Thursday, September 27, 2007


Wednesday I decided I would try to break the bird hunting skunk streak. Of course, I didn’t want to make it too easy so I took my 20 gauge o/u and the only loads I had for it up here were some 7/8 ounce number 8 dove loads. So much for making any long shots. We were making our way around the south edge of the field just south of the house when Nellie went on point out in the star thistle. I’ve seen quail there so that’s what I was expecting. I walked in and lo and behold up jumped a big rooster pheasant. Of course the season isn’t open yet so I just did a practice swing and watched him fly down the canyon. After another hour or so of walking I was over on the Schlader property to the east of us when a big covey of huns surprised both Nellie and me and I just had time to get off a quick long shot. Naturally nothing fell. (Actually I may have mortally wounded one because when I was visiting my neighbor, Pete, later in the day he said his old Lab, Blackie, had come in with a dead hun.) A little while later Nellie went on a hard point at the edge of a scab patch in the field and I kicked up a single hun which offered me a close shot and I got this one and Nellie brought it back. A similar scenario occurred later in the afternoon when we went out again over near the inside corner of our property. Only this time Nellie wasn't surprised and made a nice staunch point. However, they did get up far out and again, nothing fell when I shot. Shortly Nellie made another hard point and a single got up close enough for me to bring down. Kathy is serving them tonight and they sure smell good.


Periodically over the summer, Mike has worked at cleaning out the barn – an unhealthy task involving dirt we won’t mention here. Today he came in with an artifact – a zippered leather wallet, hardened with age and exposure, which he found on the second story. He had to spray WD-40 on the zipper in order to get it to work. Curious, we delayed our lunch in order to open the wallet.

Aha! Mike thought so – the wallet belonged to Chuck. Forgive us for looking through it – we couldn’t help it. Contents: driver’s license carefully signed “Charles Portfors Walrath” and issued 8-30-50; OHS student activity ticket for the year 1950-51 signed by Wallace Webster, principal; picture of a young lady in a demure formal with a barn in the background; picture of “mother and Vance” on steps of our house; picture of Chuck in front of our house; two pictures of toddler Kathy in warm-up suit (probably taken in 1951); a one dollar bill. I’m sure you were inconvenienced by this loss when it happened, Chuck, but hopefully it hasn’t caused undue concern over the past 55+ years.

It’s exciting to find something that actually belonged to someone who is still alive! We’ll send it to you, Chuck.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


The old pear tree is all that remains of the orchard that used to exist here. I remember only three trees in what Daddy called the orchard – two pie cherry trees and the old pear tree. We picked the cherries in July and froze them for delicious pies. This continued until about 1998 when the cherry trees were lost to the renovation project leaving just the pear tree which I estimate it to be 60 or 70 years old. Sitting on the bank like it does, the tree is visible through the windows of the upstairs “west dormer.” Hallie and I have enjoyed it at Christmas decorated with lights. And in the spring it dresses itself in white blossoms for the most spectacular show of all.

I don’t know why we never picked the pears. Daddy was not interested in any of the fruit trees here. There are some old apple trees at the pond and some plum trees in the gully – but we never picked the trees except for the cherries. I expect he didn’t think the quality of the fruit was worth the bother. Mother would say, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” and she was as particular about her fruit as she was her fabric. While I agree with her premise, I also think that country life is about making do and using what you have. So, today Mike helped me pick some pears. The quality is not great (they wouldn’t even make the “maverick” box at Harry and David’s) but the flavor is good. I spent the morning making pear preserves -- pears, plenty of sugar, a little water, cinnamon sticks, and whole cloves simmered until golden – or in my case bronze (overcooked or just well spiced?).

We’re thinking of spraying the fruit trees and planting some more. Advice is welcome.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


The long anticipated chukar opening came the 14th. Ken and I went to a nearby spot that had yielded decent success (1 to 4 birds apiece) at the end of last season. We hunted a good five hours and I went from the top down to the river and back again without so much as seeing a chukar. Ken did see one covey that flushed wild and got a snap shot at a late riser but didn’t connect. Monday we went up the river and again I hunted from the bottom to the top and back down again seeing only two birds that flushed out of range. Ken didn’t see any.

So Thursday the 20th we left for our Owyhee county hunt with old hunting buddy, Doug Lyle. I stayed at Milo's in Boise and got up at 3:30 am Friday and we headed out to our favorite spot which is a long drive on roads unbelievably rough and washed out. It was dry and heavily over grazed. I didn’t see a chukar all day. I did get one shot at a quail, knocked it down but couldn’t find it. It must have been a hit and run. Ken got lost but in the process got 3 chukars at a spring. Doug got a hun and a chukar at a spring as well. As for me – skunked again.

Saturday Milo went with Ken and me to a different place in Owyhee county. Milo and I had a good time visiting but we didn’t even see a bird. Ken and I drove back that evening mostly in heavy rain. However, it kind of petered out around Grangeville and we didn’t get a drop in the Valley or on the farm.

We’re back on the farm now. Maybe I can get lucky and bag a hun or two up here.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t take a quilt class. Of course, I learned this by taking the quilt class. The cost of the class was nominal, so this was not an expensive lesson. I was really disappointed in the end product, i.e. my quilt blocks.

So, Friday night after the quilt class found me here at this computer reading about quilting at, attempting to figure out what happened and how to fix it. And I had to think to myself, “This is where I should have started. I should have chosen a simple project (like a potholder or a placemat or a doll quilt), asked the advice of a friend for start-up equipment, and experimented on my own . . . because that’s what I’m going to do now.” Saturday I borrowed a quilting book from a friend and bought another – both have great simple projects.

Will I try to salvage my blocks and make the quilt top? I’m going to put it aside right now and think about it. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist, but I do hold a certain standard for my handwork and when a project falls outside that range, I lose interest. On the other hand, things sometimes look better tomorrow – or next month or six months from now. I’ve been thinking – I could do a potholder or a placemat and perhaps be better able to deal with the quilt blocks and their problems when I have more experience. KW

Saturday, September 22, 2007


It’s just a cardboard box – 9”x 9” x 7”. It used to be green but now it’s faded and looking its age. It has a red handle. Inside the lid are the words “Dritz Pattern File – Keep your patterns neatly arranged for reuse – 12 dividers for easy filing.” I don’t know when Mother got the box. I suspect it was originally Grandma Portfors’.

The box has always seemed silly to me. Why? Because anyone who sews knows that you collect way more patterns than fit into such a small filing box. Certainly my mother did – she had a whole drawerful of patterns. When I commented to her on the uselessness of the box, she smiled and agreed but made no move to discard it. Over the years a few very special patterns were dropped into it – like the one for Mike’s work apron. Otherwise, its contents didn’t change. Eventually the pattern box became my box. More than once I considered emptying the contents and tossing the box. However I am as powerless as my mother was to part with it.

I lost the box for several years -- a casualty of our move. But last week, spurred on by the need to find the pattern for the work apron, I found the box in a large box marked “slides.” What joy! What wonderful nostalgia! I so enjoyed looking at those patterns! I could make vintage aprons from my own collection! I could make a stuffed toy horse, sock or rag dolls, even doll furniture. Does anyone need a peasant blouse? Does your baby need a layette? There’s a McCall’s Kaumagraph (what’s that?) transfer for wool embroidery which I could use to decorate a fitted wool jacket. I can make potholders, men’s pajamas, a little girl’s robe and nightgown (size 4), an artist smock for a child (size 6), smocked Christmas balls and smocked pillows. I could embroider pillowcases or guest towels. And – I might just choose one of those projects -- but I have to make the apron first. Also – in the very front of the box I found obituaries – Grandma Portfors, Grandma (Ina) Dobson, Uncle Al – and the write-up on Mother and Daddy’s wedding at the Portfors' home.

I have a beautiful new cardboard box for my sewing room. I could easily move the patterns and dividers into that box, but I don’t think I’ll be able to do it. KW

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I heard the UPS man drive up and park at the neighbor's this morning. Knowing the visit was not for us, I paid no attention. But in the livingroom, Nellie was indicating an immediate desire to go out by means of international dog sign language. She exited by the sliding door and ran -- post haste -- to the neighbor's yard. "No No, Nellie," I yell; "this is none of our business." I stepped out the front door in time to see the UPS man throw Nellie a treat. We figured this behavior has been reinforced more than once since Nellie now associates it with the sound of the UPS truck. Makes you wonder, doesn't it? UPS guys throw treats to dogs to keep them at bay, thereby training them to the sound of the truck so that they come running for the treat! KW

Monday, September 17, 2007


Sometimes I feel like a foreigner entering a foreign land. I always thought that by the time I reached this place in life I would be good – you know, good at the domestic arts – a good cook, an expert seamstress, able to whip out perfect afghans with no concern for my gauge, able to chord at the piano, all the while keeping an impeccably beautiful home and maintaining a lovely garden. Now as I stand at the threshold of the rest of my life, I find I can’t just pick up where I left off. I don’t know much and what I did know has changed, all of it influenced by technology, new products, and the changing interests of society. I feel like I need a week-long seminar to help me cope and hone my skills. Not knowing where to find such a course, I will take a quilting class.

But – you can find support for anything you want to do these days, so I decided to start right where I am. That means I’ll be sure of my interests before investing a lot of money. I’ve always wanted to learn to use a treadle sewing machine. So, my resident handyman, Mike, took Grandma Ina’s treadle machine apart (20 minutes of his time), serviced it (1 hour), and then put it back together in its cabinet (5 hours!). As he was taking it apart, I protested that he was not an authorized tech, but he stated that he would be when he was finished with the project. I’m not sure either one of us thinks it was worth the grief it caused him. Anyway, we found lots of online sites providing tradle info and parts.

Of course, I have my “good” machine. Mike gave it to me the Christmas Clinton was a baby (27 years ago). It’s not that I’m not grateful. Technology changes constantly these days. I also have an old Singer portable, an early ‘70s model manufactured just before Singer went plastic. That’s the one that will go to the quilting class with me; I hope I can lug it into the classroom!

So, instead of giving you benefit of my years of experience, I expect to share the trials and tribulations of new experiences.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


asked Hallie. Mike and I hesitated before answering. Why is this question so hard? I wonder to myself. “Always business to take care of,” Mike responds. “But what do you do when you’re in town?” Hallie repeats.

We have tried to keep the tedious out of this journal, but if you’re going to wonder what we do in town, let me say that we hope this year was unique. In mid-July, Mike went geo-caching alone, towing the 4-wheeler with the Dakota. On the way home, the 4-wheeler came loose and crashed into the back of the Dakota, severely denting the tailgate and breaking the glass canopy lid. We were so grateful that this was a one-vehicle experience and no one, including Mike, was hurt. Not many days later, a garage accident resulted in damage to a motorcycle and the Subaru. (This was Mike’s “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week” and in a sense it didn’t end for a month!) So, this summer has had its nightmarish elements as Mike devoted hours to making contacts – insurance agent and adjusters, body shops, the canopy dealer in Spokane, etc., etc., and so forth. We just had to work through issues.

I suggested it might be time to replace the Dakota. Mike’s response: “I love that truck!” Okay – then we’ll fix it. But fixing the canopy like new was impossible since the manufacturer has not made that canopy model for several years. A replacement lid was not available anyplace. Glass companies could not help due to the curve involved. Son Milo suggested sheet metal and that idea worked with Mike doing much of the work himself. He and I traced a template on a piece of transparent plastic and Mike’s Heating cut the sheet metal. Mike then did much of the fitting himself. He also fixed a stop on the trailer to keep the 4-wheeler in place.

Other tedious “town” work included completing paperwork relating to my retirement benefits plus Social Security and Medicare for Mike with related appointments. And a computer error on our 2002 tax return resulted in hours of research and discussion with the IRS and the Idaho State Tax Commission. Less than pleasant but had to be done.

On the positive side, town time is a lot about our connectedness to community, family and friends. I meet with my Christian Science group which provides much needed spiritual refreshment. Mike sometimes rides with the bike club. Town time is structured and organized and includes shopping for things we need on the farm – sometimes a lot of fun!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Nellie begins to perk up and get antsy between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m., anticipating the evening walk to the mailbox -- her favorite time of the day. The only valid reason to forego the walk would be a strenuous hunting trip with Mike and/or Ken. Often an evening walk is just Kathy and Nellie. In fact, if Mike rides his bike late in the afternoon, Nellie will insist upon a walk during that time. The walk is signaled when Kathy puts on her visor. Even if Mike goes along, Nellie insists this evening routine must include Kathy. The walk is two miles round trip if you’re a human – five miles for Nellie, who enjoys “off road” adventures.

Last night (Monday, 9-10), Nellie went on point ahead of us humans, indicating something in the tall grass beside the road. Cautiously, gingerly, she began to move in, but just then I picked up on a faint rattle. “Rattlesnake!” I said. Nellie backed off -- Mike and I peered into the grass from a safe distance. Yes – there it was – a specimen of the Northern Pacific Rattler.

“Watch where you walk and stay out of the tall grass,” my dad would remind me every year. It’s still good advice. In my grandmother’s letters she speaks of the snakes. “Seen any snakes lately?” the neighbors still ask.

Today (9-10) the sky is hazy with smoke. We can smell it. Our view of the canyon is obscured.


Hallie’s faraway-cell-phone voice conveyed at 4:00 Sunday afternoon. “We did three days of backpacking in two and we’ll be back in three hours. I want to sleep in a real bed. I want to go to the farm.” My Sunday reverie broken, I (the resting anchor person) found myself suddenly thrown into a flurry of activity. The plan was that the backpackers – Hallie, her friend Nick, Mike and our dog Nellie – would not return until late Monday. And despite the intuition that said, "They could be back early; why don’t you make lasagna, bake a cake, pack for the farm, etc.," I had put all that off. Not only that, a trip to the farm was unexpected.

Anyway, by the time they arrived, the lasagna was baking and I was organizing for the farm. Hallie and Nick seemed to enjoy their day here, highlights including riding the 4-wheelers across the harvested fields, target shooting (Nick is good!), a quick twilight game of horseshoes, and an evening foursome at Scrabble. It was good to show Hallie some of our most recent projects and updates.

Hallie and Nick left this morning, having lunch plans at Connell, WA, with Nick’s dad. It’s good that they will be back in Seattle in time to get a good night’s rest.

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Mike asked me the other day. NO, I said to myself emphatically, mentally running down the list of valid reasons not to go – walking for hours in stiff hiking boots, carrying a pack on my back, no shower, sleeping on the ground. Trying to sound wistful, I said, “Oh, probably not this year. Besides, you need an anchor person, someone to fix meals before and after the trip, someone rested enough to help those who are tired.”

Thus I have successfully avoided the issue of my own participation in the “annual” backpacking trip while Mike organizes the equipment. We are preparing for the arrival of Hallie and Nick this weekend, preparations that include cleaning counters (and floors).

And that’s what’s up with us right now. But stay tuned. The weekend outing will surely be recounted in full next week. KW

Sunday, September 2, 2007


We watched dark skies roll over all day Friday (Aug. 31) with intermittent gusts of wind and only a few drops of rain – until suppertime. Then the storm broke. We have never seen the windmill turn so fast! Initially, the dust coming off the newly-harvested fields was a nightmare and we rushed to close windows. The lightning didn’t seem close but evidently hit a transformer. At 7:42, just as we were sitting down to supper, the electricity went off. We ate supper by the light of an old kerosene lamp. The flame only seemed to cast shadows in the room.

As the minutes ticked by, we began to consider how we would cope if the outage continued overnight. What about the refrigerator? Will the computer be messed up? We wanted to clean up after the days’ activities, but of course not only the hot water heater but the pressure tank from the well would be affected. We took quick showers, Mike boasting that he didn’t use more than a pint of water. I quoted from an old alphabet book: “Hector waits for hotter water.”

During a lull in the storm, we sat on the front porch for awhile enjoying the beauty of golden light from the setting sun silhouetting the barn and the fields against the dark gray sky in the west. A chilly breeze sent us back into the house -- and darkness. Don’t we have an old camp lantern someplace? – No … well, maybe … yes! There it is! So we pumped it up, lit it, and read by its light until 8:56 when the electricity came back on. Thankfully, our creature comforts are okay.