Saturday, October 30, 2010


 After a 25-year hiatus, Mike has taken up leather tooling again. He set up his work station at the end of the upstairs hallway in the area known as the "east dormer." It had been a sitting area, mostly unused. Mike needed to improve the cramped space so that his tools would be organized. Today we decided to deal with it.
 The first thing we did was bring a small chest of drawers, World War II vintage, out of the attic. Then we moved Grandma Ina's overstuffed rocking chair to the office / den downstairs. Next we moved a small bookcase and its contents of books to the den as well. Then Mike re-arranged the dormer space.
Here's Grandma Ina's trunk where I keep family history items. The big lamp is too large and will be replaced when I find something I like. The table was a family piece that my dad antiqued.
And here's Grandma's chair in the den.

We had the chair reupholstered about 1990. At that time the upholsterer told us that these old rockers are now sought for their comfort. I don't know if having old stuff is a curse or a blessing. KW

Thursday, October 28, 2010


"Halloween is becoming a forgotten holiday," reads the cover of "The Peanuts Book of Pumpkin Carols." "We dedicated followers of the Great Pumpkin must do something to rekindle the Halloween spirit. Let us not rest until the universe resounds with pumpkin carols." And then the carols are obviously patterned on secular Christmas songs.

"Deck the patch with orange and black,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Take along your goody sack,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Dashing through the streets
In our costumes bright and gay
To each house we go
Laughing all the way.

Here's a cute little vintage Halloween costume. No, not mine but Mike's younger sister, Carol's, made almost 60 years ago by another "retro" woman of my experience -- my mother-in-law, Bennie. If I judge correctly by looking at the little witch dress, it was made for a six- or seven-year-old, so Bennie probably made this costume for Carol when they lived in Mississippi -- say 1951 or 1952. A 4-inch panel was sown on the bottom of the dress which probably enabled Carol to wear it one more year, an easy fix if a mother can get away with it.

Mike recognized the dress as Carol's but disavowed any responsibility toward her Halloween activities. Was it a party or trick-or-treating, I asked. He allowed that he went trick-or-treating but certainly not with Carol. He doesn't know what Carol did -- or with whom. But he remembered the costume and knew his mother had made it.

I don't remember exactly how the little witch costume came to our house -- and maybe the paper ornaments you see on the mantel as well. I thought perhaps the intent was that Hallie could wear the costume, but even if I could have persuaded her to do so I wouldn't have. I knew the fabric was fragile, and it's such a fine example of a Halloween costume, early 1950s. It should be cherished now as a keepsake -- a reminder of how it was.

Mike and I have many fond memories of Halloweens past, including recent years when we've traveled to Denver to trick-or-treat with the Mile High Warnocks. We aren't going this year -- maybe next. There should be a number of years yet when we can tag along with young Emerson.

Here's a door hanger I made with my embroidery machine the other day -- a fun project. While digging in my "hobby closet" this afternoon I found scraps suitable for making even more of them.

The scene outside my window truly says "autumn" today -- gray, rainy, chilly, breezy with leaves flying through the air. Mike says no bike ride or bird hunting this afternoon. He went out to hunt deer this morning but the deer scored again. I made "Marshmallow Cheerios Squares" (or whatever they call that recipe) with Hallie's leftover Multigrain Cheerios. Now it's time for a hot cup of tea -- and the vintage sewing room. KW

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Mike and I enjoyed a beautiful drive to the farm along the Clearwater River yesterday afternoon. Shades of yellow, red and orange along the riverbank were set off against the evergreens. I didn't notice reflection in the water as we sometimes see. It was overcast and even rainy.
The temperature was about 40 when we arrived at the farm. Just last week the afternoons were still warm -- nearly 70. This week is a different story. Mike soon had a cheery, warm fire in the fireplace insert, and I helped by baking sweet potato pound cake in the oven. This morning at 6:00 it was 36 and drizzly. Outdoor activities -- like hunting deer or planting spring bulbs -- just don't appeal. Well, one would be hard-pressed to find a deer on a day like today, especially here on the ridge. The deer are likely in the canyon. But -- I figure that's why they call it hunting.Still, we avoid the canyon because a hunting preserve is located there -- and besides, pulling one's quarry up the steep hillside is a trial, as several can attest. Mike was just saying that he might go out and scout for fresh tracks today. I told him it seems like if he wants to get a deer he should do something. So, if you're keeping score, the deer are way ahead of Mike.

Since we arrived, it's been all about making do. I had the feeling I was not well-prepared for this stay, and I discovered I was right. The sweet potato cake had to be made with bread flour -- I have no other and I'm low on that. Supper was a new concoction -- Kathy's easy cheesy pheasant enchiladas -- since we have no canned chilies or salsa. I'm low on butter and margarine, limiting cookie baking. And I'm uncertain if Mike knows yet that I failed to bring extra undershorts for him. Oh well. We'll cope.

This pretty little maple has been struggling to grow. "Uncle" Dan, the forestry man, suggested more water, and I did find that helped. The tree just doesn't seem to take off and grow, but as you can see, the leaves are pretty. The leaves of the maple in the front yard are standard yellow and green -- not spectacular. I think my dad found that tree as a sapling and transplanted it here after we burned the old cabin down. It's probably about 40 years old.

The middle photo is of the spyrea bush which is abundant in brushy places here. I suspect the family transplanted this bush to the yard many years ago, so I feel sentimental about it. A rodent has made a home in its roots, and I thought we had lost it this spring. However, much to my surprise it made a comeback. KW

Monday, October 25, 2010


I knew the reason I was there. Yes, I knew why I had come to Jo-Ann Fabric today. I might have said it was to buy fabric, to check the remnant bin, to get some sewing notions, or even to pick up some of those cute Halloween yard ornaments they sell for $3.99 – all of which I did. But none of those things were the real reason I was there.

I had seen it in the current sales flyer – a Jo-Ann's store in miniature, a porcelain "holiday house." I have a few Department 56 Original Snow Village porcelain pieces, and heretofore I have resisted mixing in pieces from other manufacturers. But a replica Jo-Ann's? I just couldn't resist. I like to collect pieces that have meaning to my experience, and of course, Jo-Ann's in all its weirdness is a spot on my regular shopping route.

So, there I was on the narrow aisle of Christmas home decorator items – "Holiday Inspirations," they call that line. In actuality they only had a few porcelain houses in stock at this relatively small store, and only one of those was a Jo-Ann store. "Nah!" I said to myself. "I shouldn't buy it. Or maybe I should just wait and see if they mark it down after Christmas."

"It won't be here after Christmas," I countered. "In fact, it won't be here next week. It's either yours now or never." And it was in the cart.

"Oh look!" said the cashier. "Now you own Jo-Ann's!"

On another whimsical note, last week at Mike's encouragement we bought one of those cute Halloween yard ornaments at Jo-Ann's. Mike hammered it into one of our rock garden beds and came in to say he'd like two more. So, while I was at Jo-Ann's buying the replica store, I also picked up two more Halloween characters. The picture isn't great, but you get the idea.

Our town neighborhood is not a pretty area in my estimation, but occasionally I look out the window and see something beautiful – like the reflection of the late afternoon sun on the hillside with the storm sky in the background.

Tomorrow it's my dentist appointment for replacement of an old filling – and then back to the farm for a few days. Looking forward to it – the farm, not the dentist. KW

Friday, October 22, 2010


The final day of Elderberry Fest 2010 was Sunday, October 17. It was early when I got up, so I decided to use up the elderberry juice I had thawed by making more jelly. Having learned a few things -- and this time working alone -- I knew I could quickly finish the process, and I did. I guess this was the closing ceremony.

Hallie was interested in pruning bushes and trees. Recommendations are for spring rather than fall pruning, but the trouble is that we aren't here in the spring -- mud season -- when we should be doing that. We decided to go ahead and prune out the old pear tree anyway. I expect it has long outlived its life expectancy. If we lose it because we pruned it, we've only forced something that was coming.

See how foggy it is -- cold and clammy.

 While Nick climbed into the pear tree, Hallie and I load the trimmings. [Hallie says I have quite obviously mis-identified here: Hallie is in the tree; Nick is on the ground.]
 When the fog lifted it was a decent day. Nick and Hallie did some research on rose hips and we picked a couple of quarts of hips off the old wild rose bramble bush. Mike and I have ignored it because it is so "stickery," but it is so overgrown that the roses are small. So while Nick and I picked hips, Hallie pruned a bit. Mike considers the bramble good game bird habitat, and indeed, I have seen the quail enjoy its protection. I believe we can prune it a bit and still have good habitat.
 Nick and Hallie left after lunch and Elderberry Fest officially closed. It was such a lovely afternoon that I decided to accompany Mike and Nellie on their farm hike / hunt. I got some good photos of the property. I also located more wild rose bushes. We got what we wanted from the hunt -- a bird to augment our supper.
Here's one that got away. See the deer in the center of the picture. Nellie and Mike scared her out of a draw while they were bird hunting. (This photo looks east from a high point on June's place, if that means anything to you.) Mike seemed nonchalant about this event.

Monday morning I arose early to get ready for the return to town. Mike decided not to get up to deer hunt, thinking it was useless to do so because of a bright moon and the apparent absence of the deer.  Sitting in the living room I heard some sort of expletive  from upstairs. As Mike sat up in bed he saw a big doe sauntering across the north field. KW

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Elderberry Fest 2010 opened Saturday, October 16, with a farm breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast. Nick had brought a jar of his Seattle Blackberry jelly which we sampled on our toast -- very good.Then we donned jackets and caps and headed out to find elderberry bushes, carrying with us a hacksaw and pruners. I thought we were heading back to the canyon rim, but wordlessly Hallie and Nick fell to work on the pictured bush before we arrived at my destination. Meanwhile Mike left to take Nellie to the vet in Orofino, and Clint's online research revealed our old Ward's riding mower to be a sought-after model to be converted to a lawnmower race.

In due time Mike returned from the vet's with bandages to protect Nellie's wound when she hunts, but alas! the medicine had been left behind. Somehow the little bottle disappeared behind the bell on the vet's counter and both the receptionist and Mike overlooked it. There was nothing to do but to return to town, which Mike did reluctantly. (Of course, he didn't say much about having to do that -- LOL.)

Having picked a bucket of lovely clumps of elderberry, Nick and I worked to clean and stem them. By the way, I don't know who's white head that is in the picture -- certainly not mine!

After lunch Clint said good-bye. He said he didn't know when he'd be back. But he'll return in his pick-up sometime because he wants that old Ward's mower.
After cooking the stemmed elderberries, we strained the juice through cheesecloth. Those berries netted us plenty of juice. Here I am -- calling the attention of my students to some important facet of jelly making.
Nick checks the steaming hot berries as the juice drips into the bowl.
Nick said he prefers straight elderberry jelly instead of the blend of elderberry and apple. Mike prefers elderberry-apple, but fortunately I have plenty of jars and plenty of juice and can make everyone happy. Here Nick adds sugar to the elderberry juice -- 4 1/2 cups of pre-measured pure cane sugar to 3 cups juice. Sugar high, anyone? As Nick and I worked away, Hallie handled the camera work, often standing on a little Sunday school chair for extra height. I noticed she was whistling Christmas songs.
Nick tips the stock pot so that I can ladle every last drop of precious jelly liquid -- hot, hot, hot.

And here we are placing the lids and rings on hot jars filled with the marvelous elderberry elixir. This was not quite the final step, though. We then placed the jars on a rack in the canning kettle and boiled them for five minutes to provide a hard seal. This was the first time I have done that. We found the rack to be inadequate, really, for small jelly jars, but we made it work.

We made one more batch of jelly Saturday afternoon, this time without added pectin. I don't remember exact proportions, but we added some prepared country apple juice to the elderberries and sugar, then let it simmer. Elderberries apparently don't have much natural pectin, so apple juice is a good addition. It also tempers the strong elderberry flavor. It took a long time for it to reach 220 on my candy thermometer, and I think we all wondered if that vintage method is really worth the time in the modern world. Still, it was a good demonstration of how "grandmother" made her jelly. We also tried "sheeting" the hot mixture on a plate, but I considered that experiment inconclusive. 

While I finished up in the kitchen, Hallie and Nick went back out to explore and prune more bushes. This time they found some wild raspberry bushes -- or whatever they are -- and pruned them.

We were all exhausted at the end of the day, but a rather good feeling knowing we had accomplished so much.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Son Clint arrived in town Thursday, and on Friday morning, he joined Mike on a hunt while I packed for the farm. Answering the phone just before noon, I heard Clint's familiar greeting: "Hi Mom, What's up?" Since he and Mike were supposed to be together – and since I expected to see Clint at the farm later in the afternoon, I didn't think he had called just to chat. He went on to say that Nellie had torn her leg badly and Mike was stopping by the vet's on his way home. They didn't see the injury incident but believe she got into some downed barbed wire.
Mike pulled in about 10 minutes later with one badly wounded Nellie, obviously in distress and feeling sorry for herself. We have seen this type of injury before – several years ago – and we knew not to panic. Allowing the dog to lick the wound will keep it clean and provide other healing benefits. Eventually the wound just draws together – better than any surgical procedure. But our regular vet was not available until later in the day, and we wanted to leave for the farm, so Mike made an appointment with Dr. Wolverton in Orofino for Saturday morning. Mike knew Nellie needed an antibiotic plus some sort of bandage to wear when hunting. Having done all we could for her at the moment, Mike and I packed up and left for the farm. By the time we arrived – 3:15 or so – Clint was already waiting for us.

Clint's particular interest in visiting the farm wasn't necessarily Elderberry Fest. He is thinking of making a go-cart and Mike offered him old riding lawnmower parts. So while the fellows disappeared to the barn to look over the collection of available defunct lawnmowers, I took care of things in the house, including lasagna and a mystery pecan pie. Hallie and Nick weren't due until later since they couldn't leave Seattle until 3:00 -- so after supper I shortened jeans for Clint.

About 9:30 I heard a car in the lane, and suddenly a moping Nellie came to life when she realized a car had pulled in. She undoubtedly remembered who it is that arrives at bedtime. "Let me by, let me by," she seemed to say as she squeezed between me and a partially opened door. She was not disappointed. "Look what happened to my leg," she seemed to say as she greeted Hallie. She mustered the enthusiasm to greet, but when it came to gnawing Hallie's gift, a pig ear, she wasn't interested. Hallie put it away for the next day.

We wasted no time in getting to bed so that we could enter into Elderberry Fest activities well-rested. KW
Photo 1: Mike and Nellie after a happier hunt.
Photo 2: The site of Elderberry Fest, our farm at Gilbert, Idaho.
Photo 3: You can see the gash on Nellie's leg.


Thursday, October 14, 2010


This year we're holding our first ever Elderberry Fest on Saturday, October 16. We've had Elderberry Fest in past years, but it was just me with Mike's help and we didn't call it a fest. But this year Nick and Hallie are coming from Seattle because they want to experience firsthand the making of elderberry jelly – from picking the berries to processing the juice to making the jelly. That I should be considered an expert in anything – let alone elderberries – is truly remarkable.

Mike and I were newlyweds when my dad gave us a jar of his fresh elderberry jelly. Mike was immediately hooked. That's the way with elderberry jelly: you either love it at first taste or you say, "Yeah? What's all the fuss about?" But Mike loved it and when my dad was gone, he would occasionally come home with elderberries for me to make into jelly. I had to learn the process by reading the jelly instructions, and even now I research and review. A few years ago, Sure-Jell dropped elderberry from its recipe list, but we can still find it at their online site.

And elderberry jelly (amongst other jellies) also makes Nick's eyes light up. We have quite a few elderberry bushes on or near our property and know of others in various nearby gullies, etc., and he and Hallie plan to prune some of them while they are here. The Fish and Game guy who came last year said he was surprised to see so many elderberry bushes because they usually don't survive in the agriculture country.

So, anyway, I'm getting ready for Elderberry Fest. I have checked my list at least twice:
Stock pot – check
Cheesecloth -- check
Candy thermometer -- check
Plenty of jelly jars – check (I hope it's enough)
Rings and lids -- check
Canner located and cleaned – check
Canning rack -- check
C&H Pure Cane Sugar (no Idaho beet sugar!) – check
4 boxes Sure-Jell – check
Many fresh lemons – check

The weekend's festivities will open with a tour of various local elderberry bushes seeking the fullest, most promising clumps of ripe berries, after which we will return to the house (time approximate) to clean and rake berries from clumps into the stock pot for processing of juice. Following that lesson, we will make jelly in earnest. I expect to make one batch of jelly without Sure-Jell in order to demonstrate "sheeting." After a productive afternoon, a friendly yet competitive game of Dominoes is tentatively scheduled for the evening.

In the event we can't find berries, I have prepared elderberry juice in the freezer. A little apple juice added to the elderberry increases natural pectin and tempers the strong flavor, so I also processed juice from apples picked off the old tree on the Senter property. Not wanting to waste the pulp, I then ran it through the food mill, sweetened it with sugar and added a cup of red hots. Some kind of good!

Oh -- and I almost forgot. Son Clint says he's coming to the farm Friday night to spent some time and share a couple of meals with us. His family also loves elderberry jelly, though Clint has not professed interest in actually making the stuff.

Photo: Nellie doesn't enjoy the hustle and bustle of housecleaning. She waited patiently in a sunny spot while Mike and I both ran vacuums. KW

Monday, October 11, 2010


Deer season in Idaho always opens on the 10th of October and pheasant season usually opens on the second Saturday in October. This year that Saturday was the 9th which meant deer season opened the following day. I much prefer bird hunting to deer hunting and try to get a deer just for the meat because I prefer it to beef. I hunt deer only on the farm and naturally the easiest time to bag one is opening day. Deer prospects haven’t looked good lately and pheasants even worse. Idaho Fish and Game predicted very few birds and my observations agreed with their predictions.
After a very successful partridge hunt Tuesday in town (1 chukar and a limit of huns) we left for the farm. I had told Ken, my hunting partner, that I most likely would not come back to town for pheasant opener in view of the prospects and the fact that I would have to come right back to the farm that same afternoon. However, after scouting for deer and confirming those poor prospects I decided to make the quick turnaround trip to town to hunt with Ken. I always enjoy hunting with Ken and since expectations were so low I wasn’t likely to be disappointed.
We didn’t get into town until about bedtime and as I was into a good book and couldn’t sleep I didn’t dose off until about 2:30 a.m. and I was back up a little after 5:30. Ken and I went to our usual opening pheasant area near Lapwai a little ways southeast of Lewiston. Apparently the poor forecast had discouraged all the hunters because we saw only two all morning and didn’t hear any shots (except our own) in the area. We started up a draw and hadn’t been out of the truck 15 minutes when 20 or more pheasants began flushing above us. One was close enough that Ken even took a shot but didn’t get it. Long story short, in two hours we both had our limit of 3 pheasants. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve bagged my limit that quickly on opening day. What was really funny was that the forecast had virtually eliminated the other hunters. Well, it almost did me too. M/W

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Mike vacillated all last week over whether or not to return to town Friday night in order to participate in opening Idaho pheasant season on Saturday. The pheasant population is down – blah blah blah; it might rain – mumble mumble mumble. "If I go," he said, "I'll just leave you here. It will be easier that way."

LEAVE ME HERE?! Am I so high maintenance that it's hard to take me? Just because I carry along a laptop, an iPod, a cell phone, a camera, and a bunch of books – does that make it hard? Don't answer that! After all, for a quick trip, I'd be willing to leave behind the sewing machine and four accessory cases.

When Ken called Friday afternoon to say he would definitely hunt Saturday morning, Mike decided he wanted to go, too – big surprise! – and sensing (?) that I wanted to go, too, he decided taking me along probably wasn't such a bad idea. After all, I could do the shopping while he and Ken were out. Yes! Jo-Ann Fabrics – here I come!

I had actually prepared a shopping list for Mike: milk and bananas – I knew he could do that; and then the bias tape and rick rack from Jo-Ann's – that had me worried. Can you really send the average man to shop for sewing notions? I've seen it on rare occasion. One afternoon as I shopped at Jo-Ann's, a prominent local businessman came in and asked to be shown the iron-on patches. I know him to be a bright man, but he pondered over that rack for quite a while. Hmmm. And I once conversed with a man buying an armload of 4-ply yarn for his mother, a shut-in. He hoped she would be happy with it. And I could just see Mike there in his now-soiled, ratty-looking hunting clothes asking for the bias tape and rick-rack. I was pretty sure he could get the color right – black -- but would he come back with double-fold tape and jumbo rick-rack? My hope was that some associate would see my list with the samples pinned to it, read my mind, and select the correct items from the display. And they would probably wonder if this indigent-looking man had the price of the stuff on him. But now I didn't need to worry about all this because I was going to shop for myself.

So, after supper Friday evening I quickly gathered all the necessary books and electronics and we headed to town. It was good. My order from the Vermont Country Store – three bottle brush canes for holiday decorating finally at a price I would pay – was there at the back door. Already the trip had paid for itself in my book.

So Mike was off to pick up Ken and Duke for the hunt early Saturday morning. I waited until stores were open and headed off on my appointed rounds. No problems – unless you count that my Costco Amex credit card had expired. They checked me out through customer service and told me – rather forcefully, I thought – to call Amex as soon as I got home. Turns out Amex had updated Mike's address when we moved – six years ago – but not mine. So, Mike's card, which he has had for years – has an expiration date of 2013 – while mine, which I have had forever, expired 9/10. 
And as if on cue, the mailman knocked on our door with my order from Keepsake Quilting. I treated myself to a charm pack of '30s replica fabric, a selection of 10-inch squares in Christmas fabrics, and a charm pack of fabrics in autumn colors. I hope to practice with some simple quilting patterns.

So, yes, here we are at the farm until mid-week, when again we will dash to town for activities. KW

Saturday, October 9, 2010


This portrait of Granddaughter Emerson taken as she turned two just begged to be posted. Her blue eyes have been inviting me to play. I think the photographer did a great job of capturing her smiling right into the camera.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Here it is – the second Friday in October and the flickers are picking on our old country house. It's always something . . .

My mother used to insist on a fire in the furnace during the first week of September. She said if she didn't heat the house a little on chilly mornings, at least one of her children would take cold. Well, you know, the whole weather change thing . . . It has yet to be chilly enough to warrant consistent heat. Overnight temperatures haven't even approached freezing. Mike and I were reminiscing that this time last year – at opening deer season – it was cold.

Yesterday morning Mike was up early and out to scout for sign of deer. After tramping the property for an hour, he came back to report that he had seen neither "hide nor hair." We're into a rainy spell now and the deer are just pretty savvy. They know when it's time to seek shelter. So – if you were rootin' for the deer, the score is already Deer-1, Mike-zip, though the season doesn't open until Sunday, the 10th.

After a little morning rain gave way to a lighter sky, Mike suggested we should head over to the woodlot at the Senter place. Our last trip to town (Tuesday, Sept. 28), Mike drove the big old Dodge Ram with a load of wood, pulling the utility trailer, also loaded with wood. The trailer-load of limb wood went to Ken, who sustained a tendon injury the last time he and Mike went into the woods. The pick-up load is now stacked neatly on pallets behind the shed in town. We had already brought a trailer-load here to the farmhouse. We are pleased for this opportunity to be working a year ahead on our wood.

"I won't take all of it," I heard Mike tell our neighbor, Chuck. "Probably just some limb wood."

"That's okay," responded Chuck. "Take all you want – leave the rest. No one else has spoken for it."

And I notice that little by little we've worked our way into taking most of the wood. Mike was pleased to discover that the locust splits easily – or so he says – and we have cut trunks into measured lengths to be split and stacked. My part is to handle the measuring stick, throw limbs and branches on the slash pile, and assist in loading. The elm, however, is another story -- resistant to splitting.

So yesterday forenoon the three of us headed back to Senter's where we had left the trailer. We loaded what was already split, then cut, split, and loaded more. On our way back to the house, we stopped at an elderberry bush to pick some luscious-looking clumps, but you know how it is with elderberries. When we approached the bush, luring us with its promise, we discovered that the berries were just out of reach, hanging off a steep, rocky drop-off. Even if Mike could have negotiated the drop-off, he would have been too far below the berries to capture the clumps. We tried with our long hook but to no avail. But, as it is with elderberry, we were able to pick a few clumps here and there and fill a two-gallon bucket.

And Nellie! – she picked up a clump that dropped on the ground and ran away with it. When we asked her to fetch, she disobediently munched the clump – berries, stems, and all.

After lunch at the house, I processed the elderberries into two quarts of juice in preparation for Elderberry Fest 2010 to be held October 16. I was just ready to head for the vintage sewing room to work on an apron I'm making, when Mike announced his intention to go back to the woodlot and finish loading the trailer. I knew it would be hard for him without me, so I volunteered to go. The worst of it was knowing that I would be really tired at the end of the day, but at least I had leftovers to serve for supper. We worked hard for several hours hearing thunder in the distance and watching a storm develop to the south and east. You know how it is with "scattered showers." It doesn't rain everywhere, and we really didn't get much at the farmhouse. Anyway, during a break in our work, I picked a few more apples from the Senter's old tree.

We were able to bring another trailer-load of wood to our woodshed – already split and ready to be stacked. KW

[Bloggers new photo feature which allows for captions under pictures is great, but as is often the case, working with it is frustrating. Captioning prevents opening the picture for a larger view, and a couple of readers really enjoy seeing the photos in larger format. I will use captioning sparingly.
Photo 1 -- Morning storm to the northwest.
Photo 2 -- Mike target shooting.
Photo 3 -- Mike at the Senter woodlot.
Photo 4 -- Storm to the southeast from the Senter place.
Photo 5 -- The old apple tree.]

Monday, October 4, 2010


The Julian Dobson Family in June, 1922: Shirley, Ina, Vance, Julian (Jack), Earle, Ethel, Pearl, Myrtle. The family is having a spot of fun with inept Aunt Bertha behind the camera. Except for Julian, that is.

In 1932, my Grandma Ina began to write to my dad about the impact of the Depression and diminishing markets on farm life. Here and there she mentions the age issues affecting Julian's ability to continue the strenuous work of farming with horses. Questions, such as "How much longer can we hold old on?" and "What would we do if we had to leave the homeplace?" hang unspoken in every letter. Eventually those letters would come to rest in my correspondence file. However, I don't have any record of Grandma Ina's thoughts a decade earlier when readers of "The Farmer's Wife" were discussing whether or not their daughters should marry farmers.

Here's what I do know about Ina's life in 1922: Her dream house, built just five years earlier in 1917, had no wiring, no running water, no plumbing, no central heat – in short, no modern conveniences nor any hope of gaining those. They carried water from a spring, split wood for the cook stove and fireplace, lit kerosene lamps at dusk, and bathed once a week in a wash tub set in the kitchen. Jack and Ina never had an automobile and Jack farmed with horses until he died, the horses dying shortly after he did.

Now with Jack "out of the picture," some are contrite.
I never thought the life of the homesteader / farmer was one of prosperity. Farming was subsistence living. The farmer grew crops which supposedly enabled him to meet expenses and buy seed for the next year's crop. In addition, he was able to live off the land, growing his own food – fruits, vegetables, and meat. He had the privilege of being his own boss, but only the lucky few found success in terms of money and goods. There was little left over for material goods. The farmer and his family worked hard and never got ahead – not really. And if he got behind on expenses, maybe through no fault of his own, he had no recourse except to go further into debt. A young man might sell out and move on. For an old man, the plight was worse.

Of course, it wasn't that way for all farmers, but according to my research, it was true for the vast majority. In 1930, 90% of U.S. urban homes were electrified but only 10% of rural homes. This lack of electrical power prevented modernization of the farm without which conditions were none too healthy. So most farms were behind the times in modern improvements – plumbing, running water, refrigeration, and central heat. According to the statistics I read, 90% of farmers were still without electrical power in 1935. Privately-owned electric companies were little interested in rural electrification because of the expense and inability of farmers to pay. Some farmers formed co-ops in an effort to bring in electricity but without funding they couldn't meet the expense. Passage of the Rural Electrification Act (REA) in 1936 is said to be the most significant legislation to come out of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Through the REA, co-ops were granted low-cost loans to bring electricity to the farm. By 1950, 90% of American farms had electricity. Ina's was one of the 10% that did not. The last utility pole was at the neighbor's a quarter mile distant. In 2000, Clearwater Power Company, a rural co-op, placed the three poles that carry electricity to Ina's house.

I'm sure that the farmer's wife didn't need conveniences to love her life and see its benefits, but when writers in 1922 make sweeping statements that farms everywhere are now modernized, it's just not true of the country in general.

Even with rural electrification, we were unable to save farming in our country and stem the tide of movement to the cities, but as we became an urbanized society, I'm not sure the government was interested in the small farm anyway. I always remember my mother's words: "I hate to see the small farm disappear," she said sadly. "It was a good way of life and a good place to raise a family." Then she added, "Our government spent years convincing people to move to the farm and then couldn't move them back to the city fast enough." KW

Friday, October 1, 2010


Unlike Kathy’s thoughtful and insightful blog contributions mine are just about my little adventures. Bird season opened in Idaho (except for pheasant) Saturday the 18th. Ken and I made the opening day hunt on a local doctor’s land that borders the Snake River a little south of Lewiston. Ken is still recovering from an injury sustained in one of our firewood cutting adventures so he pretty much stuck to the top of the hills bordering the fields whereas I ventured further down the mountain. We had gotten an early start hoping to catch the birds (chukars and huns) up high as they often feed in the stubble early. We weren’t very successful with that strategy although we did get up a covey or two just below the rim. The star thistle was the worse I’ve ever seen it – in many areas chest high and very thick and wide spread. It was very hot before mid morning and my new setup this season consisting of a hydration pack on my back and a belt with a game bag and shell bags worked well. The heat is really tough on our hairy hided hunting partners and the water is mostly for them. Nellie went through 2 liters in about 3 hours. In spite of the heat, slippery rocks from the previous evening’s rain and star thistle we had a pretty good hunt. Ken bagged 3 chukars and I got 5 chukars and 2 huns. However, we found the chukars in this area were mostly juvenile birds.

Tuesday, the 22nd , Kathy and I headed for the farm. After completing a few chores Thursday morning I had a Tootsie Pop and discovered on the wrapper an Indian shooting a star with his bow and arrow. Grandson, Jackson, says that’s good luck. Combined with the date being the 23rd and I’ve always liked that number and I remarked to Nellie that maybe we should venture out for a little hunt. Now I’m not superstitious at all, but what the heck, let’s go hunting.

Game birds on the farm are mostly restricted to huns (Hungarian or gray partridge) which are the fastest flushing and most challenging birds to bag in this country. This morning I was carrying my favorite partridge gun which is a 12 gauge Remington 870 pump. We entered the stubble down by the east edge of the pond and we had no sooner entered the field when Nellie hit a hard point. Huns usually flush so fast and coordinated that I very seldom get more that one on a covey flush. This time, however, I got two birds with the first shot, a third one with my second shot and yet a fourth with my third shot. Wow – my first ever home run on huns! Nellie quickly brought back the first three birds but had not seen the fourth one which had flown west toward the pond and had fallen in chest high grass and weeds rather than in the field. I directed her over to the general area and within a couple of minutes she had the bird. I like to hunt the huns all season so I usually restrict each hunt to 2 birds or one covey rise so I figured that less than 5 minute hunt would be it for the huns.

I had seen a covey of quail down at the corner of where our lane leaves the road toward the house so we thought we would see if we could find those. So I take Nellie down there and sure enough she goes on point. When the covey flushes I drop two in the dense thicket on the hillside and hit a third one that flutters over the field above. We spend 10 or 15 minutes hunting for the two quail in the thicket and eventually give up on finding one of them. Nellie had not seen it fall and I wasn’t sure just where it had hit either. I suspected the third bird had flown quite a ways out in the field above or maybe didn’t fall at all. Nevertheless, you have to look. No sooner had we entered the field than Nellie went on point again and I figured it must be the wounded quail. To my surprise another covey of huns flushed out a ways and I dropped one with the only shot I had time to make. Not wanting too much of a good thing we headed for the house after a quick but very successful farm hunt. M/W