Archive for Dec, 2017

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Calvin felt better today, after yesterday’s visit to the vet, and had only one smallish coughing fit.

I finished my Seaside Knitters book and had time to read a cooking memoir, which proved to be well-written and funny and poignant and informative.

She had me at greeting the toads.

Even the recipes (I say “even” because I don’t cook) are entertaining.

You might see why I like the author so much:

Later, when she became a baker:

Sort of what I try to do as a gardener.

It got me thinking about how, during my first decade here, I used to think that in the winter I would have time to Figure Things Out and find my purpose, which felt just out of reach. Each winter passed without enlightenment. I eventually realized I had found my purpose when I mostly stopped working for individuals and started doing public gardening, for the pleasure of people who come here as an affordable vacation, people who cannot afford Paris but at least can take a drive to the beach.

I’m fortunate that my desire to do public gardens, which began when I created the volunteer boatyard garden sometime around the year 1995, segued into paid work.

But I digress.  Here is Gesine-Bullock Prado’s description of discovering Vermont, where she opened her bakery after leaving Hollywood.

The same book was also published under the title My Life From Scratch.

I finished Gesine’s book and had time to start another, which is just how a staycation day should be.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Little did these two cats know that a trip to the vet awaited them (a disruption that would also curtail my reading for today).

But first, we met with our insurance broker, because Allan’s medicare application has hit some rough waters. The odd and unusual glitch that has stalled the prescription part will require a trip to the social security office in Astoria next week to sort out.  Even though our problems are minor, I do feel that relaxed staycation hibernation is not happening yet.

The weather today was wild and windy with flood warnings for the nearby river valleys.

in Long Beach

We dropped off a woolly hat at the free hats and coats rack in the Sandpiper Mall.

Allan’s photo

Returning home for half an hour, we managed to catch the cats unawares and bundle them into their carriers.

At the Oceanside Animal Clinic, I met a cute dog.

And admired a wall of Christmas cards; we must send one next year.

beloved vets

We saw our Tony and Scott on the wall!

Reading material in the waiting room:

This would be a good place to donate animal-related books.

Dr. Raela was pleased that Calvin’s coughing had decreased.  He may need a shot once a month.  Skooter’s hair loss problem was addressed with an anti-itchy shot and both cats got fitted with eight month flea collars.

On the way home, I checked the news on my phone and burst into tears when I saw that a favourite author, Sue Grafton of the Kinsey Millhone “alphabet mysteries”, had died suddenly of cancer at age 77.  I had just read Y is for Yesterday.  I am not being facetious when I say that I had one thing on my so-called bucket list: to live long enough to read Z is for Zero, the book whose proposed release date was 2019.  Now, as Sue’s daughter wrote, “The alphabet ends with Y”, and I am bereft at missing the final installment of Kinsey’s story.  I used always to wish the best of health and happiness to Sue Grafton so that she could live to finish her own writing goal and beyond.  I had often pictured myself sitting down in 2019 and reading the last book and then saying, “I can die happy now!”  This is not to be.

from my reading day of Nov 21, 2017

My long ago significant other, Bryan, loved that she drove a bug just like Kinsey did, although Kinsey would not have gone for this license plate, not helpful for a P.I.

In reading this afternoon’s articles, I learned that Sue was a gardener and I then cried even harder.

I found this article with a few photos of her garden.

I loved Kinsey’s quirks, independence, lack of interest in clothes, habit of cutting her own hair with nail scissors, and simple tiny house lifestyle.  The mysteries were incidental to me; what I wanted and got out of the books was the story of Kinsey herself.

Her books were just great stories, not ones from which I saved quotations or passages.  However, here are a few Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone) quotations, as collected on Goodreads.

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”

“Thinking is hard work, which is why you don’t see many people doing it.”

“Insecure people have a special sensitivity for anything that finally confirms their own low opinion of themselves.” B is for Burglar

“Everything happens for a reason, but that doesn’t mean there’s a point.” C is for Corpse

“There are days when none of us can bear it, but the good comes around again. Happiness is seasonal, like anything else. Wait it out. There are people who love you. People who can help.” D is for Deadbeat

“What could smell better than supper being cooked by someone else?”  E is for Evidence

“I hate nature. I really do. Nature is composed entirely of sticks, dirt, fall-down places, biting and stinging things, and savageries too numerous to list. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. Man has been building cities since the year oughty-ought, just to get away from this stuff.” F is for Fugitive

“The hard thing about death is that nothing ever changes. The hard thing about life is that nothing stays the same.”  J is for Judgement

“Ghosts don’t haunt us. That’s not how it works. They’re present among us because we won’t let go of them.” M is for Malice

“I can do a few things well enough. Everything else, I try to avoid. Once in awhile, I learn something new in spite of myself, but that’s about it in the way of my accomplishments.” Y is for Yesterday

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We have a guest photo from Terri of Markham Farm.

Here is her solution for the elk herd which have been bothering her garden.  She finds that these driftwood pieces from the beach are a good deterrent and are letting new plant growth sprout up between them.


Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Skooter staying out of the weather

I checked on the greenhouse.


The day was much too cold, under 40 degrees F, for any gardening.


I noticed again that Skooter, who could not resist following me, is losing fur, and resolved to take him to the vet early next year.


bald patches!

Allan made a trip to the library and brought me back a few more books.


the library garden today

I had started this book last night, and cold weather let me stay indoors to finish it today:

I was interested to learn about a good guy, Martin Eakes, who did “sub prime lending” at a small profit, back before unscrupulous sub prime lenders targeted the poor for huge profits.

Two of many stories of predatory loans:

People who earn $15000 or $20000 a year live in a constant state of financial turmoil.  They’re constantly behind on their bills, put off all but the most essential of purchases, learn to do without.”  Here at the beach, where many jobs are minimum wage service jobs, and where I recently saw a one bedroom small apartment going for over $1000 a month (not unusual), any emergency can throw a low-wage earner’s life into disarray.  In my life here, I remember hard times in the 1990s: the winter of the broken down van, the winter of the broken sewer pipe, the springtime of the broken down truck, and, in 2005, the summer of the leaky roof!

Below: This was shocking to me, about pay day loans and the low wages of military personnel.  I had no idea their wages were this low.  I suppose it must include housing and food…but still…

Something I read this week, and I think it was a  passage in Broke USA, proposed the idea of people working for each other, charging equivalent wages.  That is something I have pondered a lot as I have worked for folks who make $80 to $100 an hour, and yet who would never offer me their services at the wage I was charging.  That is one of the two reasons I STOPPED working for individuals and decided to focus on resorts and town gardens.  The other reason is that by doing public gardens in towns and resorts that tend to be affordable tourist destinations for working class folks, I am helping to create beauty for the many instead of the few.

We still had Things to Do other than my much desired staycation hibernating.  We almost forgot today’s thing.  Fortunately, I remembered in the afternoon the city council meeting that would include the swearing in of our new mayor and three new (or almost new) council members whose enthusiasm will be a great benefit for our town.

Outgoing council members (retiring, not voted out) were given plaques, made by the high school, of appreciation for their years of service.

Retiring council members David Jensen and Vinessa Karnofski.

I remember years (and one name change) ago when Vinessa won as a write in candidate.  Allan made a home made sign for our yard.

Tonight, Mayor Mike gave a farewell speech, as, at age 75 today, he also has chosen to retire.  He got choked up because he loves this town, and I got teary eyed, as well.

Mike, mayor for eight years, giving his farewell speech.

He then swore in the new council members.  In the audience foreground, below, are two of the family members of Missy, to the right in the council line up.  Her spouse and one of her daughters are in the Ilwaco Volunteer Fire Department.

Below: The center new council person is Jared, our neighbour one door east and co owner of Starvation Alley organic cranberry farm.

Allan’s photo

New council member Matt was absent; he had been appointed to fill a vacancy and had won the official elected seat this November. Fred, left, has been on the council for a number of years and is the last of the previous council, because council member Gary ran for mayor and was sworn in tonight, leaving one vacant seat for an appointee.

Mike swears in new mayor Gary Forner.

We look forward to seeing who the new appointee will be.  My intention is to start attending meetings to be supportive of this new crew, at least during off season although possibly not in our busiest work months.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The weather, just slightly damp and not windy, allowed me to finish clipping the hellebore leaves in the back garden. Old hellebore leaves are always bad and should be removed.





Some hellebores are already budded.



dwarf variegated pieris


mahonia in bloom


viburnum berries

The bogsy woods trees were full of twittering birds.



Despite many weeds calling to me to get pulled, the ground was so cold that my hands could not take weeding, so I went in to read.  The afternoon at home became disrupted when Calvin’s cough, which had returned a day ago, became so bad that he was gasping for breath.  A sudden emergency trip to the vet ensued.


Miserable Calvin, who will be age 13 this coming spring, was breathing with difficulty.

A mad chase around the house ensued when he caught wind of the cat carrier being brought in.  I almost thought we were going to have to call to cancel the emergency appointment, and then we got him stuffed into the box.


in the exam room

Dr. Raela, who has seen so much of us and our cats this winter, gave him an X ray and pronounced his lungs “hazy”, possibly with asthma.  He got a shot, and will go back on Friday for a follow up.

On the way home, a stop at the library netted a book that made me happy: the new Seaside Knitters mystery.




Meanwhile, Skooter helped Allan read a Swallows and Amazons book.


Allan’s photo

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Sunday, 24 December 2017

Skooter made Allan relax and read a book (a Cadfael mystery):

I had a quick read of a chef’s autobiography (ghostwritten, said one of the reviews).

I do not cook and yet I like to read almost any book about being a chef.

My friend J9 taught me about the Southern “bless your heart.”

The chef-ing parts of the book were the most interesting.

Keeping clean…This would not work for gardening, at least, not for me, because of the way I carry armloads of debris.

On the difficulties of being a woman chef:

Bless the hearts of these chefs, and I do not mean that in the Southern way:

The double standard for appearance:

When Chef Cora marries her girlfriend:

Chef Cora’s cause:

I spent the afternoon reading another book that I almost did not open, because I thought it would be dry and dull and because I had a whole new stack of alluring library books.  I am so glad I decided to read it.

A minor question answered:

On the glorious rabble rousing of John Steinbeck:

One of the most burning questions in The Grapes of Wrath, from an essay of Steinbeck’s called Starvation Under the Orange Trees:

I almost wept again in remembering this:

Is a little white house too much to ask?  It is not asking for much.

Steinbeck’s “three cries of history:”

I am going on to read Susan Shillinglaw’s other books about Steinbeck, and, of course, will continue on in reading all of Steinbeck himself.

I finished the book just in time to take a breath and get ready to go to the Christmas Eve Dickens dinner at the Depot Restaurant, where we were joined by Our Kathleen.

Allan’s photo

Allan got some photos of the Depot-oriented tree decorations.

I had every intention of making a big deal of toasts and memories about this being the exact 25th anniversary of my moving to the Long Beach Peninsula.  (That story starts here.)  I’ve been anticipating it for a few years, and I did think about it at the beginning, about how 25 years ago we (Robert and I) had just arrived to live at the Sou’wester, one block west of the Depot.  Between seeing other folks we knew, and the arrival of the wonderful food, I forgot all that till after dinner and dessert, when there was nothing left to toast with and the restaurant was almost empty.  (I had made a big deal about it on Facebook during the day, and that will have to suffice.)

roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and brussels sprouts. (We took half of our meat home for leftovers.)

Allan had the Steak Killian with Potato Gratin

my dessert


sorbet duo

Our brains were not in high gear, as all three of us forgot to open our Christmas crackers.  They got left behind and remembered later.  It worked out, because Depot co owner and host Nancy told me she will present them to a table of three as a fun gift during the Christmas Day dinner service.  That made me feel better about my forgetting two important (to me) things about this evening.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Allan wrapped some of my presents in elegant style:

These contained a nice big set of towels to replace our old, worn and thin ones.

I gave him three nautical books, including one of Sea Stories that had been on the bookshelf of one of the Tall Ships.  And a book about boat names, and “In Search of Swallows and Amazons”.

It was fun to open all our gifts from Our Kathleen, Montana Mary, and Dave and Mel, and to think of them opening ours today.

Part of our gift bag from Our Kathleen (in which Allan was well chuffed to find a gift certificate from Englund Marine):


These little boxes, from Dave and Mel, are made by a Michael in Oysterville.

Gifts from Montana Mary included fudge with a clever lid design and jam with a chuckle-worthy name:

Some extra pretty chocolate liqueurs were in our gift bag from Jenna and Don:

A book from Allan to me about life in Ilwaco kept me reading in the afternoon.

Victoria used to live half a block from our house.

It captures the Ilwaco of about twenty years ago evocatively, and since I have been here for 25 years (have I mentioned that?), I remember these women, mostly gone now:

I have often mentioned how we do not get home delivery of mail here…not in prose like Victoria’s.

She writes of the old boats.  I learned that the Virgo, one of the first boats I photographed here, is gone now.

“a few deep greens like the Virgo (rest in peace)”

She writes of buying fish from “OleBob’s, run by fishermen’s daughters”.

To real oldtimers, this is not the fishing town it used to be (still seems like one to me, but I was not here in the old boom days):

A great description of the port at night:

In writing about selling some of her dad’s fishing gear, Victoria perfectly expressed the way I feel about my grandmother’s things…tea cups and plates, but the same poignancy:

If you want to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of living in Ilwaco, you could not do better than Victoria’s book.  (It is available at Time Enough Books at the port.)

In the late afternoon, after the putting away of wrapping paper and Christmas bags and presents:

We heard from Nancy of the Depot Restaurant that our forgotten Christmas crackers were passed on to Christmas day diners, one of whom had recently had surgery, and who had brought in a tiny Christmas tree for their table.  They were happy and I am happy.

For the next week, I think that the chilly weather will cooperate in providing a good stretch of reading days.  I am fast closing in on 100 books read this year.

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Saturday, 23 December 2017

On their way to Portland for a family Christmas, Dave and Melissa came by to drop off Christmas presents.

Just some of the yummy goodies that they brought us from Bailey’s Café in Nahcotta:

Of course, they had to be taken to admire my compost bins:

Allan saw a hummingbird enjoying flowers of a mahonia.

Allan took a walk to Time Enough Books for some last minute shopping.

outside OleBob’s Café

fresh crab

This crab must come from further north.  Our local commercial crab season is now set to start in mid-January.  OleBob’s and the other markets were out of crab when folks were still trying to buy; crab on Christmas is a tradition around here.

During some more Christmas present-wrapping, Skooter discovered the wrapping paper box.

Allan’s photos

I spent the day engrossed in an excellent book that had been recommended to me by Our Kathleen well over a year ago.

My first piece of education was the wave of bombings and arson across the country at the time of WWI.  I had no idea about this and will have to read more.

When President Wilson requested a declaration of war against Germany and was applauded by Congress, he later …

I loved working man Isaac Gonzales who tried to get the higher-ups to listen to his concerns about the tank:

Oh, but he was but “a manual laborer whose job was to take direction!”

It is a fascinating book, and I thank Our Kathleen for recommending it and am so glad the recommendation suddenly swam up from the molasses-like recesses of my memory.

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Friday, 22 December 2017

I continued my study of the Dust Bowl years.

Dust Bowl Diary

Favourite parts:

When I was a child, my grandma’s phone was on a party line, and she did hear when the two other folks on the line were listening in.

Before the “dirty thirties” destroyed people’s kitchen gardens:


I cried, too.

My grandma made soap like this, well into the 1970s:

Gram making soap on her patio on a winter day

Ann rode all over the countryside on her feisty horse.  Later, between the drought and dust, and the country getting broken up with with government projects, the loss of beauty gave her a great desire  to get away.

Ann was a fearless horsewoman:

Christmas, when you are poor:

Just after I read about her brother walking miles to school in the snow, I took a break and opened a Christmas card from my friend Montana Mary, who described how her Christmas shopping plans were thwarted by “…snow and ice…the pass to the big city of Bozeman is frozen over.”  (She did well with the offerings of her nearby town.)

Details of the Dust Bowl continue to distress me:

Trying to find something green:

May 21, 1934, the one of the most famous Dust Bowl storms:

Her story made clear to me why the plain folks distrusted the government.  The New Deal was trying to turn a large portion of land into a wildlife refuge, but the citizens thought the plans were muddled and ever-changing, and they were being pressured to sell for no profit or at a loss.  It’s a different look at the New Deal than the textbook view.  It is well worth perusing a few excerpts and pondering why that distrust may reverberate unto today:

Ann was pursued for marriage by several men, as she held firm to her desire to work as a teacher and not be married.  I think Seth was the third determined suitor:

Two persistent suitors and the endless dust:

and another suitor, and more of Ann’s determination for independence:

Later, her determination continues:

…and later…

Here she is, the rebellious and independent heartbreaker and her beloved second horse, Roany:

I wanted to know Ann and I wanted her dreams to come true.  I felt like I had spent the day in the Dust Bowl and was grateful to always have a cup of water right by my chair.

From my favourite passages, you’ve had just the slightest glimpse into Ann’s life.  If this period of history interests you, you will want to read the whole book (and to find out if she married Seth, Mark, Oswald, Cap, or no one at all).

Two days later, I read another Dust Bowl story, this one a young adult novel, in the form of a diary written in free verse. (Why?I would rather it had been in prose diary form.)

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Even though it won a Newberry Medal, something happens in the plot line that was so horrific that I hesitate to recommend it. It could have given me nightmares had I not tried my hardest to put it out of my mind.    And yet, one chapter is about a night blooming cereus, and that pleased me.

It’s well worth a read, but that plot twist…was almost too much for me.

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Thursday, 21 December 2017

The night had been just below freezing.  I woke early to a white frosty world, poked my camera out the south cat door for an unscreened photo of frost on the grass…

…and went back to sleep for three more hours.  When I awoke, I suggested that we go do the post-frost clean up, in hope that finally the frost had put the gardens to sleep.

We began a few blocks east at

Mike’s garden,

which we have referred to till now as Mayor Mike’s garden.  He is retiring as mayor at the end of 2017.

The sun was bright, the air cold, and the ground just lightly frozen.

Pieris promising spring

pale pink hesperantha blooming on the west side

salmon pink hesperantha blooming on the north side

pulling spent hesperantha along the front path

Allan raked.

Anchorage Cottages

Some days back, we drove in and right back out of the Anchorage parking lot because I could see the chrysanthemums by the office were still blooming.  And today they were STILL blooming.

Chrysanths that will not quit.

Today, I showed Jody, the housekeeper, who also does some gardening, how to just cut them to the ground when and if they ever brown off (which they will…).  We are not going to keep returning to check on two chrysanthemums.  I also showed her that she could cut the Melianthus if we have a hard enough freeze to make it ugly.

Melianthus major in the center courtyard

frozen birdbath (Allan’s photo)

Allan’s photo: In early spring, we will cut back this sprawling plant even if it does not get frozen, just to shape it up.

Long Beach

My mind had been on the one big Geranium ‘Rozanne’ that I had left untrimmed.  Surely it would be frozen by now? But no.

Allan’s photos

Frost could make the California poppies ugly, too. At least they are small.

It has been so mild that the Rozannes we cut back early this year have put out rosettes of new leaves.

It got cut back anyway, because we are not going to keep checking on it through January and I don’t want to think about a potential blackened heap of frozen leaves later on.

An anemone was already blooming in Veterans Field.

Allan’s photo

a wreath in Veterans Field (Allan’s photo)

We did some cutting back in Fifth Street Park, of a pineapple sage, some Verbena bonariensis, and a bit of the sprawling Melianthus.

pulling some spent hesperantha flowers

as tidy as its going to get till at least late January

Once upon a time, the scrim of unclipped catmint along the front, above, would have greatly bothered me.  For some reason, this year I think it looks interesting against the dry flower heads of the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’…or maybe it was just that my hands were so cold.

Primroses (cowslips) were already blooming under a street tree.

I can feel exactly how it will feel to go back to work in late January or early February, and the prospect feels ok.  My only problem is that I have gotten pretty much nowhere on my indoor winter projects.

We celebrated the true end of the work year with coffee, warmth, and Pink Poppy Bakery treats at Abbracci Coffee Bar.

Abbracci co-owner Tony

We and another regular customer each got to take home one of the Christmas centerpieces.. very nice, since we never got around to putting up a tree, and later the flowers can go in my wonderful compost bins.

Abbracci tree and centerpieces

Ilwaco Timberland Library

We had some books to pick up.

at the library entrance

deep shade behind the wall

In the library

As expected, I got quite a pile of books, despite my original staycation plan for re-reading books on my own bookshelves.  Maybe that will wait till sometime when I am homebound for one reason or another.

a new batch, and the previous batch is not done yet

We had brought home a bucket of Abbracci coffee grounds and enough clean compost to add a wheelbarrow’s worth to my bins.  As I chopped it into small pieces and turned some from one bin to another at dusk, I did not mind the cold at all.

I have a compost obsession.

All the work got erased from the work side of the board, as did “Call Accountant”.  I had found an email address for the accountant we want, so I emailed her on the way home this afternoon.  I won’t have to call unless we don’t hear back in my preferred medium for anything business related (email, text, Facebook messaging, anything but a business phone call!).  (Carol, this does not mean you and Bill!)

a joyous sight

Salt Pub

After dark, we attended a Salty Talk at Salt Pub.

“Join Jim Sayce, historian and Executive Director of the Pacific County Economic Development Council, in a SALTY Talks presentation, “Reading the Land: Forensic Ecology” exploring the changes in the local landscape over time. Jim will show us how to recognize the subtle clues that can help find the original or historic landscape of a site within the bones of the built environment.”

Allan’s photo

delicious burger with salad subbed for fried (Allan’s photo)

window reflection

night marina

More boats than one used to decorate with lights.  The winter storms and wet weather caused too many electrical problems and so that pretty tradition ended just a few years back. We were happy to see one or two boats still carrying it on.

The Salt holiday tree

The lecture was well attended for one so close to the holidays.

Museum director Betsy Millard introduces the lecture (Allan’s photo)

Jim has a good collection of photos to illustrate how you can see the underlay of history.  For example, a line of trees representing old fence lines (where the trees grew up under the fence and the fence eventually disappeared):

He showed our changing views due to accretion of the beach (in some places half a mile wider than it used to be) and the growth of beach pines, which were not there a century ago.   Many beach trails were begun over 100 years ago and have simply been lengthened by trodding feet as the beach itself moved westward.

Allan captured some of the interesting old photos:

The “elephant rocks” used to be out in the surf, as an old photo showed, and are now well inland of Waikiki Beach.

rocks once out in the surf…

and now on land

An old highway has gone back to nature by the new highway 101.  Through a layer of grass and moss, the yellow line of the old highway occasionally shows through.

Jim Sayce

Jim’s laser pointer was not working.

The old and new photos pleased and fascinated us.

Jim’s blog, circa 2011 and before, is here.

It is now time for five weeks of true staycation.




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In real time, we interrupt the narrative flow to wish those of you who celebrate Christmas a happy day.  The blog still running five days behind is keeping it from going on winter hiatus.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

I had a late start because of getting a solid eight hours of sleep for the first time in awhile.  By noon, the weather looked to be a windless 45 degrees and I decided I would do some weeding.

the rain gauge from last night

Skooter on the roof

Frosty was watching Skooter from below the arbour.

Frosty went up to the cat door platform and they exchanged looks.

This is part of Skooter’s route to and from the roof:

I clipped some catmint in the front garden.  That must have released some scent; all of a sudden both Skooter and Frosty converged upon it.

I thought to myself that I had made a mistake in leaving the much less sunny front yard for weeding now.  I’d be warmer if I had done the front garden during the milder days and saved the sunny south side for chilly days.

so much warmer back here where I already weeded

In Allan’s garden, a tall mahonia catches the sun.

In the front garden, east side, the big libertia is all of a sudden on the move.  I will dig up these smaller ones and take them to the droughty gardens at the port.  I might also remove the rather tatty large one and replace with a smaller one or replant somewhere in the back garden.

In different areas, I have four large swathes of epimedium that should be sheared back so the early flowers show.  Googling tells me I can and maybe should wait till February.

pieris backed with epimedium

OH, I see something that might interest Mr. Tootlepedal.

I don’t know much about such things, but that must be a lichen or a fungus…Maybe a lichen IS a fungus.  I am uninformed.  With a hardy fuchsia for good measure.

I was glad to be in the front garden when Seaside gardener Pam drove by, on her way to the port with her mom, Harriet. They stopped for a brief visit.

Pam and Harriet

After they left, I began weeding the shady part of the garden.  It wasn’t as hard as I had thought it would be.  My hands stopped hurting from the cold and I made great progress.

shady front garden, before

The bed to the right was a solid groundcover mass of baby dwarf fireweeds that peeled off in sheets.

Billardia longiflora

Billardia longiflora berries

As the sun set, I could feel the ground starting to freeze and the weeding became slightly more difficult.

after, with hands to cold to pick up the last of the debris

I went indoors at dusk. After hearing the sounds of raking, I looked out the front window. I do think that Allan had raked this path.

I was able to erase the front middle and east beds from the work list, especially since I downgraded the heading from “good weeding” to just weeding.  Now I can think about whether or not I am going to get a big pile of mulch.  (The problem with said big pile is that it will block the garage.)

Skooter had worn himself out with his roof escapades and/or a catmint high.  (Catmint, Nepeta, is not the same as catNIP.  It doesn’t make cats as high as catnip does for some, but they still enjoy it in a mild way.)


I got a most pleasing Christmas card from Jo and Bob, who you might remember as former clients of ours till they moved away last year.  I loved seeing their new house, on a lake.

Longtime blog followers may like to see this.

And I got teary-eyed over this photo of my good friend Coco.  I miss all three of them!

lovable Coco!

Tonight: The treat of the season finale of Survivor and some more Black Cat Bookshop mystery.

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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Pouring rain kept me indoors during the day.  I had started a book the night before and had time to finish it before going out.

I was pleased to find books that are in my own library:

Also Borrowed Time by Paul Monette, A Wrinkle in Time, The Once and Future King, The Warmth of Other Suns, The Art of EatingHarriet the Spy (which appears in the favourites of two of the contributors).  I am pleased that, even though it was not her favourite, Piper Kerman of Orange is the New Black mentioned Harriet the Spy.

I have many Fay Weldon books on a shelf, so my favourite story was this one by Gina Barreca:


I now have a big new list of books and authors to read.  Some are the recommendations of the contributors and some are the books of the contributors themselves:

author Emma Straub

A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller*

The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon

A Tale for the Time Being  by Ruth Ozeki

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

My Antonia by Willa Cather (two more examples, like Steinbeck, of me being late to the classics)

author Elizabeth McCracken

Underground by Hikara Murakami

The Diary of Alice James

Sharp Objects, Dark Places (by Gillian Flynn, one of the contributors)

Mr Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin*

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer (one of my favourites and one of the contributors)*

And a blog to check out: Reader of Depressing Books

(*already ordered from the library. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is another life-changing book that is already in my pile of library books to read.)

………….So what is the book that changed your life?  The one that first came to my mind is Small Changes by Marge Piercy, for reasons that are too personal to go into right here and now, other than that it enabled me to leave a lousy relationship with a young man.  I have not read it since about 1975 when I was 20, and, since I own it, I might re-read it to see if I still like the writing.  I know I like the message about feminism.  My old copy is all marked up so it will be easy to relive which were my favourite passages.

I realized later that another book that changed my life over a decade later was The Year in Bloom by Ann Lovejoy, a collection of her newspaper columns about gardening.  The columns inspired me to attend a lecture by her at Seattle Tilth in 1988 and that experience changed my life into being almost all about gardening.

In the late afternoon, we met Dave and Melissa for the Star Wars movie. Despite or because of being a huge fan of the original trilogy and of The Force Awakens, I had lost my eagerness for this installment after Carrie Fisher died.  The film proved to be excellent even though I felt so sad to see her and to think of her being gone and to wonder what the next film’s storyline would have been had she still been with us.

Afterward, the four of us repaired to [the pickled fish] restaurant for pizzas….

and cranberry margaritas (featuring Starvation Alley cranberries, of course)

,,,and tasty, spicy brussel sprouts.

I started another Black Cat Bookshop mystery and am hoping that tomorrow is a rainy day.

Meanwhile, in real time, Merry Christmas Eve!  Christmas eve this year will also be my 25 year anniversary of moving to the Long Beach Peninsula.







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Monday, 18 December 2017

At the Ilwaco Post Office, Allan delivered our card:

inside, Allan’s sketch

He saw a cute dog waiting outside:

The postal staff told him that this is the busiest day of the year.  In our small town, we have to get our mail at the post office (no home delivery).  I remember in Seattle that the busy holidays would have lines out the door.

busiest day

We all have to go there for our mail. They should get more than two cards!

When the rain stopped in the early afternoon, I went outside with the intention of raking some of last year’s debris out of the garden and chopping it into the compost bins.

We’d had this much rain.

After deposting a wheelbarrow load of debris into a compost bin, I was inspired to dig up an ornamental grass that was now languishing in the west bed too close to Leycesteria ‘Jealousy’.

I gave that up for a moment and decided to move a pink and white old rose that had become lost and invisible in the middle of the bed.

This particular old rose, maybe Rosa ‘Mundi’ used to live at the Wiegardt Gallery, a former job of ours (that is now handled by Todd, brother of artist Eric Wiegardt).  I removed the rose from the gallery for two reasons.  First, the deer discovered that garden so every year the rose got eaten to a nub.  Second, I planted it when the building was pink, and the rose color did not go with the latest gallery color, a pale sort of pea green.

Back when the gallery was pink and blue:

In 2007 or so, the gallery became a sort of faint purplish colour (not lavender) that still worked with the pink theme.

In 2009, it became a pale green and most of the pink theme did not look right anymore.

So the sad deer-chomped rose came home to live with me.

Now it has been moved to a spot where some gold Helenium and gold foliage shrubs are no doubt going to clash with the pink and white flowers.  I can pick the roses for bouquets if the combination is too painful.  This placement will enable me to watch the rose for rampant blackspot and to decide if it is worth keeping.

new home for a rose (where the soil is most ruched up)

Allan walked out the back door just when I was heading into the garage for the heavy pick to get out the big grass.  Lucky me, unlucky Allan.  He agreed to help me by hoiking out the grass and digging out two clumps of boring orange daylily and one big clump of grass infested shasta daisies.

An extra tall Boltonia asteroides went into the middle of the bed. The grass went toward the north edge of the garden, in the hole the boltonia came out of,  to balance another white and green variegated grass. A bit of shasta daisy went where the daylily came out, and Allan helped me do a better job of standing up the columnar apple I had transplanted into the west garden bed not long ago.



It was a tremendously satisfying work session and solved several problems that had been bothering me all summer.

After dark, which comes at 4:30 now, I read the shortest book of my reading year:

At 31 pages, this darling book is to be a gift for Dave and Melissa (who I am sure don’t read this blog, so don’t spill the beans).  They have a nice flock of chickens.  I read Lovgreen’s book in the 1970s and have always remembered its charm.

I have requested her memoir, As Far As I Can Remember, via interlibrary loan.

In 1982, I visited a friend who was renting a small house on Bainbridge Island.  Imagine my amazement and thrill when it turned out to be Minnie’s old house.  How I wish I had taken pictures of the house and landscape… Those were the days when film was precious and blogging was a thing of the far future.

All I have to show of that day is this photo of me and my significant other, Bryan, sitting in Minnie’s house.


Today, in the evening, Allan wrapped all the presents.  He does a good, neat job.  My wrapped presents come out like bundles.  Some friends found this endearing, or so they said; this year, only Montana Mary got the bundled style of wrapping.

I can now show you how perfectly the little truck I got at NIVA green goes with a Christmas card from The Card Lady.

Tomorrow, much excitement awaits because we will go to see the new Star Wars movie with Dave and Melissa.

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Sunday, 17 December 2017

The cats and I had a rainy reading day.

Whose Names are Unknown by Sonora Babb could have (and in my opinion, should have) been published around the same time as The Grapes of Wrath.  It was rejected (after initial enthusiasm) because publishers felt that one book on the topic of migrant farmworkers was enough.  I am glad that Ms. Babb did live to finally see the book published decades later.  She wrote from experience of her life on a farm in the Oklahoma panhandle…

…and what she saw after the Depression and the Dust Bowl drove many residents to California.

I found the story to be more real than Grapes of Wrath because the Oklahoma years were personally lived by Sonora Babb.  Her writing about poverty came from experience.  Here is one of my favourite passages:

That reminded me so much of my favourite song of all time, This World by Malvina Reynolds:

Baby, I ain’t afraid to die,
It’s just that I hate to say good-bye to this world,
This world, this world.

This old world is mean and cruel,
But still I love it like a fool, this world,
This world, this world.

I’d rather go to the corner store
Than sing hosannah on that golden shore,
I’d rather live on Parker Street
Than fly around where the angels meet.

Oh, this old world is all I know,
It’s dust to dust when I have to go from this world,
This world, this world.

Somebody else will take my place,
Some other hands, some other face,
Some other eyes will look around
And find the things I’ve never found.

Don’t weep for me when I am gone,
Just keep this old world rolling on, this world,
This world, this world.

Back to Sonora Babb, here is a passage that captures the reality of being poor and watching the ways of the moneyed folk:

An old woman, facing foreclosure, gives the bank a piece of her mind.  Why hasn’t the world moved beyond this?  It is still happening today.


In California, the farmworkers’ children were sneered at in school and called “Okies”.

Poverty, cotton picking, fruit picking, broken strikes for a decent wage, and another glimpse into the contrast between the poor and the privileged:

It is a great book and a quick read, being much much shorter than Grapes of Wrath.  I intend to read (through interlibrary loan) Babb’s memoir of life on the Great Plains, An Owl on Every Post.

I had time for another book, and Calvin joined me for this one.I found this excerpt the most interesting:

I must admit that I skimmed some of the stories of losing jobs that did not grab my interest, probably because staycation reading days have been few and I have a large stack of books waiting for more rainy days.  Tomorrow is supposed to be dry-ish in parts, so I have a feeling I will be back out into the garden.

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