Archive for Apr, 2023

Sunday, 16 April 2023

I read a book which had been a gift from Our Kathleen.

It may be surprising that I don’t love Dickenson’s poetry (with some exceptions, one being Zero at the Bone), but I do find her interesting as a person, and this biography was full of interesting nature and plant lore (for example, I didn’t know that rugosa rose has the common name “hedgehog rose”) and insight into Dickenon’s reclusivity.

I also feel fond of Emily because of staying in “her room” at the Sylvia Beach Hotel and reading of how she would lower baked treats down to local children in a basket from the second floor. I spent a night reading the room journals inspired by her writing and the room’s ambience.

I was charmed in the biography to learn that in her youth (teens and twenties, I think) she was accompanied on her walks by her very large and lovely dog, possibly a Newfoundland.

I saved the passage below to share with friends who love to visit old cemeteries and on the recent Facebook event where locals went to clean up the Ilwaco cemetery.

It would be nice to bring back those days for the Ilwaco cemetery, which has suffered in the last several years from vandalism, including someone driving among the graves and knocking over headstones, so that its gates are now locked to visiting vehicles.

I also liked what Dickinson said about housecleaning: “I prefer pestilence.” (She was of a class where were family had helpful employees so I doubt pestilence was ever the condition of her household.). I also love that she said that “the only [Biblical] commandment I have ever obeyed was ‘Consider the lilies.'”

Her growing reclusiveness speaks to me, someone who would usually rather not leave my own property. She wrote to a friend, declining an invitation to a literary event, “I do not cross my Father’s ground for any House or town.” And “I am from the field, you know, and while quite at home with the Dandelion, make but sorry figure in a Drawing-room.”

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

After a day spent churning out enough blog posts that I was ten days ahead, I had a routine dental appointment in the much too early morning. It would have been convenient to work in Long Beach afterward but for this…

…so we went home. It had not snowed/hailed in Ilwaco but was too cold to even weed in our volunteer garden at the post office.

I attended a zoom meeting from the North American Rock Garden Society, not about rock gardens.

The speaker, Jay Sifford, described himself as being self taught (always comforting to hear) and had so many great ideas that you will see some that I am swiping for my garden. One sentence that I wrote down is “Your imagination is going to get covered up by education.” No chance of that here! It’s a wonderful lecture with glorious slides and you can watch it right here.

I then began to reread The Smoking Diaries by Simon Gray, a series of four memoirs which I had read and loved in 2011. More on this later, as it is a massive reading project of over 800 pages and will stretch out over several days, especially since working weather is predicted for tomorrow.

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This memoir was suggested to me by the internet because I liked the Cornish island books. I gave it my very tip top rating: perfection. The author spent a couple of years on Kyleakin Lighthouse Island, between the Kyle of Lochalsh and the Isle of Skye, in order to live in a place where author Gavin Maxwell had lived. I visited the Isle of Skye in 1975, by ferry. I knew that a bridge to the island had been built since then and was astonished to find it goes right over the little lighthouse island. That must have been a shock, but Island of Dreams explains how necessary the bridge was because of backed up traffic. I wonder if these two photos that I took from the ferry in 1975 show the little island.

From the book, one of the locals says, “You hardly ever see a dinghy out and about anymore. Used to be awash with boats, the Hebrides–post boats and passenger ships, ferries where they’ve now put bridges, fishing boats. Now everyone drives everywhere. Nobody’s got any time to dawdle.”

As soon as I began reading Island of Dreams, I knew I would find comfort and similarities in author Dan Boothby’s love for the memoirs of Gavin Maxwell (the Ring of Bright Water trilogy) and my love for Derek Tangye’s Minack Chronicles. When Dan Boothby first read Maxwell’s memoirs at age 15, “I had yet to discover that all writing, even non-fiction and autobiography, is a blend of the blandly real and well-judged lies.” The third book of Maxwell’s memoir trilogy, Raven, Seek Thy Brother,a brooding book, full of self-pity, foreboding, and loss....grabbed me and haunted me and pulled me headlong into obsession, with the man who wrote it and the world he so powerfully described.” (I think I read the trilogy in high school but now I must read it again. Brooding self-pity would be just the ticket.)

How very much I feel this:

So much like my obsession with Derek Tangye:


Some very strange people came to the island….sighing and telling me how much they wish they could have met Gavin Maxwell. I didn’t want to believe I was like these fans, but I probably was.”

The act of reading a book is a silent meeting of the minds, and sometimes a bond–a very powerful but one-sided bond–takes place. Such a meeting is filled with artifice and impossibility……What I connected with so strongly was a very carefully constructed version of himself. …. He made us feel like we were his intimates.”

All my life I have been led on by writers whose words on a page I have fallen in love with. ….all writing, even the autobiographical is full of fiction, a fraudulent transmuted reality…”

This was all so very helpful and comforting to me in my current multiple author obsessions.

And yet I still can’t seem to stop believing that Derek Tangye was telling me a lot of truth and that Jeanine McMullen (My Small Country Living) and Evelyn Atkins (We Bought an Island) were telling me the whole truth about what they wrote about, even if they did not write about everything.

Dan Boothby became the caretaker of the island along with a volunteer crew, and led tours of visitors that were lighthouse enthusiasts, nature lovers, or devoted fans of Maxwell. He also reminisces about earlier visits to the site of Maxwell’s home at nearby Sandaig, where fans of the books leave mementos at the grave of one of Maxwell’s otters who died in a fire in which Maxwell also lost most of his possessions and then moved to the lighthouse island.

Boothby had his share of the “whatyoushoulddo” people, just as the Atkins sisters did on their St. George Island in Cornwall and Jeanine McMullen had on her farm. “Everyone had a view on how the island should be used, skewed by their own interests. Repeat visitors to the island often buttonholed me with a list of things they thought needed improving.

One more thing I gleaned from this wonderful book is a piece of life advice that I find useful:

And some other snippets to entice you into reading the book, if you like that sort of thing, and surely some of you do:

This is true of Seattle (my home town) and here at the beach:

I cannot bear a broad-brimmed gardening hat; it blows off or, if it has a chin strap, it pulls so hard that it makes my neck hurt.

The book is full of pages of glorious nature writing that is sure to please even if you have no interest in Gavin Maxwell.

And human stories about locals and visitors. This one haunts me:

On pages 175 to 185 of the paperback is an analysis of the people of the Hebrides consisting of natives, locals, incomers, tourists, and second home buyers which is hilarious and also so very true of where I live. (I am a local with a trade.)

People were always astonished that my partner and I even showed up when we said we would just to talk about a job.

Thirty years ago, as an incomer, I learned this hard lesson.

Incomers who barrel in with determination to fix (change) things may soon find that incomers before them have worked on the very same ideas before, failed, and left, or stayed on to become locals and somewhat cynical when they see the same thing happening all over again. Natives just say, “I give them a year.” (It is gratifying to have made it for thirty years.)

As for tourists, “It is good to see the tourists arriving after a long winter and equally good to see them go away again in the autumn.”

And of course, the Hebrides has the same problem that we have here: “Second Home Owners and the high prices paid for houses by rich Incomers prevent young Natives and the children of Locals from buying a house in the neighbourhood in which they were raised.”

The other factor which that area surely shares with us is that the lack of affordable housing for people who work in the services such as hotels and restaurants and shops that cater to tourists.

If you have ever lived in a tourist town, you must buy the book for those ten pages. When I shared some of it on Facebook, my blogger friend Bob Nold had this to say:

I have found that entire five episode series on YouTube and we are halfway through it. It is delightful.

Predictably, I have added Dan Boothby to my list of autobiographical obsessions. He has only written this one memoir, but I hope there will be others. If it appeals, I urge you to buy it new, if you can. This is one of the few still-living authors of my obsessions who could benefit from the purchase of a new book.

Other books recommended by Dan Boothby that I want to read:

Maxwell’s Ghost by Richard Frere

Gavin Maxwell: A Life by Douglas Botting

The White Island by John Lister-Kaye

Gavin Maxwell was clearly a difficult and cantankerous person, which makes me want to read him even more.

The cats are enjoying the continued company of the unseasonably reading cold and rainy weather, while the rain and wind is enabling my memoir obsessions to grow but also putting us way behind at work and in my home garden.

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Saturday, 15 April 2023

at home

Despite a dire prediction of half an inch of rain and strong wind, we had a nice enough day so that Allan mowed our lawn and I potted and up-potted some plants next to the compost bins which is somewhat out of the wind. Later, the wind slowed and I was able to walk around and admire the garden, even unto the woodland area. I planted one new plant, an exciting Sambucus ‘Madonna’ which was a gift from Tony Tomeo, lower right below.

Sword ferns are unfurling after a long wait and some fear that I had trimmed them too soon in the cold weather.

It has been too wet to get at the trimming of the harts tongue fern to the middle left in this photo; the path has mostly been underwater..

The smaller the cup, the better I like a narcissus.

I continue to be annoyed by the rampant ways of meianthemum but am glad to see that the transplanted European bladdernut tree seems to love its new damper spot (centre), with fresh small new green leaves).

The frog bog’s vernal pond is very full.

I was thrilled that quite a few plants I had thought might be goners are emerging, just late because it has been so very cold.

Like this hepatica…

…and my Syneilesis aconitifolia (shredded umbrella plant) of which I had despaired.

…and the Spotty Dotty which I had worried about because I had transplanted it…

…and another hepatica which is blooming, a dream come true…

…and a lovely new brunnera.

Most of my primulas from this year and last year have survived and some are blooming.

A tree peony I transplanted has also survived and looks happy in its new space (foreground).

Nearby is the area where last year I dug and dug and dug to get rid of lesser celandine and then covered with newspaper and clean mulch. I might as well have done nothing. And this year, with the delay of cold weather, I don’t have time to do it all again.

In the water canoe, a desirable yellow flower whose name I forget:

Marsh marigold?

The shed window boxes seem to have nought but muscari right now, a nice two toned one.

In the front garden, I planted six sweet pea plants along the front fence, with Allan’s help. He handed them to me so I didn’t have to walk back and forth across the garden.

We admired a pretty clematis, and a real grey cat.

From outside the fence, I brooded over my podocarpus, which should be dark green but is yellowy.

By the driveway, I doted on my Narcissus ‘Cha Cha’…

…and some Fritillaria meleagris.

And some white ones, but my camera failed me on those.

I desperately want a good long weeding day or three at home, but with the weather delaying work, and the Long Beach annual parade coming up in two weeks, and a week of rain forecast, I am thoroughly thwarted. This is why we need to mostly retire, because there is nowhere (other than maybe the Cornish coast) that I want to be but right here.

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Friday, 14 April 2023

Skooter lounged in the mid morning sun.

Smart Moves clinic

We deadheaded narcissi and I clipped some fuchsias at the soon to be new clinic on Spruce Street. I contemplated about what shade plants to bring for these beds.

Ilwaco fire station

We weeded and deadheaded in our volunteer garden but were apparently not yet in much of a picture-taking mode.

hilltop garden

I was pleased that a lot of narcissi had bloomed. Last time, on our first visit of the year, not much had been happening yet.

I worked on expanding a bed by the driveway and added some ornamental grass starts, a kniphofia, and some cuttings of Juniper conferta, a low growing conifer that should look great with the pine on the slope above it, IF it takes from slightly rooted cuttings.

I attacked the couch grass in the bed by the deck, grateful that none of the other garden areas have this particularly annoying grass.

The ilexes still look sad.

About couch grass, John Stewart Collis had this to say in his memoir, While Following the Plough.

The nearby little garden by the garage doesn’t have couch grass…

I remembered now and then to look at the view, over a bed which we must weed soonish.

Meanwhile, Allan worked on a shrubby area at the bottom of the driveway, cutting down a biggish holly tree (a noxious weed here and no doubt started by a bird with a berry) and cutting and pulling out blackberries and some dead branches. Some befores and afters:

Holly tree center is gone.

The holly tree on left is no longer creeping in on their panorama view.

Blackberries in the center are gone leaving the salmonberries.

Clipped our way into some ferns that can now show their spring growth.

Still plenty of dead stuff remaining. It would look nice to get all the dead branches removed but looks better with the blackberry canes finally removed. We might accomplish that with one more work day which would make the shrubs happy. We will be very careful to watch out for bird nests.

I look forward to getting back to this interesting job, but now rain is predicted for the next week.

After work, although very tired, we went to Purly Shell for some bunny poo and I got to pet the always delightful Jack.

Somehow Allan found the energy to mow Alicia’s back lawn which had dried out.

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Thursday, 13 April 2023

Before finishing up today’s Long Beach work, we had gone to these two jobs that are next door to each other along Sandridge Road.

The Red Barn Arena

I was surprised at how low and battered and weedy the garden bed looked. We had brought some mulch for Diane’s but the barn garden got half of it and looked much better.

Allan took part of a miscanthus out that had gone woody in the middle, as they do.

I thinned out some Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ that wants more watering than this garden gets and will think of something better.

Our very good friend Cosmo was a darling distraction.

Another good friend, Holly, came for a biscuit and got half of one.

I admired the skunk cabbages of the wet field and wish one would be transplantable into my bog garden, but I have never successfully transplanted one.

Diane’s garden

Holly got the other half of her biscuit.

I weeded and deadheaded…

Narcissus ‘Xit’
Narcissus ‘Cha Cha’, and ‘Rapture’ with the long yellow trumpet.

…while, along the busy road where I dare not work, Allan planted sweet peas that I had grown in a cold frame all winter.

The story of the rest of the long day in Long Beach was in yesterday’s post.

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12-13 April: Long Beach

Wednesday, 12 April 2023

Next door, the back lawn is still puddled with rain and can’t be mowed. (I’d like it to be a meadow anyway but that is not my decision.)

Long Beach

We worked our way through town deadheading and weeding six long blocks of planters and tree gardens.

A fellow walked who had walked “for mental health awareness” all the way from Florida, followed through Long Beach to the ocean’s edge by local well wishers. You can read more about him here.

We weeded the south east quadrant in Fifth Street Park.

Darmera peltata

On the west side, I was inspired to finally dig out some of the veronica, which looks pretty for a short while and then tatty, from a planter. I was inspired but Allan did most of the digging.

Now I can add something showier.

I weeded the northwest quadrant. (The after photos will be taken next time, after it is mulched.)

Allan cut down a rangy mugo pine that had been supposed to be a compact dwarf and now hid a view of the park, some business signs, and had to often be pruned from sticking out onto the sidewalk.

Allan weeded the small bed at Coulter Park…

…while I weeded and deadheaded two street trees and eight planters.

That still leaves one long block and a half of trees and planters to do.

Thursday, 13 April 2023

Long Beach

After we did two other jobs (which will be tomorrow’s story), we returned to finish Long Beach with sweet peas to plant in Fifth Street Park.

While Allan weeded the Veterans Field gardens…

…and I deadheaded the rest of the street trees and planters. I especially admired the big planter in Lewis and Clark Square, whose bulb display has turned out so well. A passersby said, Did you plant that? and I said yes, and he said I must be very pleased and I said yes I am indeed. (The narcissus with the long trumpet and reflexed petals is Rapture.)

The rugosa roses at the visitors centre have been dug out for a siding repair, except for one patch which is also full of Tulip ‘Lilac Wonder’. I wonder if the roses are really gone; I rather hope so because we had to shear them three or four times a year and cut them back hard in late winter, but mostly because they were infested with bind weed. Whatever happens, I now officially declare this area Not My Problem.

We finished the day with a cold and windy work session on the Sid Snyder beach approach to mulch and tidy the seven planters there.

This is the first year that the daffodils have been most not picked. I am pleased.

Tomorrow’s story will be the beginning of today.

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Tuesday, 11 April 2023

While not ideal working weather, being cold and windy, we managed to weed the two jobs at the port where the individual businesses have hired us. (Yesterday at the post office, we saw another port business owner who hadn’t even noticed we no longer garden adjacent to his shop so….go figure.)

Time Enough Books

I went inside to meet the new shop dog, Oly, who was very friendly and nice, quite wiggly and still a bit of a puppy. Former shop dog Scout has partially retired along with her person, bookshop keeper Karla.

Freedom Market

at home

I had time for a walk around and some deadheading at home, but not for long because the weather is still unseasonably cold.

Narcissis ‘Cha Cha’ is one of my favourites.
Narcissus ‘Xit’. The small cupped ones are my ultimate favourite.

I spent the rest of the day churning out blog posts as I was almost out of scheduled ones.

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Monday, 10 April 2023

Ilwaco Post Office garden

We took advantage of a break in the rain and wind to weed our volunteer garden at the post office and add a few perennials.

Lilies are up!

Our friend Ann Saari came to get her mail and we had a chat.

Yesterday, she had brought me a wonderful gift. She is a talented quilter. Here is one of her quilts called Preserve Your Dreams which was a great favourite of mine in the annual quilt show.

Yesterday she had brought me a frog bog quilt which I will treasure.

I’ll get a better photo when the weather lets me take it outside.

at home

A retired gardener speaks to me.

I had a brand new book to read, the third in Marc Hamer’s gardening trilogy, of which the first two, How to Catch a Mole and Seed to Dust are favourites of mine, indeed, my “best book” of each of their years.

In this third volume, he writes about being retired. When I ended the year 2022 of the Long Beach job, I was filled with enthusiasm and desire to see a good year in the gardens there, after the year we had spend cleaning and reclaiming the gardens from the disaster of the year 2021 when we had tried to retire. I started 2023 all filled with enthusiasm and enjoyment, but in the last month I have kind of hit the wall about work. I am pretty sure it has to do with what happened at the end of February when, having gotten ready to do the port gardens again, after having been asked to, we were…un-asked…and it seems to have taken all the wind out of my sails and gas out of my engines for work.

Therefore, Marc Hamer’s tales of retirement look so tempting and delightful.

The very first page has his poem which brings home how short life is, certainly a factor in the decision. An excerpt:

But what would I even BE if I retired? My whole identity is wrapped up in being a gardener beautifying public spaces, for which mission I quit most of my private gardening jobs…which is why having the public spaces near me look so bad has brought me so low. Marc writes, “…the mixed emotions that come with a change of identity. I used to be a gardener but I don’t do that anymore because I am too old…..Perhaps I should try to figure out what I am now and what my life is for.”

This immediately helped me with my recent work disappointment, similar to Derek Tangye quoting a saying that you shouldn’t chase a hay cart that won’t give you a ride…

But I would miss this about the Long Beach job…

…where sometimes that old song comes into my mind as I watch the tourists: “I could be in love with almost anyone; I think that people are the greatest fun.” (Then a big truck drives too close or some yobbo yells and I am over it.)

The end of Marc’s gardening career hit me hard. Although I do not kneel to work, I have had moments when my back seizes up and I say to Allan, “I can only do stand up stuff, cover for me!”, with a client watching, and me busily pruning something but unable to bend over to weed. It WAS embarrassing.

And going on and on for years of pain on and off because I could not buy food or pay my bills without working.

“My job was hard, exhausting, and sometime painful, but my body became habituated to certain movements and knew them well.”

That is exactly what brought the most frustration from ALMOST doing spring clean up on the boatyard garden (and others near it): I knew exactly what it was going to feel like to cut the ornamental grasses down and scrape off the dead perennial foliage that had been plastered to the sidewalk all winter.

As a child, Marc said to a teacher, when asked what he wanted to be, “I don’t really mind what happens to me,” and the teacher said, “In that case I think you will have a very happy life.” I have minded a lot. Might be time to try to stop minding. Not sure I can.

There is also the truth of how one’s own garden gets neglected (not so much now, but back in the days when we worked 6-7 days a week). “Whenever the weather was fine, I’d be working to earn my keep in other people’s gardens, and so my own fell to ruin.” (Another lost year in the garden, I would say to myself around the month of May when I realized I simply would not have time.)

This speaks to me so strongly about how I feel about the gardens I have done…

…except it must be that the gardens Marc used to care for are still cared for. I used to be able to go from a garden at 310th Street in Surfside all the way 17 miles south and see along the highway gardens that we cared for at the time, when we were so busy that we had all these gardens at once: Marilyn’s garden, The Wiegardt Gallery and Oman’s Builders Supply in Ocean Park, Klipsan Beach Cottages, Andersen’s RV Park, Anchorage Cottages, then all of Long Beach, the Shelburne Inn and The Depot Restaurant in Seaview and then the Ilwaco Community Building, all of Ilwaco’s long gone street planters and the street trees and the port gardens. And about ten private gardens on top of that. I have to admit, I thought “Mine, mine, mine, mine, and also mine.” Most of those jobs we let go when the owners or managers retired, as we did not want to work for new people. One of them was twice a bad experience. Only Long Beach do we still have. The Ilwaco planters and trees we gave up because we were getting too old to haul tons of water, the community building when a volunteer started ripping out our plants. However, if a garden we used to do looks terrible without us, as a few do, or is completely gone, like the Ilwaco planters, it makes me feel sad. That is why we twice came back out of semi retirement to do Long Beach again.

I love that, like me, Marc “sacked any customers who paid slowly or haggled. I walked off jobs where people were impolite or had unpleasant attitudes. I ended up working for, and with, the loveliest people I could wish for, in gardens that I enjoyed.” I had several jobs for twenty years.

But this is the paragraph, again about the weather no longer much mattering, that might have made my mind up despite that.

I have six weather apps, and my heart is broken that the best one, Dark Sky, with its perfect minute by minute rain forecast, was taken away. I want the work weather to not matter.

Even my joy in reading weather has faded because cold rain is making it hard to get necessary labour done, and impossible to get my garden weeded at home. If I were retired, I could do my own garden in the occasional dry spell and not feel so behind.

What a joy it is, now that I don’t have to labour, to look out at the rain.”

Also, there would be the solitude:

“I am a selfish, solitary man who would rather sit alone on a cushion watching birds fly or a stream go by than to go to play football with friends. I have few friends; I have streams and wind and rocks and rain instead.”…..“I always tried to do what people told me was right: to be a normal person in a social world, I tried to be spontaneous but heard myself say stupid things…trying to fit in.”

There is just a chance that retirement would feel okay. After selling some tools, Marc says, “I used to be a gardener. …These tools created my identity, my ‘being’. I think, ‘He has my tools and identity now.’ But of course it’s merely a label describing a fragment of me—the fragment that most people knew.”

“I plant some ferns around a barrel…There is no rush to doing a days work and earn my pay anymore, I can just do this poetry for myself.”

“We don’t need to plan, we have nothing to do that has to be done.”

I may have made a decision…but I still have to analyse how much of my being DONE has to do with what happened in February. I will have to see what the Long Beach job FEELS like as the spring and summer go on. This year, I have obligations and commitments and probably need the money more than I think I do (especially with my book and plant buying habits).

But to me, at least now, retirement doesn’t mean giving it all up, just some of it. I would like to keep five small and close-by jobs for a couple of years and our two volunteer gardens for as long as we can, and Allan wouldn’t mind that either.

Other than the inspiration for retirement, the book is full of things that speak to me.

The chapters alternate between Marc’s difficult childhood and the present day. Marc as a child: “He builds landscapes with stones from the garden and twigs stuck in bits of mud.” I remember making little landscapes as child, and often remember, when working or digging around in my own garden how I would make little pebblescapes under a gutter by our house or make landscapes with miniature trees and animals on the big train display that my dad had in the basement.

It is good to have a house, a day does not pass without me thinking, ‘I love having a house’.” I am always aware of my good fortune.

A garden is always a place of worship, even if it is a really crappy one. You can tell what people worship, by looking at their gardens.” Crappy, or full of fancy moneyed stuff, or the sterility of red-barkscapes with plants that don’t touch, you can really tell.

Marc’s garden speaks to him and tells him what it wants planted and where. He hopes the same things for visitors to his garden that I do for mine…

Local friends could get the same nature feeling at parts of the beach where vehicles aren’t allowed or in the woodlands nearby, but people do seem to like a garden. Marc also loves “the mosses in the gutters at the sides of the road and the dandelions in the cracks” and so do I to the point when I am sorry when town clean-up days strip the gutters bare. “I love these plants so much, they hang on tight and wild, and I think of them as punks like me who say, ‘Up yours! I’m doing my own thing exactly where and when I please.”

I love his books so much and was bereft to read at the very end that this is the last of the gardening trilogy. I thought that might be a spoiler till I saw it is being used in the advertising for Spring Rain. I envy you if you have not read them yet. You are in for a treat.

And thank you, brilliant writer, for helping me sort myself out.

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I started a new memoir trilogy that was recommended by Pauline Ruffles in her tribute to Derek and Jeannie Tangye, because the author, Jeanine McMullen, had visited the Tangyes at Minack. (And here is some great news for Minack Chronicles readers: Gary Kennon and the Dream Debut have put up their entire delightful album, Minack Dreams, right here on YouTube.)

The visit to Minack wouldn’t happen till the third book. The first tells of how she bought a small farm in Wales, at first commuting from her radio broadcasting career in London and then, when her significant other left her for a woman in a nearby village, moving there full time in 1975 because she had to be there to care for the place and its critters. While I enjoyed the first book very much, I did not immediately become obsessed and decided that the very setting of the Minack Chronicles, on the Cornish coast, is what made that series of 18 memoirs so compelling.

Jeanine longed for the sea, which may be one reason that she loved Minack so much when she finally went there.

Jeanine’s Welsh farm was near the legendary lake of Llyn Y Fan Fach by the Carmarthen Fans.

Jeanine had goats, pigs, a couple of big draft horses, whippets, cats, sheep, poultry, and had a steep learning curve about how to care for their health problems. Like the Tangyes, she had a strong friendship with and frequent calls to the local vet.

As I read, I became increasingly smitten with her, especially with this; the author she particularly meant was James Herriot of All Creatures Great and Small and Thurlough Craig of The Up Country Yearbook (which I must track down if possible).

If I were younger, I’d be doing the same, if only I had read all these books soon enough. (And yet, Jeanine’s books might have given me pause, being most honest about how hard that sort of the life is.)

Her delightfully eccentric mother, Mrs. P. came to live with her most of the time, with an occasional trip back to Australia. She had been a traveling nurse of sorts, and that peripatetic lifestyle of Jeanine’s childhood might be why she longed so much to be settled on the farm.

Jeanine suffered from visitors offering a string of “what you should dos” just as the sisters of St. George Island did (and so do I to a much lesser extent).

Jeanine’s friend Beryl is a woman after my own heart.

And if on dreich days there is no outside stuff to do (although there would be farm animals) there are books to read and share and blog posts to write.

In this first memoir, Jeanine is formulating the radio show that she dreams of doing.

Every description of her farm got me more emotionally involved, especially this one when a horticulturist visits.

Her connection with her acre and a half copse and meadow is similar to how I feel about my Bogsy Wood and willow grove and the threatened frog bog. (Her bridge is an ash tree that fell and rooted at both sides of a stream.)

Like the different names at Minack (Monty’s Leap, Ambrose Rock, the stile named after the man who built it), Jeanine named various spots around her property after events and friends: Place of the Mule, Place of the Otter That Wasn’t, Gwyneth’s Place, Place of Madge’s Amazing Discovery. Makes my garden place names look tamely descriptive.

Allan’s father, Dale, would have loved a walking stick like this. When we would accompany him on his two block walks, he would use his cane to poke weeds out of the sidewalk (and sometimes the edges of people’s gardens. I would find one quite useful in walks around my own garden.

On how weather does not daunt true country people:

I was thrilled when Jeanine mentioned the Green Knowe books (when bringing winter twigs indoors to flower, as my grandma always did). I LOVED those books and must acquire the ones I don’t have and reread them all.

Cleaning house for guests is something that I blissfully have not had to deal with since the pandemic started:

penetrate into the kitchen or bathroom, both will be tolerably decent. ….It is for this reason that I do not

Sometimes it has occurred to me to keep the place tidy all the time, but then I’d never get anything else done.

I feel sort of the same about people who “just drop in” to the garden, although there are certain people who are allowed, mostly ones who entertain themselves (like Scott and Tony!) and are not going to follow me around and talk but will let me get on with whatever task I’ve set for myself. Pre arranged walking-around-and-talking times are quite enjoyable if I am prepared for them and have had a day to weed first.

I love that when Jeanine’s friends visited from the city, they brought shopping from big city stores (just as my dear neighbour Alicia does every time she comes to the house that once was her grandma’s).

By the second and third book, her radio show, A Small Country Living, was in full swing and she traveled the country interviewing interesting people, artists, farmers, craftspeople, musicians, and more. I often paused to google and found that some of those folks are still around.

Some memorable driving instructions from someone Jeanine visited for an interview:

She recorded sound effects of animals, weathers, assorted tools and other background noises and produced the show at home. I long to hear it; it must have been so funny and charming, but I can’t find any of it online anywhere even though it was popular in the 80s. Other radio shows from way further back in time are still to be found. Why? Is it lost to all time?

She is open about the financial struggles of her farm and how close she came to ruin at times. In the third book, she was sent to Cornwall to interview Derek Tangye, on a long train ride with no food available (the dining car on the train closed before she got to it) and completely not thrilled at having to read some of the Minack Chronicles on the way down. Derek picked her up at the station and from then on, she was in heaven. You who are Minack fans will have to get this book and tread the three or four pages about her visits. But here, for me, is more proof that the Minack of Derek’s memoirs was true and real.

The vision of Minack and the Tangye’s emotional support helped her get through some hard times.

She was in Cornwall for a third time on a busy round of radio interviews but did not visit “because I wanted to go to Minack when I was relaxed and calm enough to take it all in properly”. Jeannie Tangye died before she could visit again. Jeannine had under a cottage window at her farm some violets that Jeannie had given her, which had seemingly died in a harsh east wind. When Jeannie died, the violets came back to life and were a reminder for Jeanine of her bright and loving spirit.

As for Jeanine herself, I was so utterly besotted with her that I can hardly bear not knowing anything about her last twenty years. (I just had to go get a tissue for my tears as I come to the end of this blog post.) I did manage to find an obituary of sorts, but it seems to strange to me that someone with a beloved radio show didn’t have more press coverage when she died in 2010 at age 73. As with the Tangyes, I am heartbroken that I did not read her books while she was still alive. Her mother must have predeceased her. I hope that Jeanine had happy years after the time of the memoirs. She will continue to haunt and inspire me.

Her books are not terribly hard to find used, so if you like that sort of thing, and some of you do, I urge you to seek them out. I long to see her work continue to be appreciated.

I did find this, which maddeningly is not listenable, and a book review, here.

And I found a blog called Codlins and Cream which I must thoroughly peruse. The author recommends more books in this vein, including Hovel in the Hills, by Elizabeth West, which I read two decades ago and loved. I am wondering if that was the series of memoirs that culminated in the Forest of Dean. I would like to read that series again, which I think might be about a couple who lived in two or three country settings, but I don’t think I will be buying them and will have to resort to interlibrary loan:

I think Elizabeth West’s books are indeed the ones based on moving from place to place, based on this article.

From Jeanine McMullen’s recommendations, I have gleaned a new list of books to read and have already ordered a four book memoir series by Joyce Fussey.

Joyce Fussey

Thurlough Craig  Up Country Year Book

Ruth Ruck  Place of Stones, Hill Farm Story, Along Came a Llama, The Farming Ladder

Denis Watkins Pritchard (pen name BB?)

The cats enjoyed the rainy days as well.

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Allan joins an anti-ivy mission.

Southwest Washington Paddle Trips

April 8, 2023 No boating today

Today was too stormy to consider exploring the rest of the Skipanon, or even putting a boat to water.

The 15-20 mph wind and showers weren’t bad enough to cancel the North Coast Land Conservancy’s Free the Trees at Skipanon Forest event this year. I had bought free ticket earlier from Mobile eTicket (it helps count registrants) for my first event with them. Soon after, I realized it was forecast to be a 18 to 43 mph storm so we kept in touch, but here we are today with about 20 other volunteers.

The North Coast Land Conservancy has been working since 1986 to conserve the landscape of the Oregon coast. It ranks alongside The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Lands.

I first learned about them after paddling through a rare stand of ancient Sitka Spruce located at Oregon’s Blind Slough Swamp…

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