The Idiosyncrasies of Isolation

When can you remember (as an adult, not a child) having a time where you no longer had any commitments? No obligations? No appointments? Not working? Well, in Washington State, as of midnight last night, this is the status quo. Our governor declared that we not leave our homes for any non-essential reason.  We have a governing body that has decided what is essential and we are supposed to conform to that.  Medical issues, groceries, pharmacies, liquor stores (wow?) are open for our essential needs.  Almost all others, including the Boeing Company, employing almost a quarter of a million people and the largest employer in Washington state, are closed.

It is amazing what a virus can do.  We have a large number of confirmed cases here on the island where I live and the mainland across the sea from me has many more (65confirmed {March 25, 2020, the fifth largest number for a county in the state).  Western Washington was the first site of the outbreak and it is growing daily.  This virus is much stronger than the ones we have had in past years, though in the 2018-2019 winter season over 34,000 people died of flu in the US.  This one poses an even great threat, so mass isolation has been issued here in our state.

I live on a five acre farm and I can go out and work in the gardens, take a walk, and be outdoors as long as I maintain a distance of six feet from my neighbors.  I seldom see my neighbors.  I am an artist and I have been painting, painting, painting.  I have all the time I want to paint.

Idiosyncrasies? Well, my husband and I have been getting along better than ever.  We never have had so much time together.  I was worried that the constant contact would bring about bickering, but quite the contrary. We are having a great time.  Maybe having more time to interact has brought us closer.  We sit at breakfast and have discussions about all sorts of things, sometime for hours.  (I don’t have to get out of my jammies until I want.) We may see more divorces and we may see a boom in the babies born nine months hense.

Idiosyncrasies? We will probably get fat, but we are making all kinds of wonderful meals.  Tonight was Beef Stroganoff, last night was Swedish meatballs.  We fixed Chinese dumplings a biaozi (steam buns) with hot and sour soup and onion pancakes, pecan pie, peanut butter/chocolate cookies—FROM SCRATCH.  You get the idea.  I think that we will get fat during our incarceration!

Idiosyncrasies? Well the downside is we drink more alcohol.  Not a good thing.  Makes you fat and is addictive.  Enough said about that.

Idiosyncrasies?  The house is cleaner than it normally is.  This is a good time for spring cleaning and preparing to get rid of the “non-essential” stuff that has been a burden for who knows how long.  Clean out the closet of anything you haven’t worn in a year or that doesn’t fit, but you are hoping to fit into soon. Not likely since we are eating so much better and drinking more and probably gaining weight, but don’t have the nerve to get on scale to find out.

Idiosyncrasies? Communicating more than we normally would.  We are sending email and phoning relatives and friends a lot more often than we would normally would.  We don’t usually use the telephone this much, but people call to see how we are and we have a number of folks we check on as well, some because we cannot go out or because they cannot go out, but just to be sure that all is well with everyone we know.

Has this isolation caused us to do things much differently? Well, my husband and I are not particularly social people, so we do not miss the parties, dinners and social engagements too much because for us they are few and far between. We do have friends that have contracted the virus and who were in compromised positions even before that, so we are keeping them close to our hearts and trying to stay in touch every day.  We are trying to see to any needs they may have without compromising our own situation. (Ordering deliveries from Amazon for their needs or for gifts.)

I must say there is a new freedom I feel as a result of this isolation.  When I was very young and asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I replied, “I want to be a hermit.” In all honesty I guess I still enjoy a life free of the encumbrances of society. If nothing else it would give me time to do whatever I wanted, be it mend the broiler on my oven (which went out last and I am waiting for parts) or painting and creating to my heart’s content.

This coronavirus is a bad thing and we should all treat it with respect.  We are staying isolated even to the dismay of some our friends, but my spouse has compromised lung issues and it would be devastating to our household if it enters our lives. Better to be safe than sorry.  To parrot the governor, “Stay home, stay healthy.”

Remember, life is fragile, protect it.

If you are doing something wonderful in your time off, freedom from commitment, let us know.

The Race to the Finish

old woman

Remember when you were a kid?  Time seemed to drag on and on.  When you had to wait for Mom, it seemed like she was gone for days instead of hours.

When you are two days old, today is half of your life.  No wonder when you are five and your playmates aren’t around, time really seems to drag.  Remember having to wait at the table until everyone finished eating?  You couldn’t get out of there fast enough, especially if the food wasn’t something you liked.

When we are children, summer days, waiting for family or friends, these things take up a larger percentage of our lives.  By the time we are five, summer vacation takes up about 5% of our life, i.e. 1/20th of our life.  At this point in my live 1/20th would be more than four years.  Yikes.  That would be a long time.  Hopefully it would be filled with fun rather than waiting for friends to come out and play.

Now I am toward the end of my time.  Summer, the time that in the Puget Sound Basin of the Pacific Northwest, is the only time we can expect some reasonable weather.  The sun will generally shine and there are about three months of decent weather.  The remaining year is either dark, wet, snowy, cold or all of the above.

If I were to be generous, I would say three months of tolerable weather, the key word here is tolerable. This seems like such a short time.  If I harken back to the three month summer vacation mentioned earlier, and compare it to the days I have spent living, it is a little less than .3% of my life, not the 5% of my early days. No wonder the good weather seems to last such a brief time, it is just a flash in the pan.

My days, now that I am partially retired, seem like a moment.  I cannot finish anything I set out to do.  I have more time to do chores and projects now that I don’t work full time, but it seems that I have less time to do everything.  I know, you’re thinking, she is older and slower because she is older, that’s the reason she doesn’t get much done.

Not true.  I may move slower, but I do accomplish some chores in record time.  If a project takes a month, it is such a small part of my total life, that can I finish in .1% of my life?  Too little time to accomplish that?  If I were ten years old, that would give me eight times the amount of time to finish it (.8%)!

I think you get my point.  Time flies when you are getting old.  I look back on some event that I think happened six months ago and realize that three years has passed.  Friends sold their home and it seems like it was yesterday, but it was two years ago.  A friend passed away and it has been six months and I still haven’t sent a card to their family, thinking it was only a short time ago.  Shame on me.  I didn’t forget, I just felt I was still in the proper time frame to acknowledge their loss.

When you are racing for the finish, it really seems to fly.  I suppose if I were in poor health, rather than wanting to try new things, go new places and meet new people, it may drag.  I have a friend who has been five years in a full care facility due to lack of mobility and the ability to take care of herself.  She finds time to turn out beautiful paintings with the only limb that moves, her non-dominate left hand. She tries to find things to keep her busy and to stimulate her mind.  I should be so lucky to have that drive if it were to happen to me.

So as I “race to the finish,” may I work hard to find those new things, places and people and enjoy them to the enth degree. I hope as you race to the finish that it is as full and wonderful as mine.

 

 

 

Wandering in Northeast Washington State.

This was written while we were camping a couple of weeks ago,but we did not have access to the internet so am publishing it when we have returned.  Sorry about the delay.100_4644

We have been camping for almost two weeks now and one week near Republic at Curlew Lake. Today we went to Republic to do the laundry and check out the ice cream shop, Virginia’s.  I had a great huckleberry cone and my husband, chocolate.

 

We decided to take a run up to a National Forest campground south of town to scope it out for camping next year.  There are three beautiful lakes about twelve miles south of town, Long Lake, Ferry Lake and Swan Lake.  Long and Swan would probably take our glamping equipment, but Ferry would be a tight squeeze.  The cost for these is $6 and $8 for a night’s stay.  We have a National Parks Senior’s pass, a once in a lifetime purchase of $10 which allows us to stay in the facilities for half price.  Such a deal. Only vault toilets and we didn’t see any fresh, potable water or any water other than the lake, available there.  We will need to carry it with us if we stay next year.

 

After our side trip, it was late enough to stop in Republic at the local aged firestation, now a brewery.  The weather being pretty nice, the big garage doors were open to the street.  It is a fire station that is probably over one hundred years old with a pressed tin ceiling, concrete floors covered with peanut shells and the smell of beer being brewed right there on the premises.  It is a locals hangout, but the natives are friendly and so we went in to try a couple. As I sat in the back of the station and looked at the sun shining through the big door opening, I watched the seed fairies fly by illuminated by the sunlight.  It was like a small snowstorm cruising by parallel with the street.  As folks walked by the opening, folks inside would hail those who passed by, greeting and laughing in recognition.  Hometown friendly.

 

Now we find out that tomorrow afternoon at the brewery there will be Cowboy Poetry!  I have only been to a couple of these events, but love them.  They are soooo nostalgic and being a farm girl myself, having raised cows in my early life, I can relate to this poetry in a way I cannot relate to any other.  I have even purchased books of cowboy poetry.  I am really looking forward to this.

 

One of the interesting things about this area is no cellphone service.  For those who have an unbilical cord attachment to the phone, you would probably go bananas here.  I notice some folks have satellite dishes but we abstain.  A trip to town (Republic) will give us a signal and we can check in at the farm to make sure all is OK, which it is.  Our neighbor is watching over it for us.

 

We are heading home the following day and my big project on the return trip will be to score ten dozen ears of corn that isn’t too old.  I hate the store bought, the frozen and the canned.  It should all be fed to cows.  Hopefully I will find my quest, that of young corn. Here in eastern Washington, corn actually ripens.  At home it is an iffy proposition as my own corn patch proves. I blanch it, cut it off the cob, and freeze it for us to eat the rest of the year.  If I do not find it, we will do without. Pulling a trailer and trying to search farm country for produce can be a problem as we do not have the ability to turn around in tight spaces.

 

Today was the first really sunny day we had, so we really enjoyed it.  We came over the Cascades to find the sun, but hadn’t had much this far into the trip.  Though it hasn’t been cold, it hasn’t been hot like we expected and sought.  We still had a great vacation and will be back again next year, maybe with a couple of days at Swan Lake.

Camping or should I say Glamping

royale

(the photos are not my rig, but they Are beautiful)

In recent times, the term glamping has come into use in the U.S.  This is a combination of glamour and camping.  No more cooking over a fire (good most summers when there are severe fire restrictions, as right now).  No more sleeping with the slugs crawling over you.  No more freezing nights when you have to wear everything you brought with you in order to keep warm. No more going without washing for days on end.

I participated in all of this for years, dirty body, dirty clothes, half washed dishes if washed at all.  The dog can do a better job of washing the dishes than a paper towel any day and what do I do with the dirty paper towel, I have to carry it out.  I have slept on picnic tables to avoid rattlesnakes cuddling up with me for warmth, I have had my sleeping bag soaked and not drying for a week. I have had slugs sucking on my neck. Yuck!

I am now a glamper.  I think at seventy-one years old I have earned this right, paid my dues.  I also think that my age and my physical condition probably would be best camped a little closer to civilization rather in the hinterland somewhere.  I miss those wild, remote, private places, but I can still enjoy the fresh mountain air, the walks in the woods around the campground, and the smell of bacon cooking in the fresh morning air.

Yesterday nine deer walked up to the area where my travel trailer is sitting at Curlew Lake State Park in Eastern Washington State.  One of them even followed one of the other campers back to her rig, probably hoping for a handout. Today they have come down from the desert above to eat all the fallen leaves on the grass.  The park attendant will not have to rake leaves as they ate every one of them.  Cleaned it up beautifully. Perhaps there is a mineral or vitamin they lack in their usual environment.  I did notice that they do not eat the lush green grass around the campground, preferring the dry brush and grasses up the hill.

I have been painting crows recently and am looking to get more reference photos for my work.  Crows visit all campgrounds and there was a murder of crows consisting of fifteen sitting in the shade of one of the deciduous trees just up the hill. I try to entice them with the “old maids” from last night’s popcorn when I can snap a few photos.  They are very camera shy.

This campground seems devoid of chipmunks and squirrels, but the last one in the higher elevations had many gathering last minute foodstuffs for their winter’s sleep.  Fat and furry, they were almost ready as some areas have already had their first frosts.

Bears, rattlesnakes, poison sumac, ivy and oak are some of the hazards of camping, even at this easier form.  Bears are attracted to the goodies left around by careless campers and can ransack a sight while your back is turned, even in broad daylight.  Squirrels and crows can do almost as much damage as the bears.

In this area we have seen black bear and moose, both which you should avoid.  Haven’t seen any snakes as the nights are in the low 50’s and they are probably far outside the bustle of the campground.

Fishing is a big past time here, but we haven’t participated in that in recent years.  I used to be a worm dangler with a good book and my husband a fly fisherman, but our differing styles don’t make for compatible fishing.  Now I just like to watch the turtles sunning themselves on deadheads (floating dead trees in the water) in the lake.  Sometimes they come inland and you might scare them when walking through tall grass and mistake them for a rattler.

Glamping means I can cook in my usual style, which is gourmet extravagant.  With a three burner gas stove, oven, refer, and double sink, I can cook almost anything I can make at home.  I have a shower with hot and cold water.  Some glampers even have clothes washers and dryers, but that is a bit much for me.  I have a soft bed with real sheets.  I also have heat for the cold nights in the mountains.

Glamour camping, glamping, may have its drawbacks, it may seem extravagant, it probably seems silly to the hard core, but at my age I can still enjoy the scene and the wildlife around me without the hazards of needing to be airlifted out if I fall and break something.  I can still enjoy the great outdoors and be comfortable.glamping

Cowboy/girl poetry

I just recently returned from vacation.  While I was wandering around Eastern Washington, I happened on a cowboy poetry event.  I learned of it the night before and I am especially fond of cowboy poetry because it rhymes and has rhythm.  I get flummoxed by  poetry that doesn’t have either.

Well the upshot is, I wrote a poem the next morning and my husband coerced me into reading it at the event. It is my first venture into cowboy/girl poetry. Mine was simple, neither complex nor elaborate.  Some produce epic poems with long tales to tell, but here is mine, such as it is.  I think that much of the subtleties were lost on the audience.  I guess you need to be a farmer or rancher to understand some of them.

The Rancher’s Wife

 

Work from dawn to setting sun,

The rancher’s work is never done.

Milk the cow, geld the bull,

Ranching life is never dull

 

Pick the beans, gather eggs,

Clean the barn, repair the rigs.

Mow the field, bale the hay,

What to do rest of day?

 

To the bank to make a deal.

We need to buy another wheel.

Try to keep the wolves at bay.

And live to fight another day.

 

Little sleep at night from worry.

Get up early and start to hurry.

Line crews up and needs their grub,

Scrub laundry with lots of suds.

 

Now its time to mend the fence.

How can those beeves be so dense

As to lean and pull and ravage them?

We could just lock them in the pen.

 

Calves get skinny and horses founder.

What business plan could be much sounder?

Sheep need dippin’ and chicks are pippin’,

The ranch wife’s life ain’t coffee sippin.

 

Traded satin for Sorrel boots

Long and far from my roots.

College never taught me this

But hard work brings me bliss.

 

In the heat of sun or the chill of snow

We are out at sunrise, on the go.

Rain and sleet, sweat and chill,

To give up ranching, ‘never will.

 

 

 

Summer Showers (The Perseid Meteor Showers)

sleeping outNote the chiminea for firelight and the water feature for a nice, restful water sound.

Summer Showers (The Perseid Meteor Showers)

As you may have gatherer from my previous missals, we are not having a very great summer.  We have had cool, rainy days even in August.  But, wonder of wonders, we have had a few hot days just recently.  This means it is time to pull out the outdoor sleeping arrangements.  For us it is an old futon frame, an air mattress and usually mosquito netting.

The nighttime temperatures this past week have been in the mid sixties and this is great for sleeping out.  So last night we slept out.  There was a particular motivation for doing this.  It is one of the several nights that the Perseid Meteor Showers are visible in our area.

It was about 72 degrees outside at ten when we packed up and went to sleep on the patio.  Very comfortable to be sleeping out with a light quilt.  We took an extra quilt just in case. We didn’t have our mosquito netting because it has seen better days and needs to be replaced.  No Zika yet in our area.

Instead of the netting, I opted for three small citronella candles in terra cotta flower pots to keep them safe. The smudge to keeps the blood-thirsty buggers at bay.  It worked and created a great ambience for falling asleep without too much light interference to see the stars.

Moths were attracted to the light of the candles and were flitting around over our heads in the dim light.  I commented on that.  Then suddenly other critters arrived.  Yes, the bats. These are very effective at controlling the mosquitoes.  When night falls, bats take over. A nursing female little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) may consume her body weight in insects each night during the summer. They were circling overhead until I blew out all but one of the candles.  Three candles were keeping us awake.  One candle was enough smudge and the moths were no longer attracted.

We live in peace with the bats here and see them often in the late dusk.  Many folks mistakenly identify them as late hunting swallows as their flight patterns are similar.  We don’t correct them because many feel negatively toward bats.  There is nothing to fear with these small animals.  They are beneficial.

I did manage to see on meteor blip across the sky momentarily, before finally took my glasses off and went to sleep.

It was a pretty sleepless night;  the excitement of sleeping outside,  the waking and searching the sky yet again to see meteors, the dog stealing the covers.  All made for a wakeful night.

By early morning I reached for the extra quilt, firstly because my husband and the dog had most of the covers and, secondly, because I was cold. We got up about 7:30 to a bright clear day.  We both had finally fallen sound asleep in the wee hours to wake to daylight. I commented that I had been chilly and that it was a little more “refreshing” than we had expected consider the heat of yesterday.

When I came in the house, I checked the temperature and it was 54 degrees outside.  No wonder we were cold.  When it is this temperature in the fall and we are sleeping out, I bring out the down quilt, not the thin one I used on the bed last night! Tonight we will be prepared, and maybe we might just see meteors.

The County Fair

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Cock of the walk

It isn’t called the county fair any longer.  It is now the Whidbey Island Area Fair.  It is still the same fair, carnival, hotdogs, cotton candy, blue ribbon cows, pigs, sheep, goats, horses.  Lots of folks and lots of things to see including vegetables of all sizes and shapes, beautiful flowers, photography, fine arts, crafts, quilts and needle work.  All kinds of people in all shapes, sizes, and some are multicolored, showing off their body artwork in scantily clad attire. Unfortunately, it rained this last evening of the fair and people were leaving in droves.  The band that was highlighted this evening had a small audience after the rain started.  The food vendors lost almost all their customers and the carnival rides were looking wet and deserted.

We usually go to the fair the first day to see the flowers, and vegetables and fruits before they wilt and shrivel and before the mold starts on the pies and bread.  The goods look attractive and appealing then.  They were beginning to look a little frowsy by today.

Vegetable critters are a hoot.  Kids have a competition making things from various vegetable parts.  We like to see these the first day while these critters are still recognizable as something.  By today, the last day, they are morphing (moldering) into something that was never expected by their creators. Some are pretty interesting after four days without benefit of any refrigeration.

Of course there are the commercial displays with the hawkers trying to lure us to the vegimatic choppers or the synthetic jeweled jewelry that is a cheap price.  The cable TV companies want us to subscribe to their four hundred stations and I just smile.  We haven’t owned a television for almost forty-five years now.  They would have better luck trying to sell me a book.

We saw chariot races in the arena this year, something I don’t remember seeing in the past.  Teams of four semi miniature horses racing flat out against each other.  Kind of breath-taking.  All in good fun and not a battle, just a race.

The greatest animal participation is the horses.  There must be five horse clubs in this jurisdiction and they all come decked out for parades, competitions, races and just judging of the animals.  Lots and lots of ribbons there.

The poultry barn was the usual din.  Roosters crowing constantly were competing with the hens squawking.  The bantam (miniature) roosters crowing voices are several octaves above that of the “heavy” (read large) breeds.  The poor, sleepy rabbits cohabitate in the same barn and don’t speak a word as their breathing and esophageal parts are separate and they have no voice box.  Chickens also make a great deal of dust.  Eggs are judged here as well for consistency of color, size and freshness.  This is one of my favorite barns being a chicken farmer myself.

Well it is the second week in August and at nine tonight the fair will close for this year.  All the folks camping at the fair will go home and resume their real lives with 9 to 5 jobs from which they have taken time off for the festivities at the fair.

As I mentioned it rained.  Most of the days were cool in the 60’s for the most part.  This was good for the animals as they didn’t get over-stressed by heat.  I am not sure that they didn’t get over-stressed by people looking, poking them, giving them things to eat they shouldn’t eat and more, so I think the animals are probably the most grateful to return home to rest until we do it all again next year.

email Pig #1 (caught in the flowers again