Monday, August 30, 2010


It may have been just a blip, but it seemed stressful nevertheless. The surgery is over. It went just fine. Mike is drowsy and resting comfortably. He was cognizant enough to record the football game when we got home. He is taking nourishment.

We have to see the doctor again Friday morning. We expect that a smaller dressing will be applied at that time. A pin was installed, and I believe the doctor said it extends just beyond the tip of his finger.

"How did you injure yourself?" asked the anesthetist.

"Well, nothing glamorous," began Mike.

"Then you have to work on your story," she rejoined.

So, I have walked Nellie and now I'm off to do something fun -- bake a peach pie. KW


It's really Mike's story, and I know he wants to tell it. But today he is having surgery on his left index finger. It's just a blip – really – but once they get you in their clutches you feel like you just as well be having major surgery. You know how it is – no food or drink after midnight, the showers with the special antiseptic soap, the before and after instructions. It's the same no matter what your assigned procedure. We keep reminding ourselves that it's really just a blip on life's highway -- a blip on the roadway of happiness – and we're grateful it's just a blip. We just have to remember today is Monday, August 30th, and we have someplace we have to be at noon for repair work.

Gilbert homeplace, 8-29-10
We spent Saturday and Sunday at the farm. I had left a box of pears in the house when Hallie and I left last Monday. They were so green and I knew we would return during the week so that I could process them through the dryer. However, Mike had appointments relating to his finger and we stayed in town all week. When I opened the door of the farmhouse upon arrival, I knew immediately the pears were well ready – that sweet-sour aroma of very ripe fruit. Very ripe – yes – but not overly so. Not one pear was turning brown in the center, and I was so relieved. I think it took me three hours to peel all the pears for the dryer. They were mostly ready Sunday afternoon when I had to remove them from the dryer. If the time frame works out, I will process another box. I used to like to buy pears from places like Harry and David. Then I awoke to the fact that since I live in the Pacific Northwest, it's probably ridiculous to pay a premium for premium fruit. In my opinion, we don't have great fruit and vegetables here in the winter and spring, but we do have great fruit in the fall – melons, apples, pears, peaches, plums, etc.

Distant storm, Camas Prairie
Day darkens over wheat field
I couldn't believe my ears last week when I heard the familiar "chooo" of the school bus as it stopped down the street. School started already? Sure enough – The bus stops as regularly as clockwork now – 7:25 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Where did the summer go?

But I have to say -- the signs of autumn with its ever-shortening days are everywhere. During the first week of August, I couldn't stay awake long enough to enjoy the night sky. Daylight was still hanging around the horizon at 10:00. Now all of a sudden I find it's mostly dark by 8:00 p.m. Funny how those short days creep in on us. As autumn approaches the world seems to take on a different glow. Even bright days look and feel different. Why is that? Is it the position of the sun? Is it dust and smoke in the air?

Mike and I keep a magazine rack full of our favorite catalogs, rotating them as new ones arrive. The other day I cleaned it out to make ready for the fall onslaught.

There were summer disappointments. The tomato plants didn't bear much, and the deer ripped three tomatoes off the one plant that tried. Deer don't like tomatoes, but they forget. The zucchini I planted didn't germinate. The pumpkin burned in the summer sun. Some reading materials went unread. Some blog posts went unwritten. Some ideas have yet to be developed. Life goes on, you know.

Barley field at June's
We have a wonderful fall here. As a rule, the mornings and evenings are cool while the afternoons are sunny and warm. Mike assures me it will get warm again, but this morning I made myself a cup of soothing "Ginger Snappish" tea as visions of elderberry jelly, zucchini bread and pumpkin pies dance in my head. And yes, I am indeed going to speak the unspeakable. CHRISTMAS IS COMING. Get ready to get ready.

So -- it's time for the Americana display to shift to harvest items – pumpkins, perhaps a bouquet of wheat and barley stalks with some bright orange and yellow blooms from the dollar store. It will be easy to shift from there to Halloween and from Halloween to Thanksgiving. Then the all-important change to Christmas.

I see you shaking your head. Don't be fooled. Christmas is right around the corner and this year likely won't be different any other. Things will still be undone at Christmas, especially if I don't get started. KW

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Orofino, Idaho from the Gilbert Grade

Some years ago I participated in the Ida-Host program, a workshop to awaken employers (and others) to the economic impact of tourism on the community. Statistics were presented showing that the longer a tourist stays in the community, the more he spends. If he spends the night, you have vastly increased the amount of money he will leave behind. Tourism dollars improve the over-all economy of the community and that's good for all of us – not just the business owners. I had never thought of that before. I was impressed.

Actually, the people with the greatest opportunity to influence the tourist are front-line employees – clerks, cashiers, etc. – at places like grocery and convenience stores, specialty shops, museums, etc. Unfortunately, these are the workers who are also at the lowest pay grade and mostly disinterested. On the other hand, anyone can do it. Here's an example:

My friend Chris told me about the quilt shop in downtown Orofino, our hometown, and mentioned it would be worth my while to check it out – some different things. "It's called The Wild Hare and it's where the Style Shop used to be." (Does that date us or what?) So, when Hallie was here last week, we turned off Highway 12 and drove across the bridge into Orofino on our way back to the Lewis-Clark Valley. We arrived at the shop at 9:20 so had 10 minutes to wait for the shop to open. (The storekeeper later told us she would have opened if we had knocked. Small towns – so great!) Anyway, Hallie and I walked up one side of the street and down the other while we waited, and as we were contemplating the Mexican Restaurant where Oud's Hardware used to be, a woman walking by, a stranger to us, said, "Best food in town." After a brief exchange with her, she again reiterated – "Best food in town."

Kathy at the Mexican Restaurant
"Great!" said Mike when I told him. "I'll take you there for your birthday dinner." And so that's what we did last night – a first for us to leave the farm for any form of town entertainment. Leaving Nellie in the farmhouse, we headed down the steep and winding narrow Gilbert Grade to Orofino and had dinner at the Mexican Restaurant. We aren't people who rave about food, but we thought our entrees were delicious. Not only was the food good, but we were served promptly and courteously and the price was reasonable. We were impressed by the efficiency of the wait staff – five people working the floor and anticipating the needs of the diners. "Yancey would like this place," said Mike. (And that's because Yancey and family have taken us to Mexican restaurants in Denver.) I was thinking that Hallie and Nick would like it. We agreed we would make the effort to go again and take guests. And all because Chris told me about the quilt shop and a stranger recommended the Mexican Restaurant.

So, our recommendations have far-reaching effects. "Word of mouth" is powerful if we use it. Perhaps it's not so important in metropolitan areas where tourists come knowing what they want to see and do, but it's certainly important in smaller communities where attractions are not so obvious or well-known.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Kathy Vann's third birthday -- August 28, 1952

I have shared my birthday cake with friends and family many times over the years. I would hate to say any celebration is more memorable than another, though last year's celebration in Seattle at Hallie and Nick's wedding ranks right up there. But today I find myself thinking of how in my adult years my parents would show up most every year with a cake and a small gift, and now that they're gone, those memories are very precious. On one such occasion in the early years of my married life, as we were finishing our cake and ice cream, Mike said, "Tell us about the night she was born."

Mother and Daddy chuckled in unison and began to tell the tale of one hot August night in 1949, essentially as I'll tell it to you:

It was late the evening of August 27 and Mother was in labor. So, Mother and Daddy climbed into their 1949 midnight blue Ford sedan and drove all of four blocks to the Orofino Hospital . . . except that my dad didn't stop at the hospital. Instead he headed on down Michigan Avenue and over the bridge that spans the Clearwater River. "Where are you going?" Mother demanded.

"It's such a nice night I thought we'd take a little drive," my dad replied. "The baby won't be here for hours."

"You turn right around and take me to the hospital," Mother commanded.

Dorothy holding Kathy, Oct. 1949
Yes, my dad complied, and back they went to the hospital, where they roused the nurse on duty.

Now, the old Orofino Hospital was a wood-frame, two-story building painted a very dark brown which housed not only the hospital but the doctor's office. The delivery room was on the second floor. You might think that's not a big deal, but there was no elevator. A woman in labor was forced to climb the stairs to the second floor. Of course, my mother was not an exception. My dad was left behind in the first-floor waiting room. In those days, delivery was between a woman and the medical staff. Fathers were made to wait.

"Now," said the nurse upon prepping my mother, "it's going to be a long time before the baby comes and I'm going back to bed. Should you need me, lightly tap this buzzer. Do not turn it on because it rings loudly throughout the hospital. That would be unnecessary. Just tap it and I'll come." And my mother was left to battle the labor pains alone.

"But I delivered all my babies quickly," Mother said. "Once dilation started, the baby came."

Vance with Kathy, Oct. 1949
Sure enough. Before long, Mother knew the birth was imminent. Did she tap the buzzer lightly? No! She turned it on and let it ring – loud as it was.

"Did you hear it?" we asked my dad. "Oh yes!" he laughed. "Everybody in the hospital heard it."

That's mostly the end of the story except that in his excitement, my dad decided that Grandma and Grandpa Portfors, Mother's parents, need to know about the new baby girl right away. No, the news couldn't wait until they were awake and eating breakfast. So, he went to their house – between our house and the hospital – and when he couldn't rouse the dear old folks, he climbed through their bedroom window. I always wondered what comments my grandparents made to each other about that.

Cost of new baby delivered at Orofino Hospital in 1949: $100. Price included doctor's fee for pre- and post-natal appointments and 7-day hospital stay for mother and baby.

Well, it's not hot this year. The high today here at Gilbert will be about 60.  
[On the back of the picture of my mother and me, my dad wrote: "Mother -- This is very good." Evidently he gave it to Grandma Ina. And it's the only copy of that photo I have. In that same photo, look at the bottom right corner. See Vance's shadow?]

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Last weekend the local Geocachers’ club had a campout in the Umatilla National Forest south of Dayton, WA. There were a lot of the type caches that I like in the area and I hoped to learn more about my new GPSr from some of the other geocachers who were familiar with the new generation Garmin technology. The campout was planned for Friday and Saturday nights. As it happened Hallie was to be in town for business Saturday morning through Monday so I planned to go over early Friday and come back Saturday afternoon. The featured event of the gathering was to be a Saturday morning hike into a cache near a 1941 plane wreck of an Air Force (Army Air Force then) training mission.

Before leaving Friday morning with the 4 wheeler in tow and bicycle loaded in the back I checked the listing and found that due to road construction the planned camp site might be closed. In that case, new coordinates would be posted at the site. By site, I thought they meant camp site but I wasn’t sure.

There were a couple of caches I wanted to do before I got to the camp site. To my surprise the road into the forest was a very good paved one. The first cache was a roadside at the Middle Point Trailhead and I arrived there a little after 10:30. The second one was a mile and a half hike up the trail to Middle Point Ridge with a 4 terrain rating. I started out on the mountain bike but soon determined that wouldn’t be practical so I returned it to the truck and proceeded on foot. It was a beautiful morning hike up to a ridge top to a seldom visited cache. It had been logged only twice this year and that was in March.

I got back to the truck just after noon and proceeded to the planned camp site which happened to be just where the pavement ended. When I got there I found that a road crew was putting in a new bridge across the creek to the campground and it was closed as suspected. There was a big parking area with rest rooms and a bulletin board across from the campground so I left my truck there and headed out on the 4 wheeler to find some caches. After finding 3 more caches I got back to the truck about 4:30 and found a note on my windshield with coords listed for the new camp site. It just happened to be at the Middle Point Trailhead 4 miles back where I had been that morning. Since I still had plenty of light I decided to try a couple of more that required hikes commencing at the originally planned campsite near where the truck was parked. The first one was a mile hike up a trail so good that I wished I had taken by bicycle. I found it near the trail and to my surprise it had only one log which was a year ago. For the next one I had to retrace the mile down the trail and take a left fork. It wasn’t too far but it was a 4 terrain and I eventually abandoned the trail and headed straight up the mountain. It too had only one log which was a year ago. However, all I found was the remains of a container that a bear had destroyed. A bear had crossed the road in front of me earlier on my 4 wheeler journey.

When I got to the campsite Brad Jordan (Quadsinthemudd) with his three little kids, Emily, 8 and 5 year old twins Angus and Wyatt were there along with Dale and Debbie Bashaw (Ogeo and Isplash). A little later Ray Brown (Bluesman63) from Dayton came out but he couldn’t stay that evening. Most of the caches in the area were placed by him and he does an excellent job. Brad is from Uniontown and the Bashaws have recently moved to Grangemont (Orofino area) from Lewiston.

That evening I got some helpful instruction on the use of my new GPSr. The Garmin manuals are very rudimentary and next to useless for learning the real capabilities of the unit.

I cooked my supper on my tailgate and used my truck bed for my sleeping quarters. Since fires weren’t allowed and I couldn’t heat rocks to warm the feet of my sleeping bag as is my usual practice I had purchased a hot water bottle instead. That would have been fine except that the bottle top leaked. Fortunately I discovered it before my sleeping bag got too wet. It just took a lot longer to get my feet warm but once I did I was very comfortable.

The next morning we loaded up and headed to the trailhead leading into the plane crash cache. I started on the 4 wheeler but had to leave it at the head of a road we took because it didn’t allow them. So I piled into Bashaw’s Explorer to complete the trip to the trailhead. We were to meet Leonard Drayton (Dr. D of Absolute) at 9:30 and he wasn’t there yet so we went past the trailhead and picked a cache near the road.

Leonard showed up about the time we got back to the trailhead and we proceeded to the two caches leading to the plane wreck. It wasn’t a real easy hike and I was impressed at how well the kids did. Wyatt was up front with me most of the way going through bushes over rocks and through springs. After getting the two caches we had to bushwhack a couple hundred feet over steep terrain and thick bushes to get down to the wreck. Most of the group seemed a lot more interested in it than I was although Debbie didn’t climb down at all. After a while I climbed back up and started back at my own pace. As it was I didn’t get back to the vehicle till about 1:20 and the rest followed some time later. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving to caches on the mountain most of which required only a little walking. After the group dropped me off at the 4 wheeler I went to get another cache nearby that required a ¾ mile hike up to an old lookout site. I was just the second person to log it.

There were still some remote caches I wanted to get since I had come so far so I decided if I could wangle some food out of someone (I was completely out) I would stay another night. As luck would have it Brad’s wife showed up with a couple of pizzas. As host Brad also furnished the Smores although cooking them over a stove rather than a campfire does take something out of it. Ray had come back for the night and a couple of geocachers from Walla Walla also visited us (ihavecats and Redgoat67). Ray took us to 3 more of his caches at dusk. He also promised a pancake breakfast the next morning.

Unfortunately Ray wasn’t an early riser and I knew I had a lot of miles to cover. Even though he had said to wake him I could hear him snoring away at 7:00 so I just pulled out without breakfast. I towed the 4 wheeler the 4 miles to the pavement end and then I had to retrace the 9+ miles on the 4 wheeler I had traveled the day before. At that point I took an ATV trail that was pretty hairy in places. I eventually arrived in a steep gully on a bridge near where the cache was supposed to be located. I was in a deep hole and couldn’t get an accurate reading so I looked for at least a half hour unsuccessfully. Finally I gave up and proceeded down the deteriorating trail where I came upon a girl and her dog. She was heading in the opposite direction and said she was planning to get in 10 miles. I think she was running and walking. It was much too rough and steep to run where we were. At any rate she said the trail did not go to where I was heading but that I needed to return to the start and take the road. On the way out I stopped again at the cache site and this time got lucky and found the cache.

When I got to the road I traveled to the end of it which was about 4 miles. It terminated at Tee Pee Campground. There was a cache near the campground that had not been found in two years. It was supposed to be in a big log that was pretty obvious but I couldn’t find it. Finally I spied it down the hill right out in the open. I guess something had rolled it out. I had my “lunch” there which was one of the three small oatmeal cookies I had. I had already eaten one for my mid morning snack.

The next cache called “Uprooted” was the real prize. It required a 1.5 mile hike up a continually climbing trail and it also had not been found in two years. It also had a Jeep Travel Bug in it. I think it was around 1:00 when I found it. The trail was well marked except when I got in the area of the cache. It was located near the top of a ridge.

I had one cache left which I had passed within 1/3 of a mile when I had traveled to the campground. There was supposed to be a road to it but if there was I couldn’t find it. After hiking out to the campground I went back to the closest point to the cache which was a horse camp. I had to bushwhack the 1/3 mile through dead fall and down over a small stream and up the other side. I thought I had marked the 4 wheeler with my GPSr when I left. I’m still getting used to the unit and I had not marked it. The cache was called “The Big Ammo Can” and you can see why. Bluesman had won it at a Geocaching event. It took me longer than it should have to find my way back to the 4 wheeler since I had not marked it. Pathfinder I’m not.

By the time I got back to where we had camped everyone was long gone. I got home around 6:00 and discovered that you can in fact go all day with fairly strenuous activity on 3 oatmeal cookies with no ill effects. Kathy was still at the farm so I picked up a foot long sub but only ate ¾ of it. It was a fun event and I logged 22 caches. M/W

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Blackberry Pie -- photo courtesy of Hallie Johnson

Hallie's husband Nick enjoys berries. He likes the experience of exploring for berries, picking them, and then making sweet-tart jams, jellies, and desserts. My dad would so have enjoyed knowing Nick.

"Why don't you take advantage of the abundance of blackberries in your neighborhood?" I asked Hallie. Wild blackberries are a big problem in Seattle, but to my way of thinking, the berries just as well be picked and enjoyed when they're ripe. At first they didn't seem interested, so a couple of weeks later I was surprised when Hallie said they were going out to pick blackberries and would I share my berry pie recipe. Here's what I told her –


One pre-baked pie shell (I used a chocolate crumb shell)

First, blend 8 oz softened cream cheese, 4 oz Cool Whip (or more), ½ cup powdered sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla. Spread in pie shell and place in refrigerator.

Mash about 4 cups berries (not too much mashing) and add ½ to 1 cup water. Stir together one cup sugar and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Blend the berries and water into the sugar and cornstarch mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook one minute after mixture comes to a boil. Allow to cool a little. (If I'm in a hurry, I will place the pan in cold water for a few minutes.)

Finish by pouring the berry mixture over the cream cheese.

You might recognize this recipe as a variation on Betty Crocker's strawberry glace pie. I prefer to make more of the cream cheese layer. Options for the berry layer abound: you can use a smaller amount of berries, or you can layer fresh berries on your cream cheese layer and make the topping with just one cup of the berries. If you're a berry purist, you could probably just go with fresh berries and eliminate the sauce.

Since Hallie had a business appointment in the Valley on Monday, she flew in on Saturday (8-21). I picked her up at the airport and we drove out to the farm. Mike was participating in a geo-caching camp-out in the Blues, so it was just the two of us – and Nellie, of course.

Hallie has undertaken a self-study to learn about plants, and she brought with her a copy of Berry Grower's Companion by Barbara L. Bowling. First we read about raspberries and strawberries and then we cut back the old canes in my raspberry patch. I'll need to tip the new canes about the first of November.

Then we went down the lane to the curve where Dobson Road comes into the lane, property that actually lies on June's old place -- if that means anything to you. We had seen the raspberry canes there and when we started pruning, we discovered quite a stand. Hallie pruned and pulled out dead underbrush for an hour. I agreed to rake away the debris and perhaps throw some fertilizer on the plants. We're not exactly sure if these are black raspberries or black caps or what. They are definitely wild berries and the county road crew is ruthless in poisoning them if they encroach upon the road.

Next, we walked down the draw that borders the northern side of the property. Nick and Hallie had already identified several berry stands when they were here two weeks ago. Again, Hallie pruned away dead canes and debris, hoping to encourage the plants to bear more profusely in the future. We'll just have to see what happens.

Other berries of interest:

Elderberries abound in our area. Nick and Hallie hope to participate in the jelly making this year. I have "pure cane sugar from Hawaii" available in abundance for the occasion.

Gooseberries and currants. I have planted these without much success, though Grandma Ina had a gooseberry bush that was prolific until it disappeared – probably a casualty of crop-dusting. I'll try again next year – perhaps a different location.

Serviceberry. I think we have serviceberry at the farm; I just have yet to identify it. KW

Thursday, August 19, 2010


As you may know I’ve been making motorcycle trips all over Oregon in a quest to log a geocache in each of the 36 counties. I recently completed the task but to get credit for the cache “Counting the Counties in Oregon” you first must submit your list of caches, get it approved and then make yet another trip over to Bend to log the final cache. You can’t cheat because you aren’t given the coordinates until your list is approved. I decided to get this done Monday and Tuesday of this week.

The problem with motorcycle travel this time of year is figuring out how to stay warm enough in the mornings and yet cool enough the rest of the day without taking your whole wardrobe. I haven’t mastered that feat but I’m learning. I have a mesh jacket that is very cool to wear so long as you are moving. However, it gives absolutely no protection from the cold so I took my regular jacket that has vents that can be opened as well as a zip-out liner. Unfortunately, that didn’t work except for about an hour or two the first thing in the morning. You are close to that black asphalt on a motorcycle and it increases the heat five to ten degrees. The jacket was unbearable so I had to take it off and attach it with a bungee cord to my tail pack. I did have a long sleeve shirt for some protection but the wind just whips your shirt something fierce. I got by alright the first day but the second day I was on Highway 97 (the highway from hell) and every time I would meet the big semis, which was constantly, I would get a stiff punch from a wall of air. In order to somewhat mitigate this blast I would duck under the wind screen just as I would meet a truck. That shielded my body from the blast but not my tail pack with the jacket on top. Consequently, when I stopped after an hour or so on Highway 97, no jacket. Did I mention that my cell phone was in the jacket as well? I didn’t see any point of going back because with all the traffic I felt sure I would not find it. I’ve been dialing my cell phone but it wasn’t turned on so if someone did take the jacket they haven’t found the phone or didn’t bother to turn it on. Next time I will try taking the mesh jacket with a lined windbreaker to wear under it in the mornings.

This trip was the maiden voyage for my new GPSr, the Garmin MAP62st. It is one of the latest generation gadgets that is actually a storage device in addition to a GPSr. Garmin manuals are very rudimentary and this unit is very complex. Consequently I’ve utilized their email support frequently. I haven’t yet reached the point to approach its potential but I’m still learning. I’ve accidentally erased some waypoints more than once but most I’ve had backed up with some new software that I’m also having to learn.

My first stop on the trip was in Dayton, WA. I did not find the first cache and had trouble with the second one because of not understanding my new gadget. After the second cache I discovered my problem and things went better.

I eventually made my way south down through Walla Walla and Pendleton and stopped for lunch at Battle Mountain State Park where I found three caches. One interesting cache I did was called “Them Old Days” which was in a false front of an old town. Then there was “Nu Shoozs” which was a cottonwood tree out in the middle of nowhere full of shoes. It had to be fun placing all those shoes up there. I also got a kick out of “Holy Crap” which was a hunk of Styrofoam made to look like you know what molded around a jar.

I stayed in Redmond instead of Bend as the final for “Counting the Counties in Oregon” was located half way between. After checking into the mo

tel I set out to

get that cache. It was about 7:30 p.m. before I got there. It was kind of a forbidding looking place in a rural area with a stone entrance,

big steel gate and fence and “No Trespassing “signs just beyond the gate. I wanted to meet the cache owner but I was a little intimidated by the place so I didn’t open the big iron gate and venture in.

The next morning I logged several caches in Redmond before heading north on Highway 97. I stopped at a very nice Rest Area and picked up a couple of caches. Further down the road (when I discovered my jacket missing) I almost stepped on a nest of quail eggs while searching for a cache. I had lunch just north of Sherman at Moro which I thought was a neat and very impressive little town.

I continued north crossing the Columbia into Washington still picking up caches. I got one at a wind farm and I was really impressed at how big those things are. I got one at a gazebo at the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce. They have a very attractive little building and grounds. At Zilla I found one called “The Fountain of Zouth” which was at another gazebo near a fountain that was out in a lake. Finally, I stopped again in Dayton and picked up the cache I had not found on the way over.

I arrived home a little before 8:00 p.m. and had a pleasant surprise in finding that Kathy had just returned from the farm. I wasn’t expecting her and I was already planning that I would have to ruin a screen to get into the garage to get a key for the house which I had forgotten to take with me. I traveled 812 miles these two days and logged 25 caches. It was a lot of fun but I’m pleased to be finished. M/W

Monday, August 16, 2010


Coneflowers grow by front steps

Nellie came up to me as I watched tv Friday night. Her eyes seem to pose a question, and I assumed she wanted out. I let her out the kitchen door, expecting to let her back in minutes later. There was no Nellie at the door when I checked, nor again when I checked ten minutes later. I reported to Mike and he said he would get her.

He got her all right – he got her up! She had gone into the woodshed where her barrel is and put herself to bed. She had gone to bed!

Now let me just say here that Nellie has a regular bedtime routine. She stays on her pillow in the house until Mike says it's bedtime. Then he brushes her teeth and takes her out to her kennel bed. Sometimes when we stay up late, she will sit up and stretch and we get the hint -- it's bedtime. But Friday night we didn't get the message and she had to take matters into her own paws.

Mike fighting algae & pond weeds
"I'm a dog, a workin' dog, I'm a hard-workin' dog" – the words of an old Sesame Street song, perhaps meaning more to moms than kids. And this past week Nellie had worked and played hard. She played at the pond as Mike raked and pulled horned pond weed from the water. Sure – it was dog play, but work nevertheless. Chasing those jumping frogs is hard work! And she was doing it during the morning hours when she ordinarily naps. And of course, running alongside me on my mountain bike – five and ten miles at a time over gravel roads – well, it's enough to make a dog's joints tired and her paws a little sore.

House from barley field
The next day – Saturday – Nellie followed me around the house as I prepared for my bike ride. She recognizes my bike-riding get-up. She was there as I filled my water bottled, smoothed sun block on my skin, snapped my helmet into place and pulled on my gloves. Outside, with Nellie by my side, I checked my bike and re-set the gauges. I looked at her. She looked at me. All was in readiness. Nellie stepped aside as I rolled out of the yard and down the lane.

"Good-bye!" she called. "Have a good ride!"

As I rode back into the yard, Nellie came to greet me un-apologetically.  I guess Nellie knows when she's had enough. KW

Saturday, August 14, 2010


The John Dobson Family circa 1871

My favorite retro era is the 1930s through the 1940s. It seems to me that's when the concept of home management was at its peak – when it was studied as a system that could be taught for the benefit of the individual and therefore society. As the '40s became the '50s and '60s, we began to question that "a woman's place is in the home" and women began to express their right to find fulfillment outside the home, to have careers apart from or in addition to home and family – and rightly so. The wrong was that home management as a career was de-valued to the point that we stopped teaching, developing, and encouraging it. Some of us feel the loss of that. Some of us have discovered we can still find it – through the written word (books and letters) and through each other. The subject of domestic encouragement is really rather timeless in nature. Modern conveniences may relieve us of much drudgery, but the value of the home to society remains.

Here's an anecdote about my paternal great-grandmother, Lucy Winans Dobson, from my Grandmother Ina Dobson's unpublished memoir. Lucy was Ina's mother-in-law, of course. To my knowledge they never met. Lucy lived near Deloit, Iowa, with her husband, John.

"John Dobson was a good and kind man," Ina writes, "and was often called upon by the native Americans to settle little matters between them and the settlers. One chief and his wife called at the house to do honor to Grandpa John. At the time there were twins in the old cradle, Julian and Junius. Before this there had been twin girls in the old cradle, Julia and Mary. This seemed a great thing to the chief -- that this woman had born not one but two sets of twins, and he thought Grandma Lucy a wonderful woman. He offered to trade his spouse and I don't know what else for Grandma! We do not know by what diplomacy Grandpa John got out of this situation.

Julia Ann & Mary Jane; Julian & Junius
"Grandmother Lucy was a handsome woman, a great manager and worker. She raised lots of chickens and geese and had eggs and butter to sell, as well as some garden stuff. She made clothes for the family, and even the boys wore home-made clothes till they were in their teens. Grandfather raised sheep and used to take the wool to Peoria, Illinois, to trade for 'full cloth.' This was a heavy grade of wool cloth used for suits for men and boys, from which Grandma made clothes for the boys."

By the way, the two sets of twins were just four of the ten children that Lucy bore between 1856 and 1876. The girl twins were born in 1857 while the boys, Julian (my grandfather) and Junius were born in 1864.

Family generation gaps are certainly interesting, aren't they? My great-grandfather John Dobson was born in 1834, my grandfather Julian Dobson in 1864, my dad in 1904, and I in 1949. My half-sister Harriet's first great-grandchild was born in April of this year, just weeks before Harriet turned 80, while my half-brother Chuck at 74 has great-grandchildren who are half grown. Some people, like me, never knew their great-grandparents. They were gone by at least 20 years when I was born. 

[Recently through this blog I became acquainted with Leah, a shirt-tail relative, who provided the family portrait of the John Dobson Family from her genealogy research. I had never seen the family portrait but had the photo of the twins taken in 1871. Together, Leah and I worked through some errors in dating and identification of the photo. The baby is not Lawrence, who was born and died in 1868, but Cora, born in 1870. See the cute little topknot tied with ribbon?] KW

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Eerie storm sky at homestead Tuesday evening, 8-10-10

I thought I heard the distant sound of a semi this morning. My sleepy consciousness barely acknowledged it and soon forgot it altogether.

Yesterday's mountain bike ride didn't go well for me. I just didn't feel much like going and my odometer barely registered five miles as I came back into the yard. I resolved to do better today.

With my trusty companion Nellie running alongside, I began my arduous up-and-down trek across Russell Ridge. Heading down Miller Road, I decided to go all the way to the end today – to the old Shawley place. Whizzing along past the Miller's, we scared up a whitetail doe that ran parallel to me. I saw her glance across the road and was wary of her, afraid that she would suddenly decide to cross in front of me. I was relieved when she headed off in the other direction but continued to be mindful of her anyway. Sure enough! As I zoomed down Miller's mountain, pedaling for maximum speed, there was that doe running across in front of me. I was grateful for the mental preparation but I did brake and lose the momentum that would have carried me up the next hill. I made it – I just had to work harder.

I was tired as I continued on – another two miles to the end of the road. It was slow-going. As I approached my destination, I noticed a 4-wheeler parked at the roadside, and a stocky little man stepped onto the road from a field, carrying lots of bright yellow pipe and yellow plastic sheeting. "Oh! I didn't expect to see anyone here!" he commented in surprise. Likewise.

Just up the next hill I arrived at the end of the road. The gate was open and I could see a combine and several trucks. I have a rule for my riding – when harvest starts, I'm careful about where I ride – and I was not pleased to find that I had no option but to share this narrow country road with harvest traffic. After a quick swig of my water, I called Nellie and we headed back the way we came.

Storm sky to south over Little Canyon Tuesday evening
Now – I really wanted to go fast. I hate the feeling that something can come down on me from behind. In fact, I'm a little paranoid about being followed. The noise of my tires and the wind in my ears keeps me from hearing acutely and I can imagine I hear trucks everywhere. But we kept moving – Nellie and I – often slowly as I climbed the hills. And Nellie runs on the opposite side of the road from where I ride, which also makes me nervous now. But being alert counts for something. We met a pick-up, and the driver waved cheerily as he left me in a cloud of dust. On past the Miller's, where this time I had to get off and push my bike.

Something funny happened there, though. A couple of quail were ambling down the road, engrossed in a tete-a-tete. "Watch this," said Nellie. She ran up alongside the quail and they ignored her, continuing their conversation. "What!" exclaimed Nellie, doing a double-take. "You can't ignore me. I am frightening you." Just then the quail did a double-take on Nellie's presence and took wing. She took chase, but it was all harmless pre-season practice for everyone.

Back on my bike and pedaling – oh so excruciatingly slowly – here came a semi heading toward us. At least he slowed down. I got off my bike and called for Nellie, pointing for her to put herself between me and the bank. One thing about Nellie – she doesn't pay much attention to me until she hears that note of panic. Then she quickly does as I tell her. The driver gave me a friendly wave as I turned my back to the dust he left in his wake.

Rustic raised beds
As Miller Road became Curfman Road, I sense a vehicle behind me, but as I expected, it turned to head out to the highway. Nellie and I continued to Dobson Road. Never was I so glad to see it – the home stretch. Nellie's demeanor seemed to say she was relieved, too. Now we knew for sure we would not meet any more vehicles – not today.

Farmer Kyle came in today, bringing us a big old tire to use for a raised bed. He said it will be several weeks before the barley on our place is ready to harvest.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Moping Nellie pretends to nap

Nellie was overjoyed to greet Hallie again on Sunday morning. She was hopeful of a nice treat – one of the "pig ears" Hallie brought especially for her, but alas! The pig ears were all gone and Nellie had to settle for a common dog treat – not quite the same thing.

We have discussed that Nellie knows Hallie belongs to the family. "The DNA scent is right," explained Hallie. And Nellie and Hallie bonded in the few precious puppy months before Hallie graduated from U-I and her home visits were less frequent.

Somehow, as Sunday morning progressed, Nellie knew this was the day – the day that Hallie and Nick would leave. How does she know? – we wondered. There were no suitcases in evidence. But it was obvious from her demeanor that she did indeed know. As Hallie gave me last minute instructions on the new blog lay-out, Nellie was lying glumly at her feet. During final leave-taking in the house, she rested her head gently on Hallie's knee. As the humans left the house for outdoor hugs and handshakes and "come back soons," Nellie stayed back in the house.

"I can tell you exactly what she'll do when you leave," I told Hallie. "She'll lie on her pillow and pretend to nap but mostly she'll be moping. This afternoon she'll perk up a bit, say 'oh well,' and insist on a trip to the beach for a refreshing swim. By the time the day is over, she will have accepted that it's once again the three of us." This proved to be the case.

Hummingbird on wire in garage
So, Mike and I spent a few days in town doing "town business," and this morning we began to pack the Dakota, parked in the shed, for the trip back to the farmhouse. "What's that noise?" I asked Mike. Looking up, we saw a hummingbird fluttering his wings against the white insulation in the ceiling. With the light from the open garage doors reflecting against the white vinyl coating on the insulation, the poor thing could not find his way out. He kept looking up. We made a few initial efforts with a broom and a ladder to encourage him to fly down and out. He just didn't get it.

Mike tries to sweep bird out door
"it's survival of the smartest . . . " said Mike. The comment seemed a little harsh to me. Mike so enjoys watching the hummingbirds at the feeders on the farm. But I had to agree that we could invest a lot of time in this dilemma, only to be disappointed in the end. I was slightly amused but not too surprised on my next trip to the Dakota to find Mike once again attempting to encourage the little creature to fly out of the pole barn garage. He gave it up several times, but another idea would occur to him and he'd try again. He took his Moss Point Tiger beach towel and covered the window, closed the garage doors and left the side door open, thinking the hummingbird would migrate toward the light source. No such luck. Mike used a stool, a 6-foot ladder, and a 15-foot ladder. He used a broom and a pole and then attached the broom to the pole. In the end, he was able to catch the hummingbird in his hand from the 15-foot ladder and then released him into the sky. We watched him soar freely, higher and higher, turn and head back, then turn to the south and fly off. Hopefully he remembered where to find a feeder or nectar source. I'm sure he was hungry and exhausted. Mike worked at least half an hour to free the hummingbird from the garage. Yes, we hit the "easy button."

Now we were ready to leave the house for the farm. Mike had decided to ride his Yamaha XT-whatever road/trail bike because he wanted it at the farm while I drove the Dakota. I went one way to stop at the produce mart on my way out of town while Mike went on ahead. Once my errands were completed and I was out on the highway, it occurred to me that I should be watching for Mike at the side of the road – just in case he had a problem. (I have been known to drive right by as he frantically attempted to wave me down. I have also been known to drive off as he yells for me to stop.) Just then I saw him. I recognized the man and the shirt and pulled onto the shoulder. He had lost compression – a mystery as to why – and was indeed stranded by the side of the road. We were just at the point where the bike path ends, within a mile from the casino. So we drove on to the casino service station and bought some oil. Mike was unable to get the motor started, so we went back to town and arranged for the good folks at the Yamaha shop to pick the bike up. We came on to the farm in the Dakota.

Today feels as though it has been two days. KW

Monday, August 9, 2010


Last Friday evening, the 31st, daughter Hallie and husband Nick arrived from Seattle. Saturday we made some final preparations and then got an afternoon swim at the river after which I grilled some chicken for dinner. Sunday morning we made the long 6+ hour trip south to central Idaho. Traffic was terrible (even in Idaho) and the trip took us longer than anticipated. We met son, Clint, south of Stanley at the 4th of July Creek road which took us 10 miles to the trailhead into the Boulder-White Clouds Mountains.

The Boulder-White Clouds Mountains area in the heart of Idaho is the largest unprotected roadless area in the west. It is being proposed as a Wilderness Area but has not yet been granted that designation. A lot of politics is involved. It is one of the few wild areas of Idaho that I had not been and that is the selfish reason I chose this destination in spite of the long trip to get there. However, it was a relatively short trip for Clint who lives in Hagerman in south central Idaho. I had chosen the Born Lakes destination based on the recommendation of an experienced outdoorsman that I knew through our mutual membership to a website for upland bird hunters.

We departed the trailhead about 3:00 p.m. on the 3.6 mile trek into the lakes. I thought I was in pretty good shape and had done four hikes with a 40+ pack the previous week. However, I did not feel strong at all. I felt a little light headed and my legs were dead. I don’t know whether it was the elevation or that I’m just getting old. Maybe it was a little of both. It was uphill all the way to the edge of Ants Basin before dropping down into the bottom. We (except for Hallie) departed the trail at the top and hiked a short ways to the very top of the ridge to find a geocache. It was located at 10,138 feet elevation. From there we wound our way down the switchbacks to the bottom and eventually over to the lakes. We arrived a little before 6:00 p.m. at the lake which was over 9,200 feet elevation. There was only one other party (two pleasant middle aged couples from Boise) camped in the whole area so we had our choice of many campsites. We eventually found a very nice site and set up camp.

It took me quite a while to set up my little tent because it had been a couple of years since I had used it (the only time) and I didn’t have the instructions. I eventually got it done and Clint and I gathered some firewood and got a fire going hoping it would help with the mosquitoes – no such luck. We fixed a nice dinner and set around the fire for a while before turning in. I went to bed with a slight headache that never left. My pack was outside the tent and I knew if I crawled out to get some headache medicine I would never get my feet warm the rest of the night so I just stuck it out. My tent mate, Nellie, had to leave the tent several times during the night which didn’t help my rest. However, since she packed in 9 pounds of which less than half was her food, I won’t complain too much.

After a breakfast of oatmeal Clint and I decided we would hike over to one of the other lakes and Nick and Hallie were going to stay while Nick tried his hand at fishing. The lake wasn’t too far and even more scenic than the one where we were camping. We returned to camp before lunch and Nick hadn’t had any luck fishing because they hadn’t been able to unearth any bait. I decided I would give it a try (finding bait) and caught a horsefly and put it on a small hook for Nick. He immediately got some action and while he was fishing Hallie caught more flies. While they fished Clint, Nellie and I climbed up the divide on the south side of the lake. We climbed up over 10,000 feet and completely escaped the mosquitoes. I placed a geocache at 10,382 feet.

After a late lunch Clint and I went back to the rocky south side of the lake to see if we could escape the mosquitoes and relax on the big boulders. Mosquitoes were still there but not as bad as at the campsite. When we returned Nick had caught 4 nice Cut Throat trout. For supper that evening we supplemented our dehydrated food with the trout. They were absolutely delicious – I’ve never tasted better.

The evening wasn’t as cold as the previous one, I didn’t have a headache and Nellie didn’t leave the tent until morning. The only problem was that I was constantly scratching mosquito bites from 2:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.

We broke camp shortly after breakfast and made it back to the trailhead in 2 ¼ hours. There was a lot of road construction which made the road trip back a lot slower than it should have been. We went directly to the farm where Kathy greeted us with a sumptuous lasagna dinner. Hopefully we can find a destination with less mosquitoes next year. M/W