Friday, May 29, 2009


Mike and I reluctantly returned to town on Wednesday. He had to check in with Asotin County District Court for possible jury duty, and indeed, he had to appear Thursday (yesterday). Yes, he served on a six-man jury. He was gone from 8:00 a.m. until nearly 7:00 p.m. Maybe having served he will now be out of the loop for a while.

I am off to convention which is the great unknown for me. It's only 30 miles away in Moscow, but I'm packing for a two-night stay. Mike will join me there for the banquet tomorrow night. And since I am leaving this afternoon, Mike has taken himself on another geocaching tour – this time to some northern Idaho counties. He'll be back for his supper of leftovers.

I'm taking my beloved laptop with me, but I suppose the scheduled events will keep me busy.

I have not been sewing lately, but here is a picture of the shawl I'm making for Hallie in case she needs a light wrap the evening of her wedding. I'm making it in a shell pattern using Bernat's Baby Coordinates yarn, which has a shiny thread running through it. KW

Monday, May 25, 2009


Saturday, while we were still in town, I let Nellie out for her morning constitutional. When she didn't immediately return, Mike and I discussed her whereabouts while standing at the back door. Just then she came up, dragging a leash that was hooked to her collar.

Now Nellie is Mike's dog and gives her allegiance to him. She mostly treats me as a subordinate whom she credits with reading her wants and needs better than Mike does. She pushes me around a bit if need be, and she knows eventually I'll get her message for food, an open door, whatever. And she looks to me to console or reassure her. So, she went round and round my legs as if she had something to say to me. If only she could translate those pictures in her mind into words.

We could hear voices nearby, so Mike unhooked the leash and walked to the corner of the house. A woman asked him if that was our dog. She said her visiting grandson was playing around and had thought Nellie was a stray so hooked a leash onto her collar. So Mike gave her the leash and we went our separate ways. Nellie was relieved to be back home with her own folks after such an adventure.

Today – here at the farm – I took Nellie for her afternoon walk while Mike rode his bicycle. Now Nellie is afraid of vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers, weedeaters, and her own shadow. For an assertive dog, she has a sensitive temperament. But when it comes to huge farm machines making loud, deep noises, she seems blithely unaware.

"VROOOOM," said Farmer Kyle's big machine. I was on the road and out of harm's way, but Nellie refused to get out of the field where she was hunting rodents and where Farmer Kyle was working.

"Over here, Nellie!" I yelled at her above the din, trying to get her into the field on the other side of the road.

"VROOOOOM, VR, VR, VR, VROOOOOM," said Farmer Kyle's machine, as he, too, wondered what Nellie might do.

"I simply don't know what you're thinking today, Kathy," said the look in Nellie's eyes, "but I can tell you one thing – you're a little testy. I think you should check your attitude."

Finally successful in getting her to Curfman corner, I walked her back cross-country to stay out of Farmer Kyle's way. KW

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Mike and I drove to the farm this morning, bringing my Bernina with me this trip, which freed up some space in the living room of the modular home. I packed her up into her new rolling case together with all her accessories. While I'm here I hope to organize the "vintage sewing room" and my projects, but I know the progress will be slow. Seems like we have a lot to do.

Let me tell you about my last trip to the Bernina store. Now, it's a given with the sewing machine industry that once they sell you a machine, they seem to think you're a candidate for another machine. And since they market that way, it must work for them. I receive frequent email messages from both the Lewiston shop and the Bernina company, and it's always about machines. I wish they'd tell me more about accessories, show me what I can do with this or that foot. Then I would at least be able to afford something.

Well, anyway, last fall I went to the Bernina shop to buy an "even feed foot" for my new Bernina sewing machine. I hadn't realized they were quite so expensive -- $150 or so – and going up all the time. I wasn't prepared for that info and I guess my face registered what the associate read as "too much."

"Oh! But don't buy it now," she said. "Wait until we have a sale." And she went on about coupons and reward cards and be sure to read this and that for sale info. So, I left the shop without buying the even feed foot, wondering if I had made the decision not to buy right then or the associate decided for me.

Well, when I received advice of the Memorial Day sale at the Bernina shop, I decided the time had come to buy that even feed foot. So, Friday morning I showed up at the store.

"The even feed foot?" asked the associate. "Oh, I'm sorry. We sold the last one last night, and since we're out, you won't be able to take advantage of the sale. That's too bad."

"This is the hardest place to buy anything from!" I think to myself. "Well, tell me about the stitch regulator," I said. My old pal Chris teaches embroidery classes in Moscow. I've been thinking maybe I could take one of those classes – if I had that expensive little wonder called the stitch regulator.

With that the associate's eyes glazed over and she ran to get the instructor from the class in the next room. I explained to that individual that I had really come for the even feed foot and discovering I couldn't buy it, was just looking for information.

"Oh! But if you want the even feed foot, just pay now at the sale price, and we'll call you when it comes." Sanity returns to this place! I think.

So, yes, I paid for the foot, and no sooner had I returned the six miles to my house than the phone rang. "Guess what!" said the Bernina associate. "We got freight! We have the even feed foot for you."

I picked it up on Saturday and enjoyed a visit with the associate who originally told me to wait until it was on sale. "I'm so happy you got it," she said; "I know you've wanted it for a long time."

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Mike and I congratulated each other on 34 years together and agreed to continue along together on this great adventure.

My wedding photos were in color, except for this one black and white which was taken for the newspaper. Of the photos of the two of us, it's my favorite and the one I display. A couple of years ago, grandson Jack visited us with his dad when he spied this photo on my dresser. "Who are these people?" he asked his dad. Yancey didn't immediately enlighten him. "Who do you think they might be? Whose house is this?" Jack was incredulous to think that young couple could be Gramma Kathy and Grandpa Mike.

As I was getting lunch today, I happened to think of our 15th anniversary in 1990. A bouquet of flowers from Mike was delivered to me at the museum where I worked. Lora, my co-worker, commented on them, and I replied that Mike didn't send flowers often but this anniversary – our 15th – seemed kinda special. Lora came back with, "Kathy! Do you know how long I've been married? 34 years! Now that's special."

Funny I thought of that forgotten incident today because I read in today's paper that Lora's husband, Don, passed away yesterday. KW

Friday, May 22, 2009


Nellie was fairly prancing at the door when she heard Mike's motorcycle pull into our driveway at suppertime Wednesday evening. His five-day whirlwind tour of southeastern Idaho had come to a successful end according to plan. He left with instructions: no "hot dogging," no tickets, no accidents. He reported that he had mostly fulfilled that criteria. (The policeman gave him a warning.)

Unfortunately, the time Mike was gone was somewhat of a waste for me because I was "under the weather" with the cold he left behind. So, I didn't accomplish as much as I wanted to.

Yesterday (Thursday) was catch-up day and Mike was up early and at work. It went something like this:

6:00 a.m. Called the party that farms our property to confirm weed spraying completed so that we can enroll in a conservation program with Idaho Fish and Game.

6:30 a.m. Panicked because he had forgotten to pay Idaho taxes.

7:00 Nikon CoolPix has developed problems but is still under warranty. Mike makes phone calls and receives instructions for repair work. Boxes camera for mailing. (So yes, we have no camera, possibly for the next three weeks.)

7:45 Mike can't find his motorcycle keys. We both look off and on for the next hour and a half. "Think!" I said. "You got home and you haven't been anyplace. You did something with them." He finally remembers he unlocked the compartment on the bike and left the keys in the lock.

8:00 Calls Asotin County about jury duty. They say he should call tonight for instructions – not last night.

8:15 Calls Clearwater County about taxes. They remind him those are due in June, not May.

8:20 Calls Idaho Fish & Game and leaves message for Regional Biologist that our farmer has done the necessary spraying.

8:45 Clinton calls – can't find his social security card and needs it. Mike agrees to look in safe deposit box. It finally clicks with me and I remember his billfold was stolen when he was playing soccer in high school. His social security card was in it. We didn't immediately deal with replacement and then we forgot. Mike, relieved that he doesn't need to go to the safe deposit box, apprises Clint of this info.

9:00 Makes many phone calls – mainly for pricing – relating to the day's major chore – servicing the motorcycle.

9:30 Mike leaves to run errands and pick up items needed in order to service motorcycle. Most of the rest of the day is devoted to servicing the motorcycle, getting a new back tire and replacing the wheel on the motorcycle.

1:00 Mike informs me he has lost the registration for the motorcycle. He says he left it on the seat with the manual and that it must have blown away. "I just don't believe you left it there," I said. "We'll spend an hour looking for it and then you'll find that you did something else with it." And that proved to be the case, but at least I found the garbage can lid he lost two weeks ago – on the other side of the neighbor's in some tall grass.

"I don't know why it has to be so tough -- and we make it tougher," I think to myself. "How can a retired couple have such a day!" By 6:00 p.m. he was able to get away for a short bike ride. Then Ken called and suggested they should go for wood today (Friday). And that's what they did. KW

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


My comment on modular home living is that it's almost like living in a dorm room. Everything happens in the living room, which is the center of the house. The living room is home to the tv set, exercise equipment, the organ, my sewing machine and equipment, and the ironing board is just over the line in the dining area.

So, when I finish ironing, I carefully move the iron to a spot where it can cool and then store it on a shelf in the utility room. Except for that once – that once a couple of weeks ago when I forgot. Sure enough, the ironing board chose that moment to reach out and catch the toe of someone's boot and the iron landed on the floor with a thud. "Well, that's that for that iron," I said, also apologizing for having left it there. There was some comment about the resiliency of irons, but of course, today's iron with its electronic sensors and automatic shut-offs is not going to survive a fall. And it didn't. It acted very confused, heated erratically, was simply unusable. It had to be replaced and I was in no mood to wait until my birthday.

There are currently no marts in Clarkston, and I didn't feel like driving into Lewiston yesterday, so shopping for my new iron was limited to Costco and Jo-Ann's. I went to Costco first. The Rowenta "Professional" was $69.99 with one available. The Sunbeam was $29.99, a lesser model, and there must have been 35 in the stack. While I've had good luck with Sunbeam in the past, and I question that I need a really expensive iron, a friend advised against today's Sunbeam. So, I went to Jo-Ann's where a full line of Rowentas was available, including the "Professional," for which they wanted $100+. I chose a model that was advertised for "sewing and crafts" and approached the check-out. The iron rang up at $90.00. "Will you take this 40% coupon on the iron?" I asked, and they apologetically said no. Discussion ensued – mostly between the checkers, and they agreed that if I would come back to the Memorial Day sale, maybe – just maybe – they could get the 10% merchandise coupon to work, especially if I had other merchandise. "We're talking $9.00," I pointed out, "and I have to wait." And there were no guarantees.

So, it was back to Costco where the one Rowenta "Professional" was waiting for me. "Tolja!" it seemed to say as I tucked it under my arm and headed for the self check-out. When you only have one item at Costco, you just have to use the dreaded self check-out, and it went fine.

Weather watchers: We had three days of temps in the low 90s, then last night a storm came through and cooled us a bit. The sunset was just spectacular! Today we have wind and scattered showers. KW

Monday, May 18, 2009


China – silver – crystal – so many choices. When I married in 1975, I already had a service for twelve in the Lennox Rutledge pattern that had been my maternal grandmother's. My parents saw to it we also had "twelves" in a new set of crystal – goblets, sherbets, plates, and a pitcher. I was ambivalent about all of it, appreciating its beauty but also wondering about the future in a world that seemed to be growing more and more casual. The Lennox was a dubious blessing. Manufactured in the 1940s, it is not dishwasher-safe. And then there's the question of sentimentality. Was I really going to have dinner parties, serve small children on heirloom china, set a formal table for holiday dinners or even fix a romantic dinner for two? My parents assured me the day would come when I would draw on these things as important resources. None of that happened – and isn't going to.

As we were about to move from the "big house" in 2004, I read an article in The Christian Science Monitor titled, "A Tempest Brews in Heirloom Teacups," written by columnist Marilyn Gardner. (Here's the link if you'd like to read it for yourself -- . The article sets forth that the younger generation is saying no to grandma's china, stemware, and other heirlooms treasured by previous generations, that antique dealers have more of these items than they can sell, and that even for traditionalists (and I consider myself a traditionalist), tastes change. These were ideas that were timely for me because I had to pack up boxes and boxes of china, crystal, heirloom breakables and move them into storage until they could be moved to their next home. I was confused – these things honestly felt like a huge burden. I had to take them with me. Even so, I couldn't – and still wouldn't – part with them.

Once we were settled after the big move, I actually served supper on the Lennox, dutifully washing, drying, and carefully setting it back on the shelf. I honestly believe it should be used, that it's good for it to be handled, but it seemed kinda silly – two tired people, sometimes wearing pajamas, eating off the "good china" and then taking the time to wash the dishes. I suggested to daughter Hallie that she take some of it. After all, I will never serve twelve people at one time. She just looked at me, probably because she lives in 615 square feet – or something like that. And ironically, as many dishes as we had at our disposal, we were at the point of needing some good serviceable, everyday tableware. Again, the choices seemed endless, but I finally selected a few pieces in a very basic white pottery. I also came to see that I didn't have to buy eight or twelve place settings -- that I could vary my table by purchasing just two plates in any pattern I desired – any pattern at all. And you know, having given myself permission, I never have.

[Stepson Murray and I are looking over the gifts at my wedding, May 23, 1975.] KW

Sunday, May 17, 2009



In a ceremony at the home of her parents, Miss Ethel Lucy Dobson became the bride of Ernest Robinson on May 17, 1921. The bride is the daughter of Julian (Jack) and Ina Dickson Dobson, pioneer homesteaders in the Gilbert area near Orofino, Idaho.

And that's all I know about the wedding. No one ever told me about that day. I have no written material about it. I found the photos only a few years ago – dated but unidentified. This first photo is of the bride with her family (l. to r.): Myrtle, her older sister and maid of honor; Vance (my father); Irl (Earle); Ina (her mother); Shirley (the youngest); and Jack (the bride's father). The backdrop is the grove behind the house.

This photo includes the combined families of Jack and June Dobson who lived on adjoining homesteads. I believe the lady to the bride's left is the groom's mother. Just behind the bride is Vance, my dad, I believe, and just behind him is the face of Jack, his dad. Looking closely to the right, you can spot a similar face just above the bow in Shirley's hair; that's June Dobson, Jack's twin brother. ( Or perhaps it's vice versa; I really wouldn't know.) Note the lady in the satin dress standing to Shirley's left. That's Aunt Bertha, Ina's sister and June's wife, whose attire seems suitable for the mother of the bride.

Here the bride and groom stand on the front steps of the farmhouse, which was just four years old at the time, the same house that Mike and I have renovated. You can just make out that they have yet to put in a yard. Behind the bride and groom are Irl, Myrtle, Ina, Jack, Vance, and Shirley. Absent from the photos is the oldest daughter, Pearl, who at that time lived in Alberta, Canada, with her husband and baby son.

And here the young couple seem to be leaving on their honeymoon. Perhaps there was some joke.

So, just looking at these photos, what conclusions do you draw? KW

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Seems like every woman knows at least one wedding dress story. Mention that there's a wedding coming up, and the stories come out.

"My daughter was just out of high school when she got married," related a friend. "We didn't have a lot of money at that time, so I told her I would make her dress. But I thought it best to take her to the bridal shop first in order to get some idea of the style she would like. Then we went to the fabric store to look at patterns, and I could tell by the look on her face that she was not going to forget a certain dress at the shop. We went back and bought that gown."

"When I got married, I couldn't afford a wedding dress," said another friend. "I bought a white formal, and it had a little pink trim over the bodice and matching trim at the hemline. People could see it wasn't a wedding dress," she added ruefully, "but I just couldn't afford one."

One of my favorite stories is that of Mike's sister, Carol. In the mid-'70s she bought a gown both she and her mother just loved for its simple styling. Wedding plans at that time fell through, and she eventually sold the dress to a friend with the understanding that someday she might want to buy it back. And that's what happened. When she and Max were married in 1981, she wore that gown.

[These photos were taken May 16, 1981. Photo 1 is of Carol and her brother, Mike, who gave her away. Photo 2 is of Carol, Mike, and Mother Bennie. And photo 3 is of the happy couple, Max and Carol Williams.]


Thursday, May 14, 2009


Mike is planning and packing for a motorcycle tour of southern Idaho – a geocaching adventure based on finding one geocache in each Idaho county. So, he's very busy while I feel as if I'm waiting for something to happen.

While shopping for groceries at Albertson's in Clarkston this morning, Mike and I found ourselves at the end of a line that was six deep – the only open checkstand. "They have something here called 'three's a crowd,'" I explained to Mike. They're supposed to call more checkers if more than three customers are waiting to check out. The shopper in front of us laughingly joined the conversation. "I don't think they pay any attention," she said.

At that point two more check stations opened and customers in front of us were invited to move. Then a young associate grabbed our cart and said he would check us out at the self-check. "You could have done this yourself," Mike observed jokingly, knowing that I have an aversion to self-check. I admit it was mildly embarrassing to have this kid checking me out at the self-check. But I had more than a few items and I was buying produce – two good reasons not to self-check. Seeing that bagging was not going to be provided for us at this station, I gave Mike our "green" sacks and suggested he bag our groceries which were piling up at the end of the counter. He dutifully did so.

The first hint of trouble came near the end of the checking process when the scanner refused to read the bag salad. Once we were over that hurdle, it then refused to read the milk. A supervisor showed up to assist, stating that the register had frozen up and the only recourse when that happens is to reboot it. "I understand," I said; "I have a computer." She further explained that we would have to start the check-out process all over. Apologizing profusely, they moved us – and our already bagged groceries – to the next stand, an area obviously configured for the shopper buying one item – no counter space. The associate was now working to unpack, re-scan, and re-bag our groceries in a spaceless area. It was a mess – and once again I was glad I was not my own checker. If the point of checking us at the self-scan station was to convince us to use it, the demonstration failed miserably.

How do you feel about scanning your own purchases? KW

Monday, May 11, 2009


One morning last January I was still in bed listening to our clock radio as Mike was getting ready to go to work. As a regular feature of the "wake-up" program, they interview a spokesman for Idaho Fish and Game – pretty much not ever interesting to me. But I suddenly became aware in my half-awake state that the combination of words was interesting. "So, if you have a field or a pond that you would be willing to devote to habitat development, give us a call at Idaho Fish and Game." I told Mike what I thought I'd heard, and he said he would call the local Fish and Game office. What I heard proved correct and the wildlife biologist was indeed interested in our property. Problem was, due to the snow and winter conditions we would be unable to host his visit until sometime into the spring. That appointment occurred today.

As we waited well past the appointment time, I remarked to Mike -- "He's the Fish and Game guy! He can't be lost."

"You live in the sticks!" said the biologist as he climbed down from his pick-up. Odd comment from a Fish and Game guy, I thought. Don't those guys mostly deal in the sticks? I can think of other places I call the sticks – not someplace ten miles out of a reasonably-sized settlement like Orofino. Or maybe I should revise my thinking.

He and Mike spent two and a half hours hiking the property with the result that the biologist is interested in beginning some work right away. First we have to discuss with our farmer to be sure these plans don't interfere with the agricultural interests. We'll keep you posted on progress.

After lunch at the farm, we drove back to Clarkston. I thought you might enjoy seeing these photos of a storm this morning. And the last photo is of a dejected Nellie as she waits for Mike and the biologist to return. KW

Sunday, May 10, 2009


With improved weather the last several days Mike has been able to ride his mountain bike daily -- weather permitting. Arriving home yesterday, he told me he had seen three big cow elk -- so big he wondered at first if they were moose.

Today, as I was working in the bedroom upstairs, I glanced out the window and saw big creatures slowly moving in a field to the north. I thought at first they were horses but soon came to realize they had to be elk. I called to Mike and we identified them as elk -- two adults and two young ones. Mike took the binoculars and I grabbed the camera. I was delighted to see I actually got pictures. We've seen a few deer this season, but we seldom actually see the elk.

We don't know how Nellie knows the deer are out there in the evening. She'll arise from her evening nap, go to the window, and give a low growl and a woof or two, as though she's quietly giving them a piece of her mind. Just as the trees and shrubs at the pond were turning to shapes last night, I stood beside her at the window. It took me a long time to see the three deer in "June's" field beyond the pond.


Today as I think of mothers everywhere, I give gratitude for labor-saving progress that has improved the lot of all women and homemakers. Since we were talking about ironing recently, I "updated" my thoughts with a look back to the day when ironing was not electrified.

I believe the first iron I remember in my Mother's home was not a steam iron – just a simple electric iron. Probably by 1960 Mother had a steam iron, but it didn't change the ironing process. She still sprinkled the clothes before she ironed them since the steam alone was not adequate to the task in her opinion. In fact, I suspect if she were here today, she would still sprinkle some items even though irons now emit a shot of steam or a fine spray of water to help erase a particularly tough wrinkle. Even I will sprinkle an old linen tablecloth or a cotton blouse before ironing it.

A friend was telling me that while visiting her granddaughter, a young mother, she asked to use her iron. The granddaughter confessed that she didn't own an iron. My friend and I agreed that we would not be able to get along without an iron and we often leave the ironing board up. It seems that something always needs pressing and the iron is still an absolute must for the seamstress. Mother advised that good sewing was in the pressing as much as in the stitching.

But – ironing in my mother's day still seems like modern times to me. Here at the farmhouse, Grandma Ina didn't ever have electricity – still didn't have it when she passed on in 1957. Once, when Mother and I were cleaning the farmhouse in the '60s, she decided a curtain needed pressing. She considered taking it back to town, but you know how it is – she wanted to finish the job at hand. She decided to take advantage of the fire in the old wood cook stove and use Ina's flat irons to press the curtain, thereby also giving me a demonstration of how it used to be done. She put several of the flat irons onto the stove. After some length of time, she inserted the interchangeable wooden handle into one of the irons and gave it the sizzle test (moistened index finger). It was a must to test the iron, perhaps as much to be sure it was not too hot as hot enough. When she deemed the iron temperature adequate, she commenced to iron the curtain. As the iron lost heat and became less effective, she put it back on the stove, picked up another iron, tested it for heat, and continued ironing. Believe me, she worked quickly in order to cover the most "ground" possible before the iron lost heat.

[In the first photo, my paternal grandmother, Ina Dobson, appears a little self-conscious as she hangs clothes in the grove in 1921. The second photo is probably Ina's youngest child, Aunt Shirley, hanging clothes in the 1930s. And here's a photo of Ina's flat irons and some of her other laundry tools which I use to decorate my laundry room. Mike weighed one of the irons in the old Dobson cradle scale -- 4 pounds. I don't know if the little one is a toy or if it was used to press out corners of shirts and blouses. At any rate, I found it in the old toy box. Flat irons make excellent doorstops.] KW

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Once upon a time, in far-off 1960's land, Mom, Daddy, and I had spent the day working at the farm, my dad's family home, which was located ten miles up a steep, winding grade from our house in town. We hardly ever spent the night at the farm since we enjoyed the creature comforts of the town house, such as hot and cold running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, and television. As suppertime approached on the workday in question and we made ready for the return to town, my dad said to my mother, "You know what I'd like for supper? Bread and milk." And she replied, "I was just thinking about that myself!" To which I responded with a resounding, "EEEEeewww!" Any complaint I had fell on deaf ears. We had bread and milk for supper. The bread was toasted, spread with "nutritious butter," and broken into a bowl. Hot milk was poured over the buttered bread and then it was sprinkled with a little sugar and cinnamon. I didn't care for it, despite the sugar and cinnamon, and in my opinion it only got worse as the bread became soggier. As a meal, it did not appeal to me as a nourishing end to a day of hard work, but I was expected to eat my serving and I did.

Even then, as a teen-ager, I understood something about my parents' mutual craving for bread and milk. They both knew about it and they both thought of it independently when the day had been long, which meant it had been served in the homes of their youth. I asked Mother once if she had eaten bread and milk often as a child. "Yes, very often," she replied.

Mother and Daddy were not ignorant of good nutrition, and in retrospect I believe we had certainly had plenty to eat that day. Daddy always started the day by preparing a good breakfast, and I'm sure we had meat sandwiches for lunch and probably snacks as well. From their point of view a light supper was in order and the day suggested the kind of easy meal their own mothers would have prepared under the circumstances.

Mike says that he never heard of plain old bread and milk, but back home in Arkansas, his parents used to eat cornbread and buttermilk occasionally for supper. He said he was never made to eat this concoction as he has an aversion to buttermilk.

I find that when Mike and I have worked long and are exhausted both physically and mentally, that's when we really want a filling meal. My preference on such occasions is to have planned the meal in advance, but failing that, we often think of creamed tuna on toast, though preparation constitutes a good ten minutes on my feet stirring a white sauce. I prefer Chunky Soup or adding tuna to a box of macaroni and cheese.

How do you cope with meal prep when you and your family are tired and hungry?

Friday, May 8, 2009


". . . wave upon wave of showers across the Northwest," the weather lady was saying as I surfed through The Weather Channel last Monday. Seems like they seldom talk about the Great Inland Northwest, probably owing to the fact that not many of us live here and our weather is usually not extreme. I took her report with a grain of salt. Often the storms do not materialize in our area.

But we have had shower upon shower since coming to the farm on Tuesday. Since we can see a lot of sky, we have watched the storms as they move through, some of them hitting us, some of them not. Yesterday morning (Thursday), we got up to what appeared to be a decent day. "Let's take advantage of this window of opportunity to thatch the trees," Mike said. I wasn't so sure there was an adequate window. Sure enough – these first photos show the storm that hit about 15 minutes later. By watching the sky and choosing our moments, we were eventually able to care for the trees. I even spied one little seedling tree lying on the ground – evidently an escapee from Mike's sack of trees as we planted. It appeared no worse for wear and Mike planted it.

Just after 4:00 p.m., a big storm hit, and we were glad for the safety of the house. Mike's weather station showed an actual temp of 39 while the wind chill was 20.7. The wind blew at an average of 29.5 mph with the maximum gust at 38.9. At 4:20, the electricity went off and was out about an hour. Mike called our rural provider, Clearwater Power, and was advised that the wind blew down a tree near Stoddard Electric on Riverside (Orofino) and that because of the back-up of traffic on the highway they were as yet unable to make the necessary repair. She wouldn't provide a timeframe for restoration.

I decided it was time to think like my grandmother. In the event that electricity would be off into the night, what did I need to do while I could see to get around the house? A kerosene lantern was ready, and I found some candles in a drawer and inserted them into holders. I chuckled to myself as I thought of Mother. She hoarded candles and I always thought that was a habit from the days when electricity was undependable. Candles and matches are an important part of preparedness. Mike ascertained that he could light our gas stove manually and a fire burned cheerily in the fireplace. So, we would have light, heat, and a way to fix food. No matter, though – the electricity was on about 5:20.

Today the weather is still unsettled, though we have had no rain. KW

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


When we lived close to grocery stores, I shopped every other day – or whenever I needed a specific ingredient. I wasn't venturesome with recipes. I hopped in the car and ran to the store with the greatest of ease. But now that we're quite a ways from a store, I practice the art of making do. I think people, especially farm families, used to make do, but I'm learning about this art on my own. My parents believed in having what they needed so that the end product would be the best possible, and I suspect this reflects the thinking of a generation that had known quite a bit about making do.

Making do has its benefits. I ask myself, "What if there were an emergency and I were suddenly responsible for feeding 15 people? Could I make a palatable, nourishing meal with the ingredients on hand? And then could I do it again tomorrow?" Thinking this way has actually made me more innovative in meal preparation and helped me keep my pantry stocked with basic ingredients. I don't think I'm paranoid about pandemics, but let's just say I'd rather be able to care for myself than begging someone else to care for me.

Last night I discovered we had no salsa on hand, so I served our tostadas with seasoned diced tomatoes. Salsa would have been better, but we made do. We'll likely run out of bread in a day or two, so we'll make do with hamburger buns. But – I found some yeast in the refrigerator and I can make some bread from scratch.

Making do also relates to emotional wellbeing. Mike and I travel between two homes and struggle to get from one house to the other with everything we need. Even when we make lists, we're apt to walk out the door without a box, a book, the cell phone, or a loaf of bread. I think it's important to accept whatever happens as an adventure because we've chosen to live this way.

Despite the unsettled weather, we did country road clean-up this afternoon. Nellie loved the good run beside the 4-wheeler, and we enjoyed watching her jump in mud puddles. Mike bathed her when we got back to the house and now she's snoozing in front of the warm fire. (And yes, I did wear my gloves – heavy gardening gloves – and washed my hands when I got home.) KW

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Yesterday Ken and I had a geocaching outing. First we went out near the Waha area on the road into Redbird. Idaho Fish and Game has acquired some land in that area and there are now two geocaches in there. One was a two-step cache and the first leg was quite unique. The coords took us to a thick bushy clump type tree with thorns. After searching for some time I a saw a camo colored arrow stuck in the center of the tree with the coords of the final leg written on it. My nose was about a foot from it before I saw it.

But I digress, the real story is an event involving the last cache which was located in Spalding park. For those who aren’t familiar with the park, there is an old abandoned concrete bridge about 150 yards long in a rainbow design that spans some railroad tracks and bottom land and brings the old road down into the park from above. The cache was located on a ledge over the side of the bridge, but that’s another story. Ken and I had Duke and Nellie with us on this outing as you might guess. While I was walking up the bridge with a long stick to knock the cache off, Ken was down below so he could catch it. Duke was with me on the bridge and Nellie was down below. Ken whistled for Duke, not knowing where he was. I answered that Duke was with me so he wouldn't keep calling him. When he whistled Duke looked up and down the bridge for Ken and not seeing him just walked up a little in front of me. Then all of a sudden as if he thought, “Hey, I’d better get down there pronto”. He suddenly all in one motion sprung upon the 4 foot concrete guard rail and launched himself off the side of the bridge. You can't see through the guard rail because it is solid so apparently he hadn’t realized that we had been gaining elevation and were now about 25 feet above the ground. It was like a bad dream happening that you can’t do anything about. As some of you know, I lost a dog years ago that jumped over a cliff after some flushing quail.

Miraculously, he didn’t break anything. He wasn’t able to straighten his back but he was walking and not spitting any blood. We took him to the vet to confirm there was no permanent injury. Although neither of us saw him hit we think his shoulders took the brunt of the impact. Needless to say, when he moves at all, ol’ Duke is moving very slowly today. Those German Shorthairs are some kind of tough!

Sorry I didn’t get any pictures but things happened rather quickly.


A recent post on served as a reminder of what was once an important homemaking skill "back in the day" – ironing. In the days before "wash and wear" or "permanent press," virtually all laundry had to be ironed, and ironing was indeed a skill. Some women earned money by taking in laundry and/or ironing. In our case, when I was very little – perhaps three, my mother had an ironing lady, Mrs. Murray, who came to the house one morning a week to press the family's laundry. Mother would set me in my youth chair and I was fascinated for the duration of Mrs. Murray's work. I loved to watch her smooth the wrinkles out of the clothes.

As older siblings left home and I was off to school, Mother no longer needed Mrs. Murray and did the ironing herself. How well I remember the process. Of course, it actually started with the washing. In the days before dryers, laundry was carefully hung on the line and smoothed for a minimum of wrinkles and creases. Mother's sprinkle bottle was a purchased corked watering cap inserted into a pop bottle, but sprinkle bottles could be purchased. She also had a "sprinkle bag," a zippered plastic sack designed for the purpose of holding the damp laundry. The bag had a divider to separate the whites from the colored clothes. As Mother sprinkled the clothes, she would fold and roll them and place them one by one in the sack, then cover it with a clean old towel and let the damp laundry set for a while. I can still smell the fresh scent of the damp textiles. Sprinkling was evidently an important step because in the whole of my growing up years she never allowed me to sprinkle the clothes. She said it was important that they not be too wet. I assume I am still an inept "sprinkler." Once the clothes were sprinkled, you were committed to finishing the job. Forget about the contents of the sprinkle bag and the clothes would mildew.

When I was 10 or so, I was assigned certain items to iron as part of my household chores — my dad's boxer shorts and pajamas, pillowcases, tablecloths, handkerchiefs, etc. Embroidered pillowcases were given special treatment. Mother taught me to put a towel under the embroidery as I pressed to protect it. (Crocheted edgings and doilies also received this special treatment.) Mother ironed all other items of clothing — and very carefully. She painstakingly pressed pleated or gathered skirts, ruffled blouses, creased pants. It was amazing what she could do with the point of her hot iron. I could never be her equal.

We also had a "mangle." My old dictionary defines a mangle as a machine for ironing laundry by passing it between heated rollers. The word could also be used as a verb – to mangle or mangling, meaning to smooth damp laundry by means of a mangle. As I recall, the operator sits on a chair in front of the mangle and places the fabric evenly over a horizontal roller, then causes that roller to move into the hot sleeve. Mother's mangle came out when she laundered the sheer curtains that hung in windows across the front of our house.

Mother's comment on permanent press: "A permanent press shirt doesn't look good unless you press it and even then it doesn't look much better." A friend points out that as life changes, our symbols change as well, and the symbol of the well-ironed shirt was disappearing. While Mother appreciated the crisp, clean lines of a beautifully pressed garment, she knew that the process of ironing was hard on textiles. She told me that she had received three sets of colored sheets when she was first married in 1929. She especially loved the lavender set, so she kept them for special and ironed them. She said that while she used that set far less, it wore out first.

[Photo – Mother's ironing board sat before this window for years. Eventually she updated and improved the little passageway, installing these "plant holders" for her African violets.] KW

Monday, May 4, 2009


Okay. I admit it. The pork cake did not work out well. Pigs in this century are bred to be lean, whereas in my great-grandmother Lucy's day, quality fat was to be had from the pig's back. Or, maybe they just didn't know anything else. The fat I used resulted in a product that wasn't smooth and therefore eating it was not a pleasant experience. When the cake wasn't quite so fresh – and we had plenty that wasn't quite so fresh – it began to taste – well, "porky." The taste of the fat seemed to come through. Mike made the same unsolicited observation.

So I decided to take the same recipe and substitute ½ cup butter and ½ cup of my homemade applesauce for the pork fat, which of course, makes the cake something that isn't pork cake. Now I have an applesauce cake, and after having experimented with this recipe, I admit that I have a better recipe for applesauce cake on file. You know how it is – you're in a recipe rut and you know it. You want to break out of the rut and try something new (or something old), so you start reading recipes. You land on one that appeals to you, but as you read it, you begin to mentally make substitutions according to what you have on hand or what you like. In the final analysis, the new recipe looks like your old tried and true recipe and you're back to square one. I'm afraid that's the case with the pork cake.

Recipes change over time according to what is available, affordable, and fits nutrition trends. We don't eat like we did in Grandma's day – whatever that day was – and that's probably a good thing.

[The first photo is the family of my great-grandparents, Lafe and Lucy Dickson, taken in the late 1880s. Standing are Ina (my grandmother), Bertha, Ben, and Ida; seated beside their parents are Mabel and Frank. The second photo is the extended family of Lafe and Lucy Dickson who are seated in the center. Grandma Ina stands just behind Lafe's left shoulder. Her husband, June Dobson, is to her left with their daughters Myrtle and Ethel behind him. My dad is probably one of the children seated on the lawn.] KW

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Mike and I drove back to Clarkston from the farm Thursday evening so that I could help at a rummage sale, a major fundraiser for my P.E.O. chapter. Set-up was Friday morning with the sale on Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Then there's the worst part – the inevitable take down, and at that point it almost seemed like nothing sold. As the last shopper walked out the door, we took large garbage bags and simply threw away the remaining house wares, decorative items, freebie mugs, etc., while packing the remaining clothing, books, and sundries for a church-sponsored rummage sale next weekend. If it didn't sell at one rummage sale, will it sell at the next? But we were grateful someone was willing to take the stuff because we discovered that local organizations such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army no longer pick up sale leftovers.

The rummage sale always makes me think about the value of things. We pay a premium for new goods, but let them show up at a rummage sale – even if they're still new – and everyone wants something for nothing. And what a statement on our changing world – two slide projectors with boxes of slide trays, two printers, one TV set, a box of LP albums, many movies in VCR format (those sold), and many used VCR tapes (those didn't sell), a set of encyclopedias (didn't sell), and boxes of romance novels (many left). The things we recognized as valuable and priced a little higher did not sell. Frankly, I made a nice donation to the chapter and "bought" whatever I wanted, including a nice Rubbermaid storage bowl, a new dustpan, my Mother's Tupperware cake carrier (donated by my sister), some fabric, a pattern for tote bags, and – this may surprise you – clothes, including a casual summer dress (Draper & Damon), a wool Koret suit (pants and jacket) in dark olive green, Alfred Dunner separates, etc. I thought if nothing else it would give me a chance to experiment with sizes and styles. No one is going to know that these things spent some time in someone else's closet before landing in mine.

After lunch today Mike and I were shopping at a real store in real time. We had picked up a few items and were standing in a rather long line with just one check station open. "Look at that," Mike whispered to me; "now the checker is going to talk on her cellphone with all these people in line."

"Hello," said the checker into her cellphone. Suddenly her face darkened, as they say, -- and I mean it was dark -- and the tears began to fall. "Are you coming in to work today? I'm here all by myself and I can't get away. I've been here alone since 8:45. I have no one to relieve me." You could hear a pin drop as shoppers began to sympathize. "Then if you can't come in, will you please find someone to come help me?" I got the feeling that whoever she called was not sympathetic to her plight, but apparently a young man in line knew another employee of the store. He said he would call "Kyle" for her. He came back a few minutes later and said that Kyle would be there in 15 minutes. KW