Monday, October 21, 2019


A couple of days ago, UPS delivered my fruit picker basket on 13-foot telescoping pole, an item I have wanted for years but put off ordering, Half the fun of ordering something is anticipation of delivery, but Amazon doesn't make us wait long. 

Other recent deliveries have included a Barbie doll, a shirt and leggings for me, hunter orange mittens for Mike, and a package of yarn. I couldn't begin to enumerate all the stuff that Mike orders. Perhaps he feels the same about me. And yes, sometimes we get surprises, such as a box of chocolates from brother Chuck or the lined jeans that a son found in a thrift store in Mike's hard-to-find size. Getting a package is a bright spot in any day.

I'm reminded of a "Little Golden Book" I loved in childhood, Seven Little Postmen by Margaret Wise Brown and Edith Thacher Hurd and illustrated by Tibor Gergely -- all famous, long gone, and having their own internet presence. My copy was published in 1952 by Simon and Schuster.

"Mrs. Potter" -- a.k.a. Mrs. Warnock
Seven Little Postmen follows the letter that a little boy writes to his grandmother. Once the boy puts the letter into the mailbox, it's handled six times until it's picked up by the seventh little postman, the RFD delivery person. The book then shows the seventh postman making personal deliveries to the people on his route, bringing anticipated deliveries or surprises and (mostly) making people happy. The book spoke to me in childhood and it still speaks to me today. What fun it is to get mail!

How long ago was 1952? Gosh! 67 years. Even though the delivery process outlined in the book is outdated, the anticipation and joy at delivery are still the same.

Grandmas used to look like this.
As an aside, RFD (Rural Free Delivery) was a godsend to folks living on farms. Otherwise, they had to go to town and call at the post office for their mail. As we segued from farming with horses to mechanization, some of the old timers were unable to keep up with the times. Still in the 1950s, the country folk could make arrangements for their rural mail carrier to pick up and deliver groceries or other necessities. I an remember my dad arranging for the mailman to take something from town to Grandma Ina on the farm. This service enabled many elderly farm people to remain in their homes.

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." -- inscribed on the James Farley Post Office in New York City. KW

Wednesday, October 16, 2019


Sunday's trip to the farm was the first for our new Jeep -- and the first ride of any distance for me. It's amazing how much vehicles have changed since the Dakota was new 20 years ago -- or even the Magnum in 2006. I was pleasantly surprised that I can connect and play my iPod.  Of course, there are plenty of other more up-to-date media options.

While Mike was encouraging Blaze into the canyon (see previous post), I heated the oven and baked a batch of cookies to add a little extra warmth to the house. Within an hour, Mike had accomplished what he had thought might take several hours, or even more than one day, or perhaps wouldn't be accomplished at all. He was already having a good day by mid-morning and was then free to visit a neighbor, watch football, and take Bess for a hunt.

I, on the other hand, made elderberry jelly. As Hallie says, jelly-making is almost a two-person job. I missed her. Well, I can do it alone -- many people do. You just have to be organized. It was difficult because I had no Sure-Gel on hand and had to use Pomona's pectin, which isn't my favorite. It's a nice soft-set gel but doesn't call for much sugar, and in my opinion elderberry jelly isn't tasty without plenty of sugar. I'm also afraid I used too much water when I cooked the berries. I thought the jelly  lacked flavor, but Mike didn't seem to think so. Nevertheless, this batch just isn't up to my usual, and my reputation is at stake. A jar of this batch won't be going to the silent auction. I hope to make another batch soon.

I picked apples again in order to round out my sample bags for the apple detective. Last week we missed the trees on the place that was originally my great-uncle Ben Dickson's homestead. Late Sunday afternoon we rode over there cross country on the 4-wheeler and picked a sampling of those large and luscious apples. A few years ago the neighbor who now owns that property granted me permission to pick those apples, but she seemed really reserved and I felt there was something on her mind. Finally she said, "You know that apple tree just before you get to your lane? That's an awesome tree!" I guess the apples are always better in the neighbor's yard. (Oh yes -- I have a sampling from that tree for the apple detective as well.)

Farmer Kyle was seeding the neighbor's field and worked late into Sunday evening. All of his exterior lights were on. What a sight in this place!

It was gloriously wonderful to get up Tuesday morning and not see the horse in the yard.We are guardedly optimistic that we have guided him to a better place. I hope he gets the care he deserves. KW

Sunday, October 13, 2019


 As planned we went to the farm today (Sunday) to try to vacate Blaze from our property.  Not to our surprise, there was another load of manure in the yard.

As soon as we unpacked 
the Jeep I got my tools and set out on the               4-wheeler.  I circled the south field but didn't see Blaze.  However, as I approached his old path through the fence I spied him along the fence line in front of me.  I stopped at his old entrance and he came down to see me.  He actually watched a while as I was removing the fence.  The fence is down an embankment so I lost sight of him as he moved north above the fence line.  When finished I got on the 4-wheeler and moved in the same direction looking for him.  Finally I spied him up in the woods above the field where I couldn't go with the 4-wheeler.  I dismounted and approached him on foot.  He doesn't really fear me so I can get within about five feet of him before he moves on.  So I kept herding him on foot back and forth until I got him back in the field and eventually down to the fence line.  We were still north of the opening and a time or two he went down the embankment trying unsuccessively to find a way over the fence.  Finally I got him down to his old trail down to the canyon.  

He stopped and looked it over a moment and then felt it was safe enough to cautiously proceed across the downed fence.  He seemed happy to get back to the canyon but not nearly as happy as I was.  Then I restored the fence and if he makes it back it will have to be a different route.  I returned to the house, cleaned up the manure in the yard and hit the Easy Button.  M/W

Saturday, October 12, 2019


Even though we were in town, the saga of Blaze the Horse continued by means of phone on Wednesday. 

The outfitter sent an employee to the farm who located Blaze and said he isn't theirs, adding that he isn't in great shape and they don't want him. The employee did not have a horse trailer with him -- which means he went to the farm with no intention of taking the horse -- and he said he's an old guy and unable to wrestle with a horse anyway. A horse can come from a long ways away, he said, and he volunteered to post a picture of him in Nezperce. 

Roaming livestock IS a frustrating problem.  The law of the closed range provides that the property owner shall corral and feed roaming livestock, then contact the brand inspector, who in turn contacts the owner. The property owner can then charge the animal owner for the feed. We feel that this is an outdated law, but it IS the law governing the situation at this time. It is beyond our ability to corral and feed a horse, and we know no one who can. Meanwhile the horse is roaming and neglected. 

It's different with stray dogs and cats, of course. They are not livestock.

The priority for our next trip to the farm is to: 1) open the fence; 2) locate the horse; 3) try to herd said horse into the canyon; 4) close the fence again. However, we suspect the horse knows more than one way into and out of the canyon. He also knows the fence is closed, so it might be difficult to herd him to that spot in the fence.

On a more positive note, Mike was successful in fixing the lawnmower throttle cable. He says he owes his success to his German "friend" on YouTube. He serviced the lawnmower, too, and put it to bed for the winter. KW

Thursday, October 10, 2019


At 12:30 Tuesday morning, Bess commenced to bark from the confines of her woodshed kennel. Mike went to check. He let her out, and she ran around the house and back to her kennel. He saw nothing. "I hope it was just the deer," he said. (The deer are everywhere -- so often the case just before hunting season opens.)

Tuesday morning I awakened fully refreshed and ready for another day of work. (Not!) Before I slipped out of bed, Mike read me the weather report. A winter weather advisory would be in effect from 8:00 p.m. Tuesday until 8:00 p.m. Wednesday, calling for snow at altitudes. A cold wind had blown through the night and would continue. We agreed we should go back to town after lunch, especially since we were towing the trailer. Now I would have to cram a day's work into half a day, and it just wasn't going to happen.

I slipped out of bed and went to close the window, and that's when I saw Blaze the Horse contentedly munching the grass around the compost bin which sits next to the woodshed. This seems to be one of his favorite spots. Unmentionable words were spoken (not by me, of course) because that meant the horse was now fenced in instead of out.

Blaze appeared nonchalant. He didn't budge as Mike climbed on the 4-wheeler, so he attempted to approach him on foot, and that's when Blaze took off -- behind the woodshed and through the grove to the west field. At least initially, Blaze had the advantage because Mike had to go around the house, but he was able to follow, and sure enough -- he went to that place we repaired, but now he can't get through.

Back at the house, Mike called the outfitter in the canyon, who apologized profusely for not getting back to us on previous calls, but he was skeptical that the horse was his. Nevertheless, he agreed to send an employee tomorrow to check. Ultimately we would have to corral the horse and call the brand inspector, who then locates the owner. Apparently this is a rather lengthy, ineffective procedure.

Getting on with the day's chores, I cooked the remaining elderberries. In the end, I put two quarts of juice into the freezer -- enough for two batches of jelly and three if I stretch with apple juice.

I have discovered that the pears aren't ripe for picking until late September or October, but naturally, by that time, the deer and/or the horse have pulled the fruit from the lower branches. Anyway, just as I was getting ready to go out and pick up the windfalls, I found a doe there with the same idea. We watched her for several minutes as she nosed the pears, apparently testing for doneness. She ran when I opened the back door, and then it was my turn. She had tasted and discarded several pears that apparently weren't ripe enough to suit her. I was surprised that she cared. I thought the deer ate anything. I picked up a pailful.

Next, we went to the attic. Mike closed the window, vacuumed, and sprayed a hornets nest. I gathered the individual boxes that my Campbell's Soup Christmas ornaments came in. Yes, I'm parting with these ornaments after 30 years of collecting them. But -- all I had time to do today was retrieve the boxes from the attic.

Apple tree(s) where the road curves into the lane
And then, I went out to pick apples. I've been in touch with an "apple detective," and I hope that he can identify several old apple trees for me. He instructed me to number the trees, pick the apples into Ziploc bags and number them accordingly, and then refrigerate them until we can arrange a meeting place. Again, with Mike's help, we accomplished this. The apple detective cautioned me that the apples need to be ripe, and I think it could be too soon, so I left the bags in the fridge at the farm and will check the trees again on our next trip. 

A bunch of apples tree
After lunch, we got ready to return to town. I still had a lot to do, so Mike took Bess for a short and fruitless bird hunt, while I switched off the solar lights, made the bed, packed up my sewing machine, and cleaned the kitchen. We were home about 3:30. We unloaded and unpacked and took Bess for her walk. I was glad to find pheasant soup in the freezer. Once again, I was ready for a long nap. KW

Wednesday, October 9, 2019


Neighbor Pete called from the farm on Saturday. "That's a mighty fine lookin' horse you have here," he commented. Discussion ensued. He had chased the horse to the canyon rim, he said, and he described the place of egress.

"What can we do about the horse," I asked. "Not much," Pete responded. "Stomp around and yell and scream." It's a closed range here, but if an animal strays, your option is to corral it and then notify the owner. You can then charge him for the feed. Corralling and feeding livestock is not an option for us.

On Sunday, Mike said, "Monday will be a nice day, but then it turns cold and might rain." So, after yoga Monday morning, we packed up the Dakota (yes, still traveling in the Dakota and letting the new Jeep rest) and drove to the farm. As you know, I think that packing and unpacking is a day's work in itself, and yoga can be taxing as well, but we both had to work hard all day long getting ready for "the big freeze." But today, Monday, was lovely and warm. Shirtsleeve weather.

We did not see the horse, but it was indeed clear that he has been here -- and been here -- and been here. While I unpacked and fixed lunch, Mike scooped a wheelbarrowful of manure from the yard -- backbreaking work for him. The compost bin is as full of the stuff as I want, so we piled it between the raised beds and the field. And I can attest that there's plenty left -- down at the pond, under the fruit trees, here, there, and everywhere.

After lunch we went to the canyon rim and repaired the fence where it's obvious the horse has been getting in and out. Neither the property nor the fence belongs to us, but the outfitter we think owns the horse has not returned our calls. The fence is old and rotten but Mike patched it up.

"I wonder where the horse is now," I said, as the unthinkable began to dawn on me.
"I don't know," said Mike. But the spot was steep and slick and this would likely be the last good day in the foreseeable future. He wanted the fence fixed.

We were also disheartened to see more rodent activity in the yard. I set to work poisoning holes. We had no mice in traps, but the yellowjackets are still active.

The summer squash plants in the tire bed were hit by a frost and withered away, leaving no edible fruit. However, the cherry tomato was alive and well. I picked two cups of lovely red tomatoes, and many green ones remained. I just wish we liked them better. I just wish we liked vegetables.

About 3:00, Mike suggested we pick the elderberries. Elderberries love to grow where they are hardly accessible, so Mike did most of the picking, and as he picks he also stems them so that they are ready to process when we get back to the house. I got tired of standing around, so I wandered back to the house and then checked the elderberries on the perimeter of the north field. Those berries were under-ripe or mostly gone.

Back at the house, I washed the elderberries and put half of them on to cook while Mike worked with the lawnmower. First the battery was dead, and then he found the throttle cable is broken, but he did manage to load it on the trailer for the trip to town.  We had a gallon of berries and he said he would pick more after he brought in the firewood, but I said we had enough for now.

Fortunately, we brought leftovers for supper with us. I don't think I'd have had the energy to fix a new meal. KW

Saturday, October 5, 2019


This year's Christmas advent story, which has yet to be written, will be set in 1935 and as usual will follow my Grandmother,Ina Dobson's imaginary activities as she prepares for Christmas at the farmhouse. I thought this newsy letter written by Ina to her sister Mabel would set the stage nicely. It's dated October 31, 1935, 

Ina relates that they had a frost mid-August, and I can attest that such early frosts used to happen. You couldn't count on a dependable growing season in the Idaho upper country. Ina continues: "We have about 4 inches of snow and this A.M. the thermometer was only 10 degrees above, at Bertha's [on the hill just east of our farm yard] it was 6 degrees above, and farther up the ridge it was down to zero."

"They started threshing the beans on the rented land last Monday noon, and by 3:00 p.m. it was raining which turned to snow by Friday A.M. They got 24 grain sacks thrashed on June's part and had to quit. The rest are in piles and may yet be sewed. The flax was a poor yield due chiefly to an untoward season. It has been shipped but returns not in yet.

"We feel pretty poor this fall but still must not complain for we have food and shelter and a reasonable supply of clothes. We got a fat hog of a neighbor and have a two-year-old steer to beef. We have one fresh cow and one we milk a little. She furnishes us with butter, and I also can spare Bertha a little milk. Their cows are just about all dry, though they look for a fresh one soon."

Now Ina provides an update on her family:
Myrtle, Bernice, Jack, Ina, Earle, Shirley, and Vance
Daughter Pearl and Al farming near Stetson, Alberta: "I don't know whether Pearl and Al will pull up stakes or not. They are very discouraged. Their crops got frosted and their wheat will only sell as feed. Most of it in Alberta is like that. Their garden got badly bitten the middle of August when we had a frost here." 

Vance, Grandpa Jack, Earle
Daughter Myrtle: ". . . expects to go back to Portland before long. The work is opening up now."

Son Earle and Bernice: . . . "had a hard time getting living quarters, which are scarce in Idaho Falls." [Earle was a math and industrial arts teacher in Idaho Falls for 30 years.] "They moved into a place and soon a family of seven moved in overhead and nearly drove them wild with noise. They moved into a lovely old house then with beautiful flowers around it, but it also had been turned into an apartment house and soon a family moved in above. There were seven or eight of them, so they felt they couldn't go with that either, and at last a fellow teacher took them in by making the upper floor of his house over into living quarters for them."

Myrtle, Vance (my dad), and Ethel, 1937
Daughter Ethel and Ernest: ". . .  have moved into an apartment in Duluth and is nearer to church and school both and plans on taking up choir work again. Shirley Jean is thriving and Ernest on the go most of the time."

In reality Vance wasn't a hunter.
Son Vance: ". . . has had an awful season. Measles in the spring among his pupils and all the strikes among mill workers, etc., all this cut into his work, but now times are picking up for him again."

Daughter Shirley: . . . "has prospects of a job in a doctor's office, but the present girl is not leaving for a few weeks, so please don't mention this in your letter, any of you. She doesn't want it speculated on up here till it is a certainty. Just after this job came seeking her, another was offered her in Idaho Falls. Just think of it -- two jobs, when she's prayed for work so long." KW