass fishing floats and the orange plastic floats a couple of miles south,  just where I’d been thinking of going till I realized we did not have garbage bags with us!  Next time!

just part of the cool haul

just part of the cool haul

After two hours of picking, we walked back.  By the approach road, we saw two volunteers attacking that huge pile of rope.

rope

rope2

(Allan's photo) A volunteer loads up the dumpster.

(Allan’s photo) A volunteer loads up the dumpster.

Just up the Seaview beach approach road sits the Sou’wester Lodge (between J and L streets) and then The Depot Restaurant (corner of 38th and L), two of our favourite places.  I’d noticed on the drive in that the Depot window box annuals had finally died back.  Allan remembered that I wanted to stop after the beach clean up to clean THEM up.

I have been waiting for these to die!

I have been waiting for these to die!

Tidying those windowboxes had been the very last thing on the work list for 2014.

Tidying those windowboxes had been the very last thing on the work list for 2014.

We then drove about 15 miles or so north to the Moose Lodge in Ocean Park where some regular patrons were already drinking at the bar. The beach clean up volunteers were treated to a soup feed in the dining room.

the Moose Lodge

the Moose Lodge on U Street, Ocean Park

I want a sticker like this for the Grass Roots Garbage Gang website.

I want a sticker like this for the Grass Roots Garbage Gang website.

Three kinds of soup were served.

Three kinds of soup were served: clam chowder, split pea, and chili.

thanks to volunteers

thanks to volunteers

beach volunteers dining

beach volunteers dining

food

Kathleen had come down for the weekend and joined us at table.  Allan tells me I was chewing in all the photos so we won’t see that.  Well, the split pea soup was mighty good.  Okay, just one:

Allan's photo

Allan’s photo

Klipsan Beach Cottages

We made a stop at Klipsan Beach Cottages to see the garden and to deliver Denny’s very belated birthday present (the traditional six pack of Alaskan Amber ale; his birthday is shortly after Christmas.)

looking in the garden gate

looking in the garden gate

snowdrops

snowdrops

Above, you can see a hole in the decorative deer: storm damage from a fallen branch.

a fine little clump

a fine little clump

crocus

crocus

Although I had no intention of working, I did have to cut some old leaves off of a couple of hellebores.

hellebore

hellebore

hellebore

hellebore

primroses

primroses

primroses and pieris

primroses and pieris

red azalea and stems of 'Tiger Eyes' sumac

red azalea and stems of ‘Tiger Eyes’ sumac

Early narcissisi (maybe 'February Gold' already blooming in the A Frame garden

Early narcissisi (maybe ‘February Gold’ already blooming in the A Frame garden

on our way out, saying goodbye to Mary of KBC (Allan's photo)

on our way out, saying goodbye to Mary of KBC (Allan’s photo)

Golden Sands and Long Beach

We made a brief stop at the Golden Sands Assisted Living garden to just quickly bung in some peony starts that I’d gotten from MaryBeth.  (The best ones had already gone into my own garden.)

Golden Sands courtyard in winter

Golden Sands courtyard in winter

It didn’t look too bad although a couple of the quadrant beds could sure use some mulch.  Later!

On the way to Long Beach, we had a lovely tea break at Kathleen’s Midway cottage.  I was feeling so tired after a mere five hours of sleep that I did not even think to take a photo.

In Long Beach, the planters are showing bits of colour.  I’d made note on the way north that three of them had dead Erysimums so we attended to those on our way through town.

crocus in a Long Beach planter

crocus in a Long Beach planter

planter with crocus and heuchera

planter with crocus and heuchera

The last daytime mission was to take some photos for the Niva green Facebook page.  There is always much of interest in Heather Ramsay’s New, Inspired, Vintage, Artful and ecologically green shop.

outside NIVA green

outside NIVA green

items made from license plates

items made from license plates

decorative items

decorative items

a robot dog lamp sort of thing.  K9?

a robot dog lamp sort of thing. K9?

gifts

one of Heather's lamps

one of Heather’s lamps

On the way out of the Long Beach, I just had to check on Fifth Street Park.  Woe betide us, it looked rather a mess.

Sedum Autumn Joy blocking the view of very early narcissi and crocus

Sedum Autumn Joy blocking the view of very early narcissi and crocus…and a carpet of shotweed and the ever annoying little wild allium mixed in with the catmint

fifth2

and quite a messy tangle of ornamental grass on the lawn...

and quite a messy tangle of ornamental grass on the lawn…

Sadly, I felt that this would compel us to emerge from staycation before the end of January as I simply could not stand the thought of it looking so bad.  (That night, in fact, I dreamt that the park was a mess before two crucial late summer holiday weekends.)  We’d wait till a weekday, though.

Meanwhile, we drove on home where we had a very few hours to relax before going out again to another musical evening at the Sou’wester.

 

 

 

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I had the most wonderful staycation month in that for the first 3 weeks, I only left our property three times.  It was bliss.  The only thing that drew me out for the first couple of weeks was weekend evening concerts at the Sou’wester.

10 January 2015

The Backsliders at the Sou’wester Lodge

event

lodge

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The Sou’wester by night

snooping in one of the main floor guest rooms

snooping in one of the main floor guest rooms

room2

The evening began with some reading of poetry and prose.

Martha Grover read a funny excerpt from a memoir about working as a private eye (insurance investigator).

Portland writer Martha Grover read a funny excerpt from a memoir about working as a private eye (insurance investigator).  I recall it was called “The Job Pirate”.

Zach Savage reading poetry

Zach Savage reading poetry

Lisa Wells read an intense and revealing poem.

Lisa Wells read an intense and revealing poem.

Then we enjoyed a rousing performance by the Backsliders, who opened with the promise “We’re gonna sing a lot of songs about drinking.”  The songs, of course, reminded me of my long relationship with a highly creative drinker.

The Backsliders

The Backsliders

backsliders

Sample lyrics:  “I’m not drunk, I’m drinking.”  “Twelve pack…” and “Close up the honky tonks, throw away the keys, and maybe the one I love will come on back to me.”

The band was excellent and I felt privileged to be attending such a good perfomance in an intimate living room setting for free.

We did not attend the tarot readings by Belly and Bones earlier in the day.  I’d rather have no hint, real or otherwise, of my future.

On the way across the grounds after the show, I looked, as I always do, at the comforting glow of the Spartan trailer that Robert and I lived in for several months in early 1993.

for rent by the night

for rent by the night

When I was 38, I lived here for awhile.

When I was 38, I lived here for awhile.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Three for Silver at the Sou’wester Lodge

After another week of blissful seclusion, we went out to another Sou’wester show.  (Fortunately, Allan foraged for food at the grocery story and picked up the mail, or we would have been eating chickweed and herbs and would have had an overflowing post office box.)

event

swAgain, we were so lucky to get to see such an excellent band for free and close up.

three

Three for Silver

Three for Silver

fiddler

The fiddler had joined the band to replace the previous third member who was recovering from a serious hand injury.  He knew most of the tunes but had to sit out a few.

Allan's photo

Allan’s photo

Allan's photo

Allan’s photo; the accordian and guitar player sang some songs in Greek.

fiddler

greek

 

Allan's photo

Allan’s photo

The fellow in the hat shows off his bass banjo and his actually made from a washtub standup base.

The fellow in the hat shows off his unusual bass banjo and his actually made from a washtub standup base.

made from a washtub, plywood and, well, instrument parts.

made from a washtub, plywood and, well, instrument parts.

Our friend, artist Joe Chasse showed up for this performance.

Allan's photo as Joe and I chat by the fire.

Allan’s photo as Joe and I chat by the fire.

We were both quite taken with Three for Silver‘s original, swinging, unusual tunes: “Riots, drunken rants, crow conversations, heartbeats, and heartbreaks. Three For Silver plays Top 40 music from an alternate universe where the bass banjo is more popular than the electric guitar. We are most probably playing down the street from your house right now.”  Joe says he’ll buy their new CD when it comes out as he especially liked a song called “Bury Me Standing.”

Each weekend evening when it came time to go out for the concert, I had a terribly hard time leaving the house.  Life inside felt so cozy, and I had books to read.  Each time, I was so glad that I had made me feet move out the door as all the January performances (more to come) delighted us.

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Thursday, 22 January 2015

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This is the third trip that was not on the local lakes. The first trip on October 5 went upriver from South Bend (located at the top of the map). The second on October 12 went up to the the Naselle River (located by the ‘d’ in Long Island).

Today the trip is from the town of Bay Center (located above at the red balloon).

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A close up of the mouth of the Palix showing the route I took and a a balloon over another boat ramp.

My goal was to go inland towards what is marked as ‘Minks Ranch’ and/or around the bay south which is the mouth of the Palix River. I stuck some lines on the map where the trip eventually took me. With the wind coming from the east, there was a bunch of back and forthing but the wind died when I wanted to use it to go back to the dock. The red balloon on this map refers to a boat launch that works well to go up the river.

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Unrestored boats at the port

The boat launch and dock has houses looking over it and a working oyster processor which makes me feel more secure about leaving the car alone. It also has a couple of artistic boats pulled up on shore like we have in Ilwaco.

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Bay Center port with the boat launch at the left and a busy oyster processing plant center.

Here’s a view of the dock and some of the fleet tied up. I could hear some workers shoveling oyster shells into bags and a couple of boats took off while I sorted things out. Anything not bagged up or not put under a hatch will get wet I have discovered. I can put a jacket behind me as it gets warmer but it will be splashed on when I go for it later.

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Orange & green oyster baskets

I saw in the commercial boats a collection of various oyster baskets or, ‘self draining weed baskets’, to a gardener such as Skyler.

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Various oyster bed markers to avoid

After paddling out to the bay there were sticks and floats to watch for while I sorted out ropes and snacks. I figured I’d  meet an oyster farmer in person if I mowed over any of their markers. When the tide was low on a previous trip I saw how shallow and sharp these beds are.

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The Goose Point Oyster plant from Bay Center

I headed across the bay to check out the  ‘Minks Ranch’ area north of Goose Point as the other bridge looked pretty far.

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Pretty splashy but easier than paddling as I headed upwind.

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Highway 101 just south of Goose Point.

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A forklift operator is checking me out too.

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Heading away after I discovering my mast would have hit the bridge.

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Flashing blue lights and an oyster bed marker on left as I approach the Palix River entrance

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A tall enough bridge for even me to clear

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Looking south under 101.

My goal was just to reach the concrete slab boat launch. I didn’t take a picture of the launch as it is about as dull as a…concrete slab. There is a blog that covers these ramps, local boating adventures and fishing advice and more. It’s at: http://www.leeroysramblings.com/boat_launch_observations.htm. For example, did you know that motorboats powering up onto a trailer can swirl the silt away at the bottom of the ramp? The next trailer that backs itself off the end of the concrete slab will drop deep and be very difficult to pull out. Here’s a sample pic. LeeRoy explains the back story on his site.

Not MY adventure

Not MY adventure ( photo from http://www.leeroysramblings.com/ )

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Approaching the Palix River boat launch.

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At the Dike Road intersection, two cows without a field.

This was probably the most memorable event of the trip and it wasn’t really that exciting. I suppose that proves that I was prepared and nothing went wrong,. Not every excursion can be a hair raising Youtube video.

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Nowhere to go and few grassy snacks.

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A bored cow and its friend and not much room to play in.

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A familiar farm on the highway to the beach.

 This is where the boat ramp turn off is looking south east.

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A view of Bay Center about 2.4 miles away

 

The wind has died, Bay Center is near the gap on the right. It’s 3 o’clock and I’m hoping to be back by 4.

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The Mollusk heading for the port.

An oyster boat left the dock so I immediately turned away from shore

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The telephoto gave me a blotchy picture of the crew checking me out.

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Back to Bay Center at 3:30.

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The Mollusk left to get more oysters after quickly unloading.

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Its little feet churning the water as a shy bufflehead duck didn’t want its picture taken

Several large flocks of Canadian geese (‘honkers’) flew overhead at a distance but there were few opportunities for wildlife pictures as I was mostly in the middle of a bay and after all, it is January.

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A heron watching the Mollusk return again after I had pulled my boat out.

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A good tide for late risers.

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A final view of Willapa Bay off the Bay Center road on the way home

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December 2014

Allan’s first staycation project, which I thought some of you might enjoy seeing, began in December when I bought a toaster oven and then realized we had no good place to put it.  We searched local anitque stores to no avail for the perfect piece of kitchen furniture before we realized we had one right at home in the winter-messy plant storage area outside.

Testing: Yes, the microwave and oven both fit.

December 1:  Testing: Yes, the microwave and oven both fit.

December 4: It's in Allan's shop

December 4: It’s in Allan’s shop with a new top made from fence top trimmings we saved from a friend’s burn pile.

tiling the top to make it more toaster oven safe; tiles left over from my Seattle house

tiling the top to make it more toaster oven safe; tiles left over from my Seattle house

all done and drying

all done and drying

by mid December, in the kitchen with a tiled and wider top

by mid December, in the kitchen with a tiled and wider top

January 2015

The bigger project took place in January when we were not as distracted by holiday events.  I had had a sudden brainstorm about the silly little buffet shelf or whatchamacallit that wrapped around the counter behind the stove.  It might have been a nice place to have breakfast with a view of the garden, but in the darkest part of the house with no view at all it had just become a clutter depository.

January 2nd, the old wraparound shelf with massive clutter

January 2nd, the old wraparound shelf with massive clutter

The most useful part of the underneath was a space for our shoe driers.

The most useful part of the underneath was a space for our shoe driers.

I moved my shoe and boot clutter into my own closet and repurposed the white shelf, painted green, as a table by my living room chair.  It has sentimental value to me, as it was made by my old friend Montana Mary‘s mother.

the end of the curve-around shelf

the end of the curve-around shelf

Allan supported the shelf with various things while he got ready to tear it out.

ready to go

ready to go, supported by buckets and bits of wood

On January 2nd, out it goes.

On January 2nd, out it goes.

gone

gone

and in go some pre-made cupboards.

and in go some pre-made cupboards.

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For a few days, it stayed like this as he was working on the top out in his shed.

For a few days, it stayed like this as he was working on the top out in his shed.

pieces clamped together in the shed

pieces clamped together in the shed to add a veneer to the sides. The shorter cupboards also had to be made taller.

staining the doors

staining the doors

back in the kitchen, raising the smaller cupboards to be even

back in the kitchen, raising the smaller cupboards to be even

installing the new plywood top

installing the new plywood top

laying out the tile

with the drawers and doors installed, laying out the tile

I had enough blue tile left over from my Seattle house to do the top of the new cupboards and the top of the microwave table.  I’d had that box of tile down here since 1992, and I knew it would come in handy some day.

The end cupboards would not get to have doors as they ended up being the space for the shoe driers and cat food box.

grouting

grouting and laying in decorative tiles

We had a tile (second from left) of Astoria from a Sunday Market artist, and Allan went to the Don Nisbett Art Gallery for four more art tiles, including a triptych of the Port of Ilwaco.

grouting

grouting

done1

done2

With the counter done and everything put away in new drawers and behind cupboard doors, it all looks so nice and tidy, and I intend to keep it that way.

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Wednesday, 14 January, 2015

With the project done, Allan rewarded himself with a sail on Black Lake.  Those of you who made it this far can join the reward via his photos.

Black Lake Yacht Club

Black Lake Yacht Club

dock

waterbird with the cheap little pocket cam

waterbird with the cheap little pocket cam

Houses overlook the lake on one side only.

Houses overlook the lake on the west side only.

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the north end of the lake

the north end of the lake

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west side

west side

Most of rest of Allan’s non recreational staycation time would be spent doing paperwork for taxes, not the sort of project that leads to the satisfaction of seeing nice new cupboards in the kitchen.  It already feels like staycation is going to end too soon.  (By my age, my mother had already been retired for five years.  We are not there yet.)

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Saturday, 3 January 2014

I liked best the days that I could just sit around and read.  I had a rate visitor on the 3rd…

me and Kathleen and some tea

me and Kathleen and some tea

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Rain perfectly played into my desire to just read, read, and read.

south window view

south window view

north window view

north window view

Lake Street indeed

Lake Street indeed

The amount of rain was dramatic and wreaked havoc across the county:

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Monday, 6 January 2015

I decided to check out how the 2 plus inches of rain looked in the garden.

barrow

in the bogsy woods

in the bogsy woods

west side of lawn path

west side of lawn path

fallen branches on Nora's lawn next door

fallen branches on Nora’s lawn next door

Why we don't go back under the trees in a windstorm

Spear-like branches are why we don’t go back under the trees in a windstorm

looking back

looking back

primrose

primrose

the back swale in the bogsy wood

the south swale in the bogsy wood

the middle bogsy wood swale

the middle bogsy wood swale

looking north from the bridge

looking north from the bridge

the meander line seasonal pond outside the south gate

the meander line seasonal pond outside the south gate

This used to be the Columbia riverbank (Baker Bay) before the port was expanded on fill.

under the bendy willows

under the bendy willows

looking north through the south gate

looking north through the south gate

Smokey followed me all around.

Smokey followed me all around.

smokey

I decided to actually leave the property to see how full the old swimming hole might be.

our neighbours' compost pile, outside our east fence

our neighbours’ compost pile, outside our east fence

The pond, which was the nieghbourhood swimming hole many years ago, was extra full indeed.

The pond, which was the nieghbourhood swimming hole many years ago, was extra full indeed.

The kids' fort that had been built there last summer had blown apart and most of the boards are in the pond now.

The kids’ fort that had been built there last summer had blown apart and most of the boards are in the pond now.

Even though we were between rainstorms, I decided it was far too soggy to do any gardening and happily returned to my books.

back in my own domain

back in my own domain

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Much as I wanted to keep on reading, on the 6th I had to do some weeding as the weather is good.  Because I had shifted completely to night owl mode, that means just a few hours in the afternoon.  Unfortunately on this day I took out with the me the camera (Canon powershot pocketcam) unfondly known as Spot.

Allan's garden with a variegated hebe

Allan’s garden with a variegated hebe

The weedy east bed had been bothering me when I looked out from the east living room window.

The weedy east bed had been bothering me when I looked out from the east living room window.

Jasmine nudiflorum in bloom along the fence

Jasmine nudiflorum in bloom along the fence

Allan nailed up a narrow trellis piece for me on which to train some of the jasmine.

Allan nailed up a narrow trellis piece for me on which to train some of the jasmine.

In the north house bed, stems of Rubus lineatus may not leaf out again.  (I want to make the clump smaller anyway.)

In the north house bed, stems of Rubus lineatus may not leaf out again. (I want to make the clump smaller anyway.)

in the middle of the front border, a shrub of mystery still has white berries.

in the middle of the front border, a shrub of mystery still has white berries.

east bed area nicely weeded

east bed area nicely weeded (the main culprit had been creeping sorrel)

evening glow over the back garden as I return indoors

evening glow over the back garden as I return indoors

sunset over Cape Disappointment

through the bogsy woods: sunset over Cape Disappointment

Painted in Waterlogue

Painted in Waterlogue

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The good weather persisted so I had to put in another afternoon of weeding, this time in the middle bed of the front garden.

before (and why did I grab "Spot" again?!)

before (and why did I grab “Spot” again?!)

Hellebore foetidus in bloom

Hellebore foetidus in bloom

looking west, before (damned Spot!)

looking west, before (damned Spot!)

and after removing old stems and weeds

and after removing old stems and weeds

The melianthus major looked messy but I did not want to cut it down yet.  The old stems might provide some frost protection.

The melianthus major looked messy but I did not want to cut it down yet. The old stems might provide some frost protection.

So I just trimmed off a lot of the old leaves.

So I just trimmed off a lot of the old leaves.

I was not pleased to find a pile of deer poop; they sometimes jump the low fence in the front garden.

I was not pleased to find a pile of deer poop; they sometimes jump the low fence in the front garden.

One of these winters I would like the project to be to secure the front garden from deer.  Or maybe I should continue to use it as a deer test garden and simply move the three roses to the back yard.

One more accomplishment: I pulled up a patch of curly teucrium.  Debbie can have it for the spring plant sale.

For now, it will be fine sitting in a pile.

For now, it will be fine sitting in a pile.

It's a bit of a pest but I love its curly fringed leaves.

It’s a bit of a pest but I love its curly fringed leaves.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

With good weather continuing to interfere with my afternoon reading, I cleaned up weeds (sorrel and shotweed) in the west end bed of the front garden.

Yesterday, the curly teucrium had come out of that corner.

Yesterday, the curly teucrium had come out of that corner.

Next time, I would start to tackle the cutting back of the back garden.

back garden, west bed and garden boat

back garden, west bed and garden boat

middle and east side beds

middle and east side beds

Smokey promised to help me.

Smokey promised to help me.

I had time before dark to just get a start on the west bed.

start

Allan had been across the river shopping in Warrenton, Oregon, and he returned with a welcome treat: takeout from Astoria’s Himani Indian Cuisine.

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their friend cauliflower dish and my favourite cucumber yogurt condiment, raita

their friend cauliflower dish and my favourite cucumber yogurt condiment, raita

Friday, 9 January 2015

I hacked away further on the west side of the back garden.

Admiring Cornus 'Midwinter Fire'

Admiring Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’

the earliest crocus

the earliest crocus

progress on the west bed

progress on the west bed

and a good cleaning of the middle bed

and a good cleaning of the middle bed

until sunset glowed on the south wall of the house

until sunset glowed on the south wall of the house

Tuesday and Wednesday, 13 and 14 January 2015

After the blissful relief of some rainy reading days, I had to return to weeding and chopping in the back garden.

south window view

south window view on Wednesday

late Thursday, after considerable gardening

late Thursday, after considerable gardening

The best weather for me was pure rainy reading weather.  More about that later.

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December 2014

The high points of my December staycation reading was The Seaside Knitters series, which got its own blog entry.

Here are my other favourite bits from the rest of my December staycation reading.  If you scroll down to the last book, and your name is Mr Tootlepedal, you might like the descriptions of mosses.

Dec 2:  The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I liked the film much, much better than the book (which is unusual.)  This paragraph about lost friendship spoke to me:    “I wish I could report that it’s getting better, but unfortunately it isn’t.  It’s hard, too, because we’ve started school again, and I can’t go to the places where I used to go.

December 11:  I was catching up with the last few books of Susan Wittig Albert’s Pecan Springs mystery series.

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It is a charming cozy mystery series.  It doesn’t grip me like the Seaside Knitters for two reasons:  I have no desire to live in Texas or anywhere away from the sea, and sometimes I think it gets a bit silly with its mystical side (inspired by one of the characters having a new-agey tarot reading magical sort of gift shop).  I like the herbal lore (because the main character, China Bayles, has an herb shop) and the small town setting.

I also appreciate the variety of physical types among the characters.

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On December 15th, after a number of distracting busy holiday events, I settled down to reading again with a true story of miscarriage of justice, Damien Echols’ Life After Death. I followed that with the excitement of a new book in the Tales if the City series.  I re-read the second to last one in preparation.

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The following passage took me right back to sitting on a silky brown easy chair in my grandmother’s living room perusing Christmas Ideals:  “She remembered a magazine called Christmas Ideals that her grandmother had sent her every year when she was a little girl back in Cleveland.  It was sturdier than most magazines, and glossy, and inside there were poems printed on scenes from nature.  If she were to see one today, she would probably find it corny, but back then her easy childish heart had soared at the sight of those snow-laden pines and starlit valleys.

Ideals had been the ideal name, she realized, since what the magazine had offered was the sweet reassurance that life could not be improved upon.  A pristine landscape was perfection itself; it was only when you added people that everything changed.

 

 

Next came the very last book in the series (although I have heard that before).

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To think that back when I began this series in the early 80s, gay marriage was just a dream that I never thought I would live to see.  I am so delighted that I lived to see the day.

Heartrendingly, Anna Madrigal is elderly now, and her caregiver gives her some artificial candles because of the fear that Anna might fall asleep and let her home be set on fire by the real thing.  Anna accepts that with a grace that brought tears to my eyes.

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Another longtime character, Michael, is finding his gardening business more difficult in late middle age.  “Gardeners aged better than athletes, but their bodies betrayed them just the same.” Oh, how I identify with that!

December 19th: After another round of holiday fun, I got back to reading a non fiction book.  A lot of my reading choices come from a book review pamphlet that I pick up at Time Enough Books.

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The author writes for the New Yorker and had that droll New Yorker style that I enjoy:

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Her book was engrossing and made me extra glad that I had attended a home-made garden wedding last summer.

After a couple more days of light reading interspersed with blogging, I was able to return to some days of pure reading.

December 22: Back to Pecan Springs.  I had caught up by reading Wormwood, Holly Blues,  Cat’s Claw, Widow’s Tears, Mourning Gloria, Nightshade, and…

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I always appreciate the herbal lore in the China Bayles series.

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about a particularly annoying weed

about a particularly annoying weed

Later that evening, I turned to a serious topic in a book to which I gave the top rating (five stars) on Goodreads:

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How strongly the book reminded me of the fourteen year relationship that I had with someone who often drank to excess,

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The book has a lot of train travel, so well described that I could hear the wheels on the tracks, and a bit of birdwatching.

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Some more rather randomly collected favourite pieces from the book.

on insomnia (a chronic problem that I share):

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on kindness:

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I had no idea that Raymond Carver had lived in the Pacific Northwest or that he was born in Klatskanie, Oregon, not far upriver from where I live.  Here are some randomly collected snippets about that:

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I think her stunning descriptions of the Port Angeles setting will inspire other Northwesterners to want to read her book.

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She describes how, if you find his headstone, you will find a box where people leave messages.

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Inspiring: “At some point, you have to set down your past.  At some point, you have to accept that everyone was doing their best.  At some point, you have to gather yourself up and go onward into your life.”

More holiday festivities happily interrupted my reading concentration.  I found that if I knew I had to leave the house for any reason, it became difficult to sit and read, so I devoted most of those days to blogging. On December 26th, I slogged through and deeply disliked Jimi Hendrix Turned Eighty. I kept hoping that the tale of rebellious old folks in a nursing home would get better.  For me, it didn’t.

On December 27th I read this, which I recommend even though I didn’t save any passages from it:

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On December 29th, I was able to have some uninterrupted reading time.

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From a character just about my age: “This aging thing had taken her by surprise.  She’s heard tell, of course. She knew it would happen, not just yet, and not all at once.  Of course she’s known in the abstract, she just didn’t know.  She hadn’t understood how bad it would get, didn’t expect these ongoing losses, this sense of parts falling off the wagon as it rolled downhill.  When she was younger, she hadn’t fully comprehended that she was part of this cycle, too, that she too would grow older, then old, and only then if she was lucky.”

“Somehow, all evidence to the contrary, it had seemed for awhile, in her thirties, even in her forties, that everything would stay the way it was forever or at least until some distant time in the future when she’d just cease to exist.  She hadn’t expected this, this process of public dismantlement, this precipitous downward slide, or for it to begin so soon.”

I wrote awhile back on Gardening and Aging, so the problem has been on my mind for awhile.

Another sign of aging:

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Ramones = my favourite band back in the day.  (Now I'd say The Smiths.)

Ramones = my favourite band back in the day. (Now I’d say The Smiths.)

On fear:

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Someone I met recently said to me, when I mentioned my phobia about the Astoria bridge, “I don’t do fear.”  How very nice for him.

on regrets:

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Too late for me.  I can think of all sorts of ways I could have had a better relationship with my mother, now that it is too late.

A trivial point:  I was gratified to find that a character dislikes orange streetlights just as much as I dislike the one outside our front window: “The sky was that awful orange streetlight color the city had adopted in the seventies. It looked like poison gas now, caught in the mist.”

A very favourite passage (not the end) from the book:

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I went straight on to the latest book by Anne Lamott.

You can see that I took down the Christmas tree early this year.  I was just done with it and wanted to move on.

You can see that I took down the Christmas tree early this year. I was just done with it and wanted to move on.

I had hoped it would be a completely brand new book.  It turned out to be a collection of essays, some of which I had read before.  I found plenty of comfort and inspiration thoug;, even though I have been unable to share her deep religious faith, her humanism also has much to offer.

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How very much I love that she refers to “The Margarets”, as in discussions about authors I have often referred to “The Margarets”.  For me, there are four great writers named Margaret:  Atwood, Drabble, Millar, and Laurence.

I admired this about a church member who would not move on from her grief when advised to:

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On December 30th, I moved on to a book that had been highly recommended to me by a couple of friends.  In both cases, they were halfway through with it when they praised it so highly.  I wonder if they felt the same when they finished it?  I would have given it five stars till I got toward the end, with a certain scene in a mossy cave that revealed that the protagonist’s life goal was a pretty trivial one.  At that point, the book dropped in my estimation.

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Still, it had a lot to offer before I got to That Scene in a very long book.  (For those who have read it, and while trying to avoid spoilers, I’m not objecting to the plot because of prudery; I just wish her life goal had been loftier.)

Things I liked:

The well-described sad realization about one’s appearance:

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I especially enjoyed her study of mosses, as those passages reminded me of the Tootlepedal blog and its many close up photos of mosses and lichens and fungi:

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The descriptions of moss are some of the most gorgeous of any writings I’ve found about the natural world.

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Later, here is something enlightening about botany:

“In the world of botany, such confusing language would have been called nomina dubia or nomina ambigua–which is to say, misleading or obscure names of plants that render the specimens impossible to classify.”

I liked the staunchness of a character who completely lives her political beliefs:

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A remedy for sorrow?  “You must endure it—and you won’t be the first.    …This world is not a paradise but a vale of tears.  Look around you, what do you see?  All is anguish.  Everywhere you turn there is sorrow.  If you do not see sorrow at first glance, look more carefully.  You will soon enough see it.”

And a more uplifting note to end my quotations from Signature:

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I entered January 2015 with one main plan: to read more.  Only Allan’s birthday on January 2nd and the beach clean up day on January 24th would interrupt the time of complete leisure, I hoped.  (And I should get the garden clipped back before we re-enter the work season sometime in February.)  I planned to begin with two lengthy tomes of non fiction:  The Warmth of Other Suns and The Talented Miss Highsmith:  The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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November-December 2014

I read my way through the entire Seaside Knitters mystery series during the first month of staycation, and I wish to share my infatuation (and perhaps obsession) with the fictional town of Sea Harbor, Massachussets.  I think I can guarantee that there are no spoilers here about the plots.

Death by Cashmere came into my life either when I picked it up on a “free” bookshelf at a local business…or perhaps my friend Montana Mary had gifted it to me.  One day in September, I was out of library books so chose it from my at-home to-read shelf. I was surprised at how pleasantly written it is, as I often find the cozy mystery “theme” series tend to be sort of hack-ish.  (I am not a fan of The Cat Who, the bed and breakfast series, etc).  While I wouldn’t equate the writing with Ruth Rendell or PD James (who write the sort of darker psychological suspense that is usually my mystery choice), I enjoyed the author’s imaginary world so much that I would like to live in it. When I finished Death by Cashmere, I gifted it to the owners of the local knitting shop (Purly Shell at the Port), not realizing that I would grow to love the series so much that I wish I had kept it.

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On November 21, I shared some entries that reminded me of the Ilwaco Saturday Market.

The summer market at the pier was one of Nell’s and Birdie’s favorite Saturday things to do.  It wasn’t just the smell of the fruits and vegetables piled high on the market stands.  It was the people watching, greeting neighbors, the music and kites flying and icy containers of clams, lobsters, and oysters being sold by local fisherman.  It was Peggy Garner’s stand, filled with freshly picked blueberry, rhubarb, and cherry pies, and Frank and Lucy Staff’s Mason jars of fresh homemade salsa—pineapple and raspberry and spicy tomato.  And it was even the incongruous appearance of Joe Quigley, who appeared every summer in the seaside town and hawked his Chicago dogs, piled high with onions and mustard and pickles, from a tiny booth right beside the pier.”

Saturday Market

Ilwaco Saturday Market

From Angora Alibi:  “The summer farmer’s market was set up near the Ocean’s Edge, on the great green expanse of grass that ran from the parking lot down to the water’s edge. It was already crowded, with people pulling out their cloth bags and filling them with early summer produce—lettuce and spinach and arugula, slender stalks of asparagus, carrots, and baby corn.”

(For more about farmers markets in an inland setting, check out Montana Mary’s Yummy Montana blog.)

Patterns in the Sand offered some lovely descriptions of beachy landscapes.

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Fishtail Gallery

the view from Annabelle’s restaurant:

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A Fatal Fleece offered a further explanation of how the town fits together:

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Further description from Angora Alibi:

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From Murder in Merino:  “The little Ridge Road neighborhood was part of a fishing community. Not the fleet captains but the crew. They couldn’t afford widow’s walks on their homes, so they built homes up on that hill, where they could look out to sea, waiting for the boats to come in.”

I noticed immediately how many restaurants the small town supported.

Annabelle’s Sweet Petunia Restaurant:

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Harry’s deli:

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a teashop or two:

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The Edge, the Gull, and more:

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Harbor Road

Polly’s Tea Shoppe:

“Polly Farrell’s Tea Shoppe was on Canary Cove Road, two doors down from Rebecca Early’s lampwork bead gallery.  …A large stone teacup held the door open and allowed a light breeze to circulate air in the small space.  Polly stood behind the counter, her smile as broad as her round face, waving them in.  The tiny shop held but four tables, and today only one was taken.”

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I made note of the eateries: The Artist’s Palate (clever name!), The Ocean’s Edge (known for its Cucumber Fizz cocktail), Sweet Petunia (the real name of Annabelle’s), Polly’s Tea Shoppe, Coffee (the coffee shop’s eponymous name), The Gull Tavern, Harry’s Deli, and more…and then a character enters a scene bearing a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee! That does imply a city more the size of  Newport, Oregon instead of a small town like Long Beach or Ilwaco.

The Artist’s Palate is open long hours:  “At noon, it would be filled with people craving burgers, and at night it rocked, with area bands performing and the wall of beer bottles meeting everyone’s taste.  But in the morning hours, the owner didn’t mind if people just came and sat, watching the fog burn off the harbor.  Sit, gossip, work on laptops.”   (And drink coffee and eat homemade granola.)

In Murder in Merino, I found a further restaurant description.  I was amused to see a Scooper’s Ice Cream, such a classic name that we have one in Long Beach, Washington.

“The line outside Scooper’s Ice Cream Parlor stretched down Harbor Road toward the Gull and the Ocean’s Edge.”

Sea Harbor’s proximity to Gloucester may explain why so many restaurants can thrive in its setting. It’s closer to some big cities than we are here; it’s almost a three hour drive from Portland, Oregon, to Ilwaco, and three and a half hours from Seattle.

Cape Ann, Maine

Cape Ann, Maine

I found a mention of Gloucester being driving distance along the coast, and in The Moonspinners, the author’s acknowledgements explain more about how Sea Harbor is situated on Cape Ann.  The closeness to larger cities explained why so many Sea Harbor restaurants could thrive.

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author’s note

From Murder in Merino:  “The Fractured Fish [local band] has a gig over at The Dog Bar in Gloucester.  I’m hoping that Captain Joey guy will mention us on Good Morning, Gloucester.  Everyone on Cape Ann is reading that blog of his.  It’d be great PR for the band.

Not until the 7th book, Angora Alibi, did I came across a passage that made it clear to me how close Sea Harbor is to Boston.  “It was the view that took [Izzy’s] breath away.  In one direction, the skyline of Boston was a hazy landscape, and closer in, the long winding shoreline, like a serpent’s tail—Paley’s Cove, the artists’ colony, Anya Angeline Park.  Nell walked over the the edge and looked to the right, out over the beach….”

This map shows the area between Boston and Rockport; Sea Harbor would be somewhere along that coastline.

This map shows the area between Boston and Rockport; Sea Harbor must be somewhere along that coastline.  Probably near the town of Winthrop?

Sometimes it’s good to be able to get away from a small town.  In my real life, a drive from Ilwaco to Astoria, Oregon, might provide the same experience as a drive to Rockport.  From A Fatal Fleece:

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Rockport sounds a lot like Astoria.

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Rockport

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Back to reading the books in order:

The second book arrived on Novemeber 23rd...

The second book had arrived on November 23rd…

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and heralded the opening of another restaurant:

and heralded the opening of yet another restaurant.

The third book is set around Christmastime.

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It perfectly captured what it is like to live in a seaside tourist town in winter (although we do not have much in the way of the frost and snow).

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Sea Harbor has its own Christmas village tradition.

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It sounds charmingly similar to Ilwaco’s Crab Pot Christmas Tree evening.

I waited impatiently for more of the books to come from the library.

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At last, four more!

On December 2, I read The Wedding Shawl.

On December 2, I read The Wedding Shawl.

Nell’s back garden is evocatively described during the preparations for a wedding:

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I stopped reading in order to Google yellow hydrangeas and found they apparently only exist when dyed.

Of course, the wedding food is lovingly described.

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The friends in Sea Harbor eat well.  “You can almost smell the ocean and taste the food,” says a blurb by Gumshoe.

Like me, Cass does not cook.

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I collect recipes and give them to Allan in hope.

Other characters cook lavishly and share the results in a happy round of regular potlucks.

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from A Holiday Yarn

from A Holiday Yarn

from A Holiday Yarn

from A Holiday Yarn

from A Holiday Yarn

from  Murder in Merino

from Murder in Merino

The continuing habit of small town gossip is often addressed.  The most flagrant collector of gossip is Mary, a likable character who writes a news column for the local paper.  I can guarantee that I would try to say nothing within her hearing that I wouldn’t want to see in the paper.  Here she is on the local restaurant deck:

Mary reached back and pulled over a chair from her own table—her unofficial reserved seat.  Everyone knew the table beneath the leafy maple tree to be hers, the place she occupied nearly every morning in decent weather.  Her computer on her lap, she sat there and composed her ‘About Town’ column for the Sea Harbor Gazette, the contents of which were sometimes gleaned from the conversations spinning around her on the crowded patio.”

Nell held back a smile, as if anything Mary Pisano said would stay confidential.  She was as well-intentioned as anyone on earth, but to Mary, secrets were meant to be printed in her column.

Nell and Birdie both looked at the younger woman, keeping their opinions to themselves.  Experience had taught them how easily one’s words could make it into Mary Pisano’s chatty column.

From Murder in Merino:  “A dearth of gossip was not much of a challenge for Mary—she’d dig something up or applaud someone’s good deeds or expound on a favourite cause or pet peeve. The column would be written no matter how little news was circulating around the seaside town—and it would be read by nearly everyone in town.

Our local paper doesn’t have a column like that, thank goodness!

How small town gossip works (from A Fatal Fleece):

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That’s what I don’t like about small town life:  The way people’s business gets repeated, word for possibly inaccurate word, from one ear to the next, with the careful analysis of appearance and behavior.  From A Fatal Fleece: “It was clear that the news was already rolling down Harbor Road.  A tidal wave.  News like this would take a nanosecond to travel through town.”

Usually, the gossip by the knitting group is kind hearted and never sinks into the realm of dissecting the appearance of others.  (That could partly be because of a small quibble that I have with the series:  Almost everyone, especially the women, is described with some variation of being traditionally attractive.  I recall the words “tanned” being used a lot, and everyone seems to be fit or spry.)  This passage from Murder in Merino is a bit of an exception and reveals how tough it is to be an incomer in a small town:

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When I used to get out more and joined in the incessant gossip-fests at a local café, I tried (in hindsight, not as successfully as I’d like) to stick with what people had posted on Facebook, figuring that those tidbits were deeply interesting and were things the people actually wanted to share.  (There’s nothing that puts one off gossip as quickly as finding out that one’s ownself is the subject of a mean batch of it.)

My best gossip story is that one day, I stood in the foyer of a Seaview restaurant and commented to a friend about a noisy helicopter tour that was bothering residents from Ilwaco to Long Beach.  Within one day, I heard back about it from a local gardening client, who had heard what I had said from his friend in New York City.  Someone in the restaurant had emailed the New York person, who had called the gardening client.  Fortunately, all of them agreed with my point of view about the noise.

Gossip drives the mystery plots in all the Seaside Knitter books, and at least in a mystery, it serves a purpose other than just nosiness and schadenfreude:  the inevitable catching of the perpetrator of the latest murder.

Speaking of murder, the question of the sheer number of murders in Sea Harbor is never discussed.  The theme that weaves through the books is how much the knitting friends want to solve the latest one so that they can get back to a peaceful life.  In A Holiday Yarn, they want to solve the mystery so that Christmas is not spoiled; in The Wedding Shawl, they must find the perpetrator before the wedding day, and in A Fatal Fleece, they long for “what the whole town wanted: a return to the slow, easy summer that they had waited nine long months to enjoy.”  From Murder in Merino: “Three weeks to find a murderer.  I refuse to have the Endicott anniversary party clouded by a murderer on the loose.

On December 3rd, I went on with the next book.

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I was pleased that the books now contained a character list at the beginning.  Because I have a hard time remembering names, I’d been keeping my own notes.  All the ensuing books have a list, a few pages long, at the beginning.

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A Fatal Fleece‘s plot begins in a way that reminded me of some long ago happenings when I first moved to Ilwaco, when a “crazy” old woman was removed from her rundown house that stood on the main road down to the port.  You can also see that the layout of the town is further described, giving me more material with which to visualize the setting.

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A new community garden figures large in A Fatal Fleece, along with the gripping plotline about the old man.

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I’m reminded of a community meeting that I attended in about 1995, when some locals were trying to shut down a Chinook-area RV Park where the trailers were poor and rundown.  The people there really could not afford to improve their old trailers, and I was firmly on the side of “there’s no law against ugly” although I would tried to phrase it in a less judgmental way.

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Despite the gossip and the upscale element that wants to force residents to conform, the heart of the town is kind.  This paragraph reminded me of how, as a vacationer, I fell in love with the Long Beach Peninsula and soon left my city life behind:

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The community garden becomes a running theme in the following books.  Here, the shop cat in the knitting shop is included in the description of a garden themed window display:

gardenOn December 9th, holiday festivities let up enough so that I got to read the last two books of the series.

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Angora Alibi has the best ever idea for an artists’ colony baby shower:

“In the center [of the room] stood a nearly life-sized wooden giraffe.  …Today, it was surrounded by colorful books in all sizes and shapes.  And along the walls, on the arms of chairs, and in open spaces between the guests were paper-maché figures, painted in brilliant colors, representing characters from the books:  Ferdinand the Bull, the Cat in the Hat, Paddington Bear, and Winnie the Pooh. 

She looked over at a group of wild things, grinning in all their glory, with Max in the center.  ‘The Canary Cove artists have been busy.’

Her hands went to her mouth.  Tears stung her eyes.  The giraffe was an heirloom, she knew, a cherished one, and the sentiment behind the gift was enormous.  Not only would her baby have a giraffe to look over him or her, but a parade of her favorite childhood friends to keep him from ever being alone during a lonely night.  She’d be going home with a whole library of books and treasures, all from people who loved this new baby even before she arrived.”

The setting of the baby shower is in a gallery home and the garden beyond.  “It was tucked away in the middle of wild roses and sea grass, nearly hidden from view except for the low garden lights along the pathway.  Tiny sea urchins and mermaids, carved from wood or fired in an oven, were hidden in the grasses or hanging from small magnolia trees along the curved pathways.”

 

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My cats loved these long reading days.

My cats loved these long reading days.

an autumn storm

an autumn storm

I so look forward to the next book.  They seem to come out once a year, often in May. For those of you who actually knit, each book comes with a knitting pattern (and I seem to recall that there are recipes at the back of the books, as well).

 

 

Author Sally Goldenbaum would like you to know about kascare.  You will often find her characters knitting chemo caps for cancer patients or squares for Kascare.

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