Thursday, September 30, 2010


The Julian and Junius Dobson Farms, 1922. Note house, barn and fruit trees in center of picture.
Now that I'm retired, I am re-establishing the importance of a well-ordered home and defending the position of housewife. I am attempting to develop a better sense of home, creativity and accomplishment. I am learning about what some call the rural home arts, and that makes me a farm wife at heart. Through my Grandma Ina, I find a link to the farm wife of yesteryear and seek to know something about my sisters of the past, especially how they were thinking.

I have just finished re-reading the contest entries published in The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt by Laurie Aaron Hird. The contest was announced by the editors of "The Farmer's Wife" magazine in January 1922 and closed March 1, 1922. Over 7,000 readers responded to the question "Do you want your daughter to marry a farmer?" The prizes were $200 for first, $100 for second, $50 for third. An additional $150 was divided among another 65 respondents, making 68 winners in all. The excerpts published in this book are selections from the 65 winning entries. The top entries can be read online at Here are some of the common ideas I noted with this reading:

  • Partnership with husband in building not only a home but a business
  • Family togetherness
  • Hard but satisfying work -- contributes to self respect
  • The independence of working for themselves, the farmer being his own man or boss, an opportunity not available elsewhere.
  • Financial independence for the wife herself, earned by selling eggs, milk, and produce. And – one added that the clever housewife will find means to save from the household budget for extras.
  • Quietude for the nurturing of spirituality and independent thought plus an environment for building good character
  • Some said that their homes had as many conveniences, good books, and cultural opportunities as those of the city, with the added benefits of living away from city temptations, one such influence being the movies.
  • Living close to nature and the beauty of the country
  • One wife said she loved the privacy: when she hung a late wash on the line, there were no prying eyes to judge. She also said she appreciated the privacy when the stork was making a visit.
  • At least one respondent mentioned she could go to the city any time she wanted – and "flivver" herself there.
  • Some said they enjoyed living away from the frivolity of fashion, while others said they could sew stylish clothing for the family.
  • Many addressed the matter of modern conveniences, stating that they had all the labor-saving devices of the day within their homes.
Education was recognized as important – both formal and informal. Some mentioned that the farmer should be an educated man. Others mentioned the availability of good education for the children. One said her daughter was studying home economics in school which would prepare her to be a farm wife. Another mentioned the education available through the Grange and the Farm Service Bureau. Life in the country was an ongoing learning experience in itself, some noted, and an excellent place to raise children, teaching them responsibility.

Only a few hint that the farmer should be the right sort of man. It seems to be understood that a farmer just is the right sort of man.

"The country has now so many advantages copied from the city – telephones, electricity, running water, furnaces, autos, and so forth. Few are the farmers who do not have some or all of these conveniences," wrote a farm wife from Chatauqua County, New York. "I believe that farmers, as a class, have only just begun to realize some of the good things that the future has in store for them," the same writer added.

In my reading of The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt, I noted only one letter that hinted at future difficulties for the farmer. From Franklin County, Ohio, a respondent wrote, "We all realize the farmer is facing the darkest hour in the history of our nation, but behind this cloud we see him coming into his own in Congress, and with the backing of the Farm Bureau, he will keep it. This forecasts the brightest future agriculture has ever seen. The right kind of prices and markets must and will come. But even times of depression can not materially affect the farmer's living as they do the city man's, for he has his food from his own soil, vegetables, fruits, grains, milk and meats . . . " KW  

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Mighty Mike says splitting wood makes him feel powerful.
Preserving the fruit trees here in the country is an ongoing interest for our family. We have elderberry bushes, an ancient pear tree left over from Grandma Ina's orchard, plum trees in the gully called "Stove Creek," raspberries we planted (and their relatives growing in the wild), and of course, old apple trees in bad need of renovation or removal. Today it's about apples.

Large apple tree on the Dickson/Senter place
Over at the Senter place where we've been cutting, splitting, stacking and loading wood, I discovered a large apple tree in the front yard. The tree is taller than any apple tree I've ever seen, though it has a little brother by its side that is rather like others in the area – low and broad. I surmise from its position in the yard and its general appearance that at one time it had good care. Perhaps it was purchased and deliberately planted, then sprayed and pruned, until at last it, too, was abandoned, just like those on neighboring land. I have no guess as to the variety. The other day I talked Mike into picking some of the apples for me – scabby as they were. We think the apples were still on the green side, but I made a pie and a batch of sauce. I thought both products were good.

There are six or eight old apple trees on our homestead. My dad didn't take care of our apple trees and didn't pick the apples. I have no idea how the apple trees came to be here. So every autumn I've wondered -- Can I use these country apples? Given that they are wormy and deteriorate as they ripen, can I pick them green and cook with them? When are apples ripe anyway? And what can I do to encourage these old trees?

Last year I asked advice of my sister, Harriet, who was a country wife – a genuine farmer's wife – for more than 50 years. She said her mother-in-law was interested in the country apple trees – those you find on a country road or in the yard of an old homestead or down in a gully. When they were out driving, Harriet would stop at this tree and that so that her mother-in-law could pick a sampling of apples. She would then make sauce with the apples, noting the location of the tree and the quality of the sauce.

Apples on the Senter tree
My mother loved the green transparent apple – an old variety becoming rather rare, as I understand it. The green transparent is an early variety – ripening in June or July – and very tart, strictly a cooking apple. Mother made her applesauce in a 6-quart aluminum pot, peeling and coring each and every apple. She insisted she could tell if the apples were cooked with their peels on. To her pot of sliced apples Mother added water "just until I see it coming up." She then simmered the apples, adding sugar – a lot of sugar -- near the end of cooking time. No cinnamon. She also made pies for the freezer to which she did add cinnamon. No allspice, though. She didn't like allspice.

Well, I was never really sold on that applesauce made with transparent apples -- had too much sugar, I thought . The sweet/tart flavor made my jaw ache. But – the appeal for me today is that the transparent is evidently becoming rare. And that's a quest – and you know how I love a good retro-quest. KW

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Cover photo, The Farmer's Wife, 1922. Typical farm wife?
The book promotion read: "In 1922, the very popular The Farmer's Wife magazine held a contest asking a simple question: 'Would you want your daughter to marry a farmer?'" The book was The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt by Laurie Aaron Hird. I had never heard of The Farmer's Wife magazine. I ordered the book and eventually five issues of the magazine through eBay. What fun!

Here's the prompt that the editors of the magazine provided to its readers, as found on page 10 of The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt: "'If you had a daughter of marriageable age, would you, in the light of your own experience, want her to marry a farmer?'" The participants were asked to "'consider this question in all its angles. Talk it over with your husband, your children and your friends. Consider not only the financial side of the question but the moral and physical viewpoint and the things that make for real happiness.'" Ms. Hird tells us that the editors were overwhelmed by the response to the contest from over 7,000 readers. The book is a compilation of excerpts from some of the winning entries, of which there were sixty-eight, each page illustrated by a classic quilt block.

I am impressed by the question itself. Do you want your daughter to live the same kind of life you're living? Think it over, consider it well, submit your conclusions. It invites a rather intellectual exercise when the stated perception is that the farm wife is not educated and perhaps not capable of expressing her thoughts in writing. But those who responded – at least the winners – did so articulately and with passionate defense of farming as a way of life. The magazine editors reported that 94 percent of the respondents were in favor of their daughters marrying a farmer.

But – after perusing this little book, I had to wonder just who the respondents were. Were they typical farm wives? Some of them spoke of modern farm equipment, electricity and modern conveniences in the home, cultural opportunities in the city and the ability to reach those with a car. Several said they approved of their daughter marrying a farmer if he were an educated man. Certainly not all entries but many had an underlying tone of education and affluence. I just can't think that the farmers' wives of Gilbert would have written that way.

Grandma Ina doesn't list The Farmer's Wife amongst her favorite reading materials: "We do enjoy our evening's reading," she wrote in 1935. "We have a lot of Geographics to read Рalso Collier's, the Post, Ladies' Home Journal, three Copper monthlies, Pathfinder, Daily Chronicle, Clearwater Tribune, and M.W.A. monthly. Also Christian Herald." I wonder if she knew about The Farmer's Wife and if so, what she thought about it. In her letter dated January 12, 1936, she wrote: "I'm so tired of all the magazine advertising that that alone makes the [Reader's] Digest a treasure. Don't you get tired of looking at pictures of blas̩ men and wanton women, whose only idea is to look 'smart' and show their clothes . . . and offering a cigarette?"

Farmers' wives at Gilbert, Idaho, 1919. Typical?
Introductory remarks to The Farmers Wife Sampler Quilt are brief – just enough to set the tone – because it is, after all, not a history text but mainly a thoughtful way to present classic quilt patterns. However, Ms. Hird points out that in the 1920s, American culture was changing. The eleven-year period between the end of World War I and the stock market crash of 1929 was a time of political, technological, and social change. The change in women's behavior, including dress and perceived moral standards, was notable and perhaps shocking to some.

What do you think about all this in light of the picture of Gilbert farm wives taken in 1919 – less than three years before the editors of The Farmer's Wife presented their contest question? What do you think these wives would have said about their daughters marrying a farmer? KW

[A link to Ms. Hird's blog can be found under "other interesting sites" on the right.]


Sunday, September 19, 2010


Farmers' wives taken at the "Cunningham Sale," June 1919, Gilbert, Idaho
I love to look at this picture, taken at Gilbert, Idaho, in 1919, as the Cunningham family sold their farm -- their homestead -- and their belongings. Yes, they sold out and moved, but I know nothing more about it. But -- someone thought to gather the ladies -- every one a farm wife -- and take this wonderful photograph. Perhaps someone recognized the end of an era. Indeed, I think we're sitting on the brink of change, so to speak, as this picture was taken.

My family is represented in the photo. The lady on the left with black umbrella is my great-aunt Bertha Dickson Dobson, and beside her is her sister-in-law, Ida Chandler Dickson, for whom the Senter house of previous posts was built. The next person in the back row -- shorter than others -- is my grandmother, Ina Dickson Dobson. Seated furthest left is Mrs. Cunningham. The rest were identified by Grandma many years ago and though I recognize the family names, I really don't know these women by face or character.

The first thing I note is their attire -- simple dresses or skirts and blouses except Bertha who is perhaps a bit overdone in a fashion from ten years earlier. (She's clearly more dressed up than the others, and I suspect she didn't come to work, as maybe the others did.) And Mrs. Cunningham's dress looks new. But things are changing and by 1930 -- another ten years -- the hemlines will have risen, making it easier and safer for a woman to do her work in house and yard.

Notice how there are no young faces -- no, not one. Ina, for instance, is 48 (born in 1870) and Bertha 51 or so. In 1919, they had been farming here in the Gilbert country for almost 25 years, and I expect that's true of the others. Ina and Bertha were young wives in their mid-20s when their husbands took on homesteads. Perhaps others were also young wives -- or even in middle age -- when a farm in this place became not only her family's home but its livelihood. Gradually the old families will sell out and fade away, and occasionally a young family will appear on the ridge, but it's not a growing community. In 1920 -- just about the time of this photo -- the post office at Gilbert closed and the official address here became Orofino.

And then I love to look at them and think of what they know. Regardless of her individual standards, each one has learned lessons as she worked with her husband to build a life in this place. Each holds within her a wealth of practical knowledge in the rural home arts, and most would be willing to share, I think. Any one of them could tell you how to make elderberry jelly, how to care for a sick child or a sick cow, the best way to whiten your laundry. Before long technology will replace the horses with tractors, make the wood stove and wash board obsolete, and bring the world to their doors in the form of the radio. The down side is that now they need money to keep up, and the farm was mostly about subsistence living.

Can you add anything to my observations? What do you see in this image? KW

[The original post included incorrect ages for Ina and Bertha, which I subsequently corrected.]

Friday, September 17, 2010


Orofino, Idaho, from Eureka Ridge Road. Smoke in center is right above the Gilbert Grade.

I think I'll start sanding those chairs when we get back to the farm," Mike remarked, whereupon I reminded him that we weren't home yet. It was about 1:00 and it seemed like we were making good progress with our list of geocaches. Still, you never know. One or two caches can take a while.
Mike & Nellie at Ryder's cache
After geocaching east of Orofino (see previous post), Mike decided to try for a couple of caches on a hillside west of town off State Highway 7, the road to Ahsahka. We found a nice wide spot to park the pick-up and trailer and crossed the road to the steep hillside. The cache description indicated the hillside trail would rise 1300 feet in ¾ mile to the second cache. I didn't think I could do it. Steep, sandy trails are intimidating to me. Slipping steps on the ascent become downright treacherous on descent.

"I think I should stay here," I volunteered. But in the end I did give it a try and reached the first cache, a bittersweet site to honor a beloved pet Schnauzer who had been run over. The next cache was on up the hill with the path becoming even steeper. 

Riverside (Orofino) from across the Clearwater River
Mike advised me to go back to the pick-up, which I did. But first I sat on a rock and took pictures of Orofino's Riverside across the Clearwater River. I thought about Orofino, my home town – how everything changes and nothing changes. Inside I still feel like the girl who grew up here. It seems like an afternoon after school.

Seems mighty steep
Then I gingerly made my way back down the hill, walking off-trail at the steepest parts to keep from slipping on the sandy trail. When I came to the approach at the very bottom, I froze. "What if I fall and a passing motorist sees me?" I thought. "Pride goeth before a fall," I counseled myself. I waited untl I didn't hear any vehicles approaching, and then I descended the steep incline as quickly as I could.

I waited a long time for Mike to return. At one point I nearly panicked, but then I looked at a topo-map of the area and determined that the time lapse was not unrealistic. Eventually he and Nellie showed up, excited for the conquest. He said there was a board at the top where those who had accomplished the hike had signed their names. However, Mike did have blisters on his feet which occurred during the descent as his foot slipped in his shoe.
We had a couple of errands in Orofino. We bought fire bricks to replace some in the fireplace that had broken – very reasonably priced – and milk, which was not. We parked briefly at the elementary school where children were playing soccer on the lawn. My class was the second, I believe, to attend school at this facility, built to meet the post-WWII "baby boom." During the six years I attended school there, we were not allowed to walk on the grass let alone play soccer. Soccer? What's that?
Yes, we got home all right, but it was about 5:00 – too late to sand chairs, too late to sew. KW

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


When is a birdhouse not a birdhouse?

We went geocaching again yesterday – this time locally. We left the agricultural country of the Camas Prairie on the south of the Clearwater River to cross to the north side at Orofino and head easterly into the woods of the Grangemont region – logging territory. We decided to go in spite of road construction on the Grangemont Road. Indeed we were stopped briefly twice in the 14 miles we traveled.

Logging road
We left the pick-up at Band Mill Loop Road, and I climbed on the 4-wheeler behind Mike. You know, geocaching isn't as simple as driving right to the spot indicated by the coordinates. You have to find the route as well as the cache, and there's a lot of "you can't get there from here" in geocaching. We were traveling logging roads, for the most part, and those can come to an abrupt end. Once or twice I got off and walked. Also, sometimes the maps and the GPS don't quite correspond as roads change and are re-named. Some roads are just trails and disappear for one reason or another.

Woops! Road ends! KW walks.
MW maneuvers roadless area.
"My mother just did not raise me for this kind of life," I found myself thinking as I bounced along behind Mike. But of course, that's not true. Both my mother and dad had some sense of adventure and a love of natural beauty, the woods, wildlife, and experience. Growing up, I went with them to explore, to pick huckleberries, to stay at a sister's cabin in the woods. I mean – when you live in Orofino, the wilderness is at your door – front or back. But I never quite knew what to do with myself on these outings. Just being there wasn't enough for me. It's not so much a matter of missing creature comforts as missing what I love to do. And I'm still that way, I realized, but this time instead of feeling guilty I let myself off the hook. It's just not my thing and that's okay. But what I do understand is that people should support one another's interests. So, I do my best to participate in these excursions and keep an open mind. Still, the little girl in me says, "Can I sew now? Can I go to Jo-Ann's?" I thought of the quilt shop in Orofino and would have suggested stopping there had it not been for the trailer.

Circle of Cedars
"The cache is just two-tenths of a mile from here," Mike shouted back to me. "We just have to find the trail."

"Well, the trail isn't here," I yelled back. "This is steep and brushy terrain – no trail!"

"We have to get to the other side then," Mike conceded. I sorta wonder – if I hadn't been there, would he have tried? It's happened a time or two in less extreme circumstances.

So off we went again to locate another logging road off the main graveled route. This is the right route and eventually we came to the "circle of cedars" where the cache was easily found. Mike said this was geocaching at its finest – a real adventure with a "quality cache" (a larger container) as the find. KW

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Morning dew sparkles on a spider's handiwork.

I was looking at the October issue of "Quilter's World." Scanning through the "editor's letter" by Elisa Sims Albury, to my surprise, I found myself reading a beautifully descriptive paragraph of my own region as follows: "I am reminded during this season of the years I spent in graduate school in northern Idaho, where the fields of wheat and lentils were plentiful. In late autumn the air got just a bit drier, the evenings cooler, with frosty nights becoming a common occurrence. Just when we thought winter was right around the corner, the temperatures would rise slightly, and for several weeks we would experience a glorious 'Indian summer.' Half-harvested fields of golden wheat danced across the landscape in sunsets that appeared to be lit from a dying fire." (Elisa goes on to mention the pattern for the "Indian Harvest" runner featured in this issue.)

Elisa is writing about Moscow, home of the University of Idaho, where Chris, Hallie, and I (and a lot of other people) went to school. But that same description of "Indian summer" applies to much of the Inland Empire of the Pacific Northwest. We have a great autumn in this region, but who would expect to find such a description in a quilting magazine.

Still, I've never quite known how to define "Indian summer." The term seemed elusive to me, so today I finally took the trouble to look it up. Indian summer is a period of sunny, warm weather in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, typically late October or early November after the leaves have turned following an onset of frost but before the first snowfall. It can only be Indian summer after the first frost, usually a killing frost. I might add that the sunny and warm part applies mostly to late morning and afternoon. Early mornings and evenings are chilly.

The only problem I have with Ms. Albury's description is the reference to "half-harvested fields of golden wheat." By the time Indian summer comes, the wheat has long been harvested – no exceptions. But those stubble fields do reflect our spectacular sunsets, and Ms. Albury's words capture the beauty of our Indian summer. To echo Grandma Ina's words from the heart of central Idaho agricultural country: We get marvelous effects morning and evening.

I load and stack the wood that MW cuts.
So, it's not Indian summer yet, but we feel autumn creeping up on us. The barley fields on our place are half-harvested – not our worry since the land is leased. The leaves on the tips of the maple trees seem to hold just a hint of fall color. The sun is warm in the afternoon but the breeze can be cool. Temperatures drop rapidly when the sun goes down. Our lows have been about 40. I'm wearing my warm pajamas to bed, and our electric blanket and quilt are in place.

This morning at 9:00 I went with Mike to help with the easy wood at the Senter place. It's "easy wood" because the trees are already down and there's no need to pull the tree out. It's simply a matter of cutting and loading the wood, which we are happy to do. Anyway, I started out in a sweatshirt and jacket and was soon too warm in the sweatshirt. Mike found the wood splits quite easily, so he cut and split while I loaded and stacked. I couldn't help but wonder if the farmer's wife of yesteryear came in for such laborious work. Did she just concern herself with the house, the children, and the chickens, so to speak, or did she come in for some of the "man's work"? KW  

Thursday, September 9, 2010


MW sits below ripe elderberries

Tuesday (Sept. 7), Mike and I (with Nellie, of course) went out for our "first annual" late summer back-country geocaching excursion. (Last year we geocached along the Lewis & Clark Trail – Highway 12.) This year's event involved 4-wheeling into the Idaho back country around Elk City. Mike did all the prep work for the trip, which included loading the 4-wheeler onto the trailer and connecting it to the Dakota. I'll share some highlights of the trip and name roads and locations for those of you who know the area.

Of course, no Mickey Warnock adventure is complete without a Mickey Warnock experience. We had just turned from the Harpster Grade to Hwy 14 when Mike checked the trailer tires and decided the left one had to be exchanged for the spare. I guess those little trailer tires don't last long, and we need new ones. No matter – we went on without further incident.

At the junction of Mt. Idaho Grade and Hwy. 14, we located the "elderberry circle" cache. I've seen better clumps of elderberry bushes, but oh well. I did covet some of those inaccessible elderberries.

"Baby Face"
One of the better features about geocaching is that it can take you to some points of interest you'd probably not see otherwise. A case in point is "Baby Face." The trail was steep on the uphill side of the highway, so I opted to wait below, but Mike came back to get me, saying I just had to see it. Up the hill I clamored and I wasn't disappointed. The picture shows the "baby face" carving dated 1929. Undated articles from the Lewiston Morning Tribune placed in the cache box indicated the origin of the carving to be controversial.

When I was growing up, I had driven this route to Elk City with my parents from time to time, and I could swear it was a dirt road. Now it's paved all the way to Elk City – even paved to the Red River Ranger Station. In fact, even the caches we accomplished by 4-wheeler we could have done by pick-up. In short, over the last 50 years the Elk City area has become accessible though still remote. And traffic! "Can you believe all this traffic on a road that goes nowhere!" Mike exclaimed.

KW at American River
Coming into Elk City, our first cache took us to the home of Dave, a local geocacher, one who had set out the caches we would seek along the American River. We couldn't find the cache so decided to let it go and perhaps return later in the day.

We parked the Dakota and trailer at a recreational vehicle parking site near the school and unloaded the 4-wheeler. We left Nellie on her pillow in the back of the pick-up for the back road trip we estimated would be two hours and 18 miles round trip – too far for her to run. I rode on the back of the 4-wheeler. We picked up a series of eleven caches – all hidden in small containers in trees. Actually, Dave's philosophy of geocaching reflects our own: that you've traveled to the site so you should be able to find the cache. After the first several finds, I tired of debarking from the 4-wheeler and removing my helmet and opted just to wait on my perch. However, I did get off to see the moose sculpture. Dave had left a note that it was okay to go inside the fence and find the cache which was obviously someplace on the sculpture.

MW at moose sculpture
It was at this point I noticed the man walking stealthily down the road, as if by walking stealthily we wouldn't see him. Now – you may be aware that here in Idaho we have some paranoia in the back country – you know, anti-government sentiment and distrust of people in general – and I was nervous. I kept half an eye on the man while Mike logged the cache. The man planted himself on the backside of a pick-up parked some yards distant, and I could see him clearly through the windows. Mike nodded at him as we rode past. A hovel with horses was undoubtedly his home. "Can you hear the banjos yet?" Mike shouted back to me.

MW crosses Am River in futile search
Suffice it to say that we found all of this series of caches but one at an old corral, and upon reading finders' comments, we suspected it had been removed because the property owner didn't want it there. I was anxious to get back to the pick-up where I knew "nervous Nellie" was waiting for us. She had lapped up her water but hadn't eaten her food. She was glad to see us and glad to go with us on the next leg of our journey. It was already 4:00 p.m. We had to get a move on because we had another series of caches to pick up. Now we traveled in the Dakota and left the 4-wheeler and trailer behind.

This series of eight caches was along the Red River and placed by a Lewiston cacher with whom we are acquainted. These were not as obvious as Dave's caches but fairly easy -- all suspended by ropes and bungee cords in trees. We found one at the Red River Forest Service Ranger Station and others in campgrounds. The most notable was at the "Red River Corral." "Go ahead and pull into the driveway," the instructions read. "This is my grandmother's place and she has given permission." Earlier in the day Mike had mentioned that it might be advantageous to place some caches in the area if you had property for sale, and we noticed the "for sale" sign on this property. The grandmother came out and talked with us for a while. She said she had lived here for 44 years, and while she didn't want to leave, the time had come that she had to. She and her husband had been outfitters and guides but he had died nine years ago. She must leave her home by the first of November every winter because it isn't safe to stay. They can get up to six feet of snow. She has no other home at this time and in the winter she "sponges off" her children – one in Pullman, several in Lewiston.

Nixon Rocks
The last cache in this series was at Red River Hot Springs, but it was not accessible except with an ATV. After coming all this distance we were disappointed to have to have to abandon this one. Besides, it was after 6:00 and overcast. We were rapidly losing daylight.

On the way back to Elk City, we stopped to pick up a cache at "Nixon Rocks."

It was dusk when we again reached Elk City, but we decided to try again for the cache at Dave's. This time he came out and gave us a clue. The cords were definitely off, probably because of the trees in the area. It was great visiting with him. He said he had placed a lot of caches in an effort to interest visiting grandchildren in geocaching. In fact, he said, he had just placed 20 more in the Newsome Creek area. We agreed we would have to come back to get those. Dave confirmed he had to move the cache at the old corral because someone had a mining claim on the property. "He was friendly enough but didn't understand and in light of his mining claim, the term 'geo' made him nervous," said Dave. Later, Mike and I discussed the sheer number of caches Dave has set out. But, the area is economically depressed, especially with the closing of the mill a few years ago, and bringing people in is probably the goal. It looked like grocery stores and eateries in Elk City have closed, but I counted three bars.

It was after 8:30 as we approached Grangeville and Mike offered to get us supper at – you guessed it – Subway. The sandwich hit the spot and we were again on our way. Home never looked better, the string of red chili pepper lights in the kitchen window sending out their greeting. We had the last of the pumpkin pie for dessert and went to bed.

Mike says we logged 23 caches for the day – a non-urban record for us (him). KW

Monday, September 6, 2010


"It would be so nice to move into that nice big house Ben Built." -- Great Aunt Bertha Dobson, 1936

We hadn't been at the farm long Saturday afternoon when Chuck Miller (of the Miller Road Millers) and his son Eric came to call. Chuck grew up here at Gilbert and now lives elsewhere, but he has dreamed of renovating the old Senter house, which was built by my great-uncle Ben Dickson, Grandma Ina's brother. Uncle Ben sold out in the mid-1930s to Bruce and Celia Senter. In the 1960 time frame, the Millers bought the property. The farm itself actually adjoins ours. I can't quite see the house from the kitchen window, so I climbed higher to take the photo on the left from the field behind our house.

Chuck and his family were here, he said, to consider again whether the old house can be saved. He and his wife lived in the house from 1975 to 1982 while he farmed. Then they left, went back to school, and established their work and home elsewhere. Life went on and the old house has been vacant "many winters." Winters are really hard on vacant houses, we all agreed. And, Chuck went on, some locust trees and an elm in the yard had died and had to be removed. During the course of this visit they had felled the trees but had not found anyone to take the wood and clean up the slash.
"I'll take some of that wood," said Mike. "Locust burns well. Yeah, I'd like to have it. And tell me where you want the slash."

Oh great! I knew I would come in for some of that work and I thought of my reading, my writing, the second box of pears, the little dresses for Africa still waiting to be finished, etc. But I always think that if the tree is already down, the most dangerous half of the battle has been won. "There goes my sewing," I said to myself.

So, Sunday after lunch we spent two hours at the Senter place working on the wood, pretty much finishing one tree. Mike cut the trunk and limbs into measured lengths while I removed slash and helped carry logs to the trailer.

The view to the east from Ben's front yard.
I've written about the house before and it's place in regional and family history. Chuck loves it for its style and the "gingerbread" trim. "They don't make them like that anymore." On the other hand, the house has no foundation – was just built on a pile of rocks – and the roof is in bad shape. The tile roof was placed right over the composite one or the house would be in even worse shape, related Chuck. Lean-tos built on to the house in later years have to be removed. And after a tour of the interior, Mike observed that the wallpaper poorly hides boards with gaps. Chuck mentioned rodents in the walls. We acknowledged rodents are a part of country life. Still, if you aren't there to fight back, the infestation only gets worse.

Mike noted the nice location and mentioned that the house could be torn down and replaced with a house that would really meet their needs. Chuck mentioned a modular home or a log cabin. We agreed that tearing down and replacing the old structure is always an option to consider.

As I stood in the yard helping Mike with the wood, I imagined that Uncle Ben and Aunt Ida were just in the house watching me through the front window. "That's Kathy!" they observe. "Imagine her doing that work! My!" Suddenly the years seen to fall away from the house. And – well -- I guess that's why it's so hard to part with the old places.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Looking southward across the Snake River to Clarkston
Rosauer's Supermarket had one of their famous 13-hour cereal sales on Thursday (Sept. 2), one of three such sales the store sponsors annually. They sell a lot of cereal at $1.69 per box. Mike and I were there selecting boxes of cereal based on the sat fat and fiber content. We were there at 11:00 and it was crowded. "You should have seen it when we were busy," commented the stocker.

As I was growing up in the 1950s, the family gathered around the table for breakfast as for any other meal. My dad, an old farmboy, believed in the benefits of three square meals a day, breakfast included, eaten family style. I remember breakfast was frequently a pot of hot cereal – oatmeal, cream of wheat, and wheat hearts, but several times a week we had eggs and bacon (served with toast, biscuits, muffins, or pancakes). And, to add to your eating pleasure, farm cream and homemade jams and jellies were standard on our table. My dad was the morning chef. The quick breakfast was hot cereal and toast with juice and milk. During that era, these breakfasts were thought to be nutritious and food that would stay with you until lunch. It did not matter to my parents that I was not fond of hot cereal. I was expected to eat what was set before me.

"You need a breakfast that sticks to your ribs," my mother said. She disapproved of cold cereal as lacking in nutrition. "You have to eat a lot of it to fill you up," she said, "and then you're hungry mid-morning. And," she added, "it's expensive."

I do remember a box or two of cold cereal on the shelf in my childhood -- specifically cornflakes and shredded wheat biscuits. That was the emergency breakfast – though I can honestly say there was hardly ever an emergency in that well-ordered home. Sometimes I was allowed a bowl of cold cereal before bed.

Sage brush blooms in the water-wise Clarkston garden
The other night Mike and I watched a program on the history and development of cold cereal – the battle at Battle Creek, as it were, which occurred late in the 19th century and early in the 20th. We were surprised at the overall tone of the program, which set forth cold cereal as a nutritious product. We agreed that our mothers did not believe cold cereal was nutritious or part of a healthy diet.

But things change – and we are now cereal eaters at our house. In the first place, I am not a morning chef. I would rather have a quick breakfast and get on with things than spend time cooking when I'm hungry. I'm sure my children were the losers. Some pretty awful breakfast cereal passed through my cupboard. Hallie ate Cocoa Puffs for years. And then 10 years ago or so Mike became concerned about high cholesterol. A granola-eater of 25 years standing, he began to consider the sat fat content of anything he ate. It was then I said, "You can eat whatever you want for breakfast, including hot cereal, but you fix it and don't include me in." (I really don't care for hot cereal, except oatmeal.) So he did – and he does. Breakfast is "on your own" at my house. We have a variety of hot and cold cereals on hand and you may help yourself. Feel free to read the paper while you munch away. No tv, please. And do try to be cheerful. 

Another Nellie action shot
I think one of the main health benefits of cereal is the fiber, and we read labels to be sure of the fiber and fat content. Mike is less concerned about fiber because he eats two to three oat bran muffins a day as part of his anti-cholesterol plan. These are not the big oat bran muffins with streusel topping that you buy at the bakery. Far from it! Mike uses a recipe similar to that on the back of the Quaker oat bran box, which calls for no flour – just the oat bran. He also takes the responsibility for baking the muffins, though I don't mind doing it. (But if he doesn't use paper baking cups, he has to wash the muffin trays.) KW

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I took this picture of Mike riding his wind trainer on Tuesday. He just knew he would feel better if he got some exercise. He's getting along well and without pain meds. He ices his hand frequently.

This morning Mike and Nellie played "tennis ball toss" on the pavement behind our house. Mike would toss the ball high in the air and Nellie would anticipate the first bounce. Once the ball was bouncing she would chase it. Here are some of the photos I took: