Sunday, March 18, 2018


At the Gilbert farmhouse, Nov. 23, 1942
When life is quiet, I like to think about my Grandma Ina. She and her home are never far from my thoughts since we live in that place half the year. it's just easy to wonder about her, especially since I wasn't close to her as a child. She passed away when I was eight.

I wouldn't know as much as I do about Ina except that my dad saved letters she wrote to him beginning in the 1930s when she and Grandpa Jack struggled with issues of the Great Depression and loss of market for the crops. In other words, they had debt and limited prospects for the future. My dad didn't like to talk about life on the farm, so I treasure the letters, which I didn't even know about until after Daddy died in 1987. Most of them were written during the holidays, others in the summer and fall, but there are gaps in the information.

And then, about 2000, I made the acquaintance of a second cousin who sent letters written by Ina's sister Bertha, who lived on the adjacent homestead, again dated in the 1930s. In that packet were three precious letters that Ina had written to her sisters (Mabel and Ida) who lived in Drain, Oregon, and those have a different tone than what she wrote to my dad. I'm sharing excerpts from one of those letters here.

Ina wrote the following to her sisters in Drain, Oregon, in June of 1934:

We've been having a good big rain and are very busy canning and sewing. 

Mabel -- I’m sending the dress at last. I didn’t cut off seams so you could alter if necessary. I lost the paper having your measures on it. I thought the gray not so good for you so got organdy and made the collar. I put in those old shirts for patches. Shirttails make good sacks. You see you are not the only one who patches. Would have put in another puzzle but didn’t have room. Tell Mona [a niece] she can get a cute thin curtain for her kitchen window in one of the Sear’s sales. It costs 28 cents for the sash ones. Hope you can make use of the old curtains. You tint them nicely by using a 10-cent package of Putnam dye. Orange.

Ida – I think you can alter that coat into a ¾ length and the collar can be turned. It is such nice material. 

Have just been down to the garden and found the Drain squashes growing fine but the little beans from Nellie are not growing. Found one hill rotted but I planted a hill of the red ones, too, and so shall wait a little longer. 

I’m still enjoying [memories of] my Drain visit. It was so beautiful. 
Must close now with lots of love, Ina.

I just can't help but wonder how the sisters in Drain perceived the gift of hand-me-down clothes. Did they need them? Perhaps they did. Was Ina giving of her surplus, or was she giving away clothing that she (or daughter Shirley) could have used? Ina even realized the color of the dress (gray) was not good for Mabel, so she went to the trouble to make it an organdy collar.

As to the garden, evidently the Drain sisters gave Ina seed from their squash and beans. The squash was growing but not the beans. My dad was cautious about saving seed. Sometimes you have better results with professionally packaged seeds. Or not. As far as I'm concerned, gardening is a great gamble. KW

[The photo from left to right: Ida Dickson Patchen (Ina's eldest sister); Edna Patchen (Ida's daughter); Vance Dobson (my dad); Ina Dickson Dobson (my grandmother); Pearl Dobson Sanders (Ina's eldest daughter); and Julian "Jack" Dobson (my grandfather).]

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Drought-tolerant perennials have yet to awaken
As a rule, in the cold months I make a pot of herbal tea for our mid-morning break. It's better for us than many other calorie-laden options. Making the tea falls to me since Mike seems to think it's difficult. No, boiling water is not difficult, but perhaps my rather involved routine makes him think so.

It takes a long time for the tap water to come in hot, and it seems so wasteful just to run water down the drain. So, first I turn on the water -- all the way to the hot side. Then I grab the dogs' water pail and fill it with the water, which is still running cool. I also pour any residual water from the tea kettle into the pail. Next, I refill the kettle with fresh water, which is now becoming warm(er), and set it to heat on the stove. If I have dishes in the sink (and we have so few to wash that I generally save them for this occasion), I begin to run a sinkful of hot water so that I can wash the dishes. Now the the water is hot, so I can finally fill the thermal pot in order to warm it for the near-boiling water from the stove. By this time the teakettle begins to rumble, and I pour the clear water from the thermal pot into the dishwater in the sink and begin to steep the tea bag in the pot of nearly boiling water from the stove.
Crocus blooms amid "snow-in-summer"

Of course, none of this is important. In order to make tea, all you really need is a tea bag, a pot, and boiling water.

Now that the tap water is hot, this is also a good time to run the dishwasher, but sometimes that just doesn't work out. KW

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


The new neighbors will look right into our house
Mike headed out for a little motocaching. He invited me along, but the wild blue yonder doesn't call to me like it does to him. He found three out of four caches and he's already back -- so no worries.

Did I tell you? Mike and I have joined a yoga class -- 8:45-9:30 a.m., Mon-Wed-Fri. -- instructed by someone Mike knows through cycling. He checked it out mid-January and said he wanted to continue, so I went along. It's mostly older women -- just two men. We both feel it's been beneficial in terms of flexibility, balance, and staving off joint pain.

New racing stripe on GTI
Now we're adjusting once again to daylight savings time. According to the clock, we eat late. The dogs want their afternoon walk at 4:00 instead of 3:00. We go to bed early because we can't stay awake, and we sleep in till 8:00 because that's really 7:00 by the inner clock. We re-set all clocks except the Magnum, which isn't intuitive and we forget how to do it from one change to the next. Overall, I guess it's good to have a long evening, especially for people who work indoors all day. Maybe we should just stick with that plan.

Daughter Hallie wrote yesterday to complain. "I say this every year, but I do really mean it: I HATE THE TIME CHANGE. I heard a radio spot that listed off all the reasons why its unhealthy to screw with your time routine. Why are we still doing this?? I went to bed at 10pm, which is maybe 30 minutes earlier than normal and was so tired that I got up at 6:45, which is basically when I normally get up. So, I walked Primo [their dog] and just tried to get ready faster so that I wouldn't be terribly late to work. I was still kind of late, but I promise you that I was not the only one."

The early bloomers are making a show  -- crocus and forsythia. My daffodils haven't opened yet, but in other places around town, they are in full bloom. This morning Mike and I watched from the bedroom window as half a dozen goldfinches played in a lavender bush. In the morning, I still need my winter uniform of warm-ups and sweatshirt, but by afternoon I'm searching my wardrobe for lighter clothes. But -- according to the forecast, temps will drop again tomorrow. And maybe we'll get some rain.

Bess loves this sunny spot

Oh -- and Bess brought home a couple of ticks from a hike at Chief Timothy Island. KW

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Looking over Lewiston toward the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers in the distance
As Mike and I walked the dogs yesterday, a pick-up was kicking up a trail of dust along the gravel road -- the first dust of the season.The weekend was nice with highs in low 60s, but it was 32 this morning.

Though perhaps it's a little too soon to plant the garden, it's definitely not to soon to be making plans. I have decided to discontinue my fight to grow raspberries at the farm, and Mike and I plan to plant the bank behind the house in drought-tolerant perennials. It's a challenging experiment since it's clay soil (poor drainage) in a hot, dry location. I've already sustained losses there. We'll see how it goes. Plants are expensive, and I wouldn't mind if they would agree to make themselves at home. But when they just curl up and die, I see it as a financial loss.

A northerly view over the Clearwater
The photos here were taken Friday, March 9, from the Lewiston home of a friend. She has a nice view of the Lewis-Clark Valley, though houses now interfere to some degree. It was a cold and blustery day, but Saturday and Sunday were nice.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


I have just a few finishes to show for a winter that seemed rather long.

It was hard for me to decide if this Christmas throw (pattern from the Red Heart yarn website) is really finished. Another repeat of the pattern wouldn't hurt, but I'd rather crochet doll clothes. I'll see. 

The other day I sent this crocheted sweater, two skirts, and some accessories to Hazel. It's time to think about summer outfits for the dolls now. I don't remember that as a girl I was concerned about whether my dolls had seasonal clothing, but today it seems to matter.

The woodpile between house and garage is depleted now and Mike has cleaned the area. He hoped that pile would last through January and we managed to make it through February. Don't worry, though. We have plenty of wood behind the shed. He plans to work out of the wheelbarrow for the rest of the season. We will still need evening fires for a while yet.

Yesterday I presided at my last meeting as president of my P.E.O. chapter. I have served four terms as president in ten years, and I will not serve as an officer this next year. I feel greatly relieved. I arrived home from the meeting costumed for St. Patrick's Day and carrying a lovely gift from the chapter, so Mike insisted on taking my picture. Nellie posed beside me. KW

Saturday, March 3, 2018


Here's a delightful gingerbread recipe from a mid-century child's cookbook published by the good folks at Westinghouse. This little book belongs to my friend Chris, whose father bought it for her when she was little, and she kindly forwarded a scan of the recipe to me. Here's what she wrote about it:

"The copyright on the little cookbook is 1951.  My tipsy handwriting in it looks to be circa third grade (note the word Monday in the top left of the gingerbread recipe), which was probably the first year I was capable of cooking the recipes with some help.  The cover is missing, but in my memory it was red cardstock.  The pages are 8 ½ x 11.  The price?  Fifty cents.  It’s a treasure to me but it’s not in very good shape."

And that's the way it is with treasures. Sometimes they aren't in good shape because we used them. Price in the day: fifty cents. Price today: PRICELESS.

I think you'd enjoy reading through the mixing directions, which are entertaining as well as educational. Though written for a child's use, this is a standard gingerbread recipe.

And note the SECRET: "In the United States Senate dining room they serve gingerbread every noon. Some of the Senators eat it like bread. It's such a healthful food for all of us to eat." I was unsuccessful in efforts to discover if they still serve gingerbread in the Senate dining room. I doubt it.

I think my mother would have agreed that gingerbread is a healthful food, but I'm not sure it has a place in today's concept of a healthy diet. KW

Return to product informationUPDATE: I found the book on Amazon for $12.00 -- "Sugar an' Spice and all things nice."

Friday, March 2, 2018


Here are two gingerbread recipes from Grandma Ina's box.

Grandma Applegate's Gingerbread
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup butter (now you're talkin')
1 tsp each of cloves, cinnamon, and ginger
2 tsp soda stirred into 1 cup of boiling water
2 1/2 cups flour
2 well-beaten eggs stirred in last thing
Bake in moderate oven 40 minutes.

On the back of this recipe card Ina glued a newspaper clipping dated 1940 about Mrs. Virginia Estes Applegate of Roseburg, Oregon, who was celebrating her 93rd birthday. Her husband was Daniel W. Applegate, son of Jesse Applegate of early pioneering days' fame. (Jesse Applegate was instrumental and finding a less dangerous river crossing along the Oregon Trail.) Under Mrs. Applegate's photo, Ina had written "Aunt Jennie," which implies she knew Mrs. Applegate personally -- and also wanted the rest of us to know. And then next to that clipping, there's another for "Tasty Gingerbread." Unfortunately, a corner of the clipping is torn, so I had to guess as to the words that might have been there.

Tasty Gingerbread
Cream 3 tablespoons butter and 1 cup sugar and add one beaten egg.
Sift together one and a half cups flour, one teaspoon soda, a quarter teaspoon salt, a teaspoon each of ginger and cinnamon, and add to the first mixture alternately with a half cup milk and a half cup molasses mixed together.
Pour into a shallow buttered pan and bake 30 to 40 minutes.

That recipe concludes with the following statement: "Good gingerbread solves the problem of what to offer when unexpected company drops in." Hmmmm. How will I know when to expect the unexpected company so that I'm ready with the gingerbread? KW

[Update: I baked Grandma Applegate's Gingerbread. I think it's the best I've made to date -- the best flavor and the best texture. I really like cloves.]