Sunday, May 29, 2011


I’ve been thinking about ordering iris rhizomes for the south side of the farmhouse. I almost did it, too, until I remembered the projected work to face the window frames this summer. The work will involve ladders and scaffolding close to the house, so perhaps this isn’t the year to develop that bed. 

At this time of year my thoughts turn to the lovely “old-fashioned” flower beds my parents and grandparents maintained. Seems like it’s just what folks did in the “yesterday” of my life. In the spring my parents had iris, lilacs, bleeding heart, a beautiful hawthorn tree, coral bells, columbine, a few roses, and I just don’t remember what else. Grandpa Portfors had peonies and iris and whatever else.

I tell you this because my family’s tradition was to observe Memorial Day, which many old-timers referred to as “Decoration Day.” We visited four cemeteries – Riverside in Orofino, Normal Hill Cemetery in Lewiston, Burnt Ridge Cemetery near Troy, Idaho; and the Gilbert Cemetery. We loaded cut flowers from the yard into washtubs, added water, lifted the tubs into the back of the car, and off we went. 

Depending on the weather, some years we didn’t have as many flowers. I’m sure my mother took mental stock of what was available and planned accordingly. I remember her saying, “I’ll save that lovely iris for so-and-so’s grave.” She knew how many graves she had to “decorate” at each cemetery. 

My job was to make smaller bouquets for the graves of little ones who left us all to soon. I would cover an old coffee can (remember the little one-pound squatty can?) with foil. Then I would snip pansies, bleeding heart, baby roses, and lily-of-the-valley. I made several of those each year – one for Baby Walrath at Riverside and one for Isaac Stinson, an uncle who died in infancy, buried at Burnt Ridge.

Mother never used artificial flowers. As time went on and we began to have fewer flowers, she planted cemetery boxes. She started this project as soon as she could get the plants from the nursery – marigolds, pansies, petunias, geraniums, and a “spike” for height. We would deliver the boxes to the various graves and then someone would pick them up after a week or ten days had passed so that the boxes could be re-used the next year. 

Apparently Memorial Day traditions vary. Here in the Pacific Northwest, many people decorate graves on Memorial Day weekend. However, my mother-in-law from Arkansas found this surprising. “We don’t do that,” she said. She went on to explain that on a Sunday near her late husband’s birthday, she would have a bouquet of flowers delivered to the church in his memory and then carry it to his grave. 
Well, the tradition of Memorial Day visits to cemeteries dwindled for me when I became an adult. I participated some, but I wasn’t free to devote several days to traveling the countryside. Still, I have fond memories of this family tradition and I love to see the cemeteries all decorated on Memorial Day. I especially love to see flowers on a very old grave because it means someone honors the memory of that person. 

[Hallie and Nick are here and we visited the Gilbert Cemetery this afternoon. Photo 1: I made only one live bouquet of iris and narcissus and left it at my dad's grave. I had small artificial bouquets -- 16 of them -- for other family members. Photo 2: Hallie and Nick move through the Gilbert  Cemetery reading the markers. Photo 3: The gravestone of my great-grandmother Lucy Dickson who passed away in 1920. The bouquet I left doesn't show in the photo.]

Thursday, May 26, 2011


We left the farm last Saturday (May 21) in order to accomplish some things in town -- shopping, exercise, and a P.E.O. meeting. We're also applying to the State of Idaho for "century farm" status, and I spent hours putting together a packet of "proof" that the homeplace has been in continuous cultivation for 100 years (and more). Frankly, I decided years ago that obtaining official century farm status was way too much trouble, but Mike decided we owed it to my grandparents and my dad to try for it. So he started the project during slow times at the office this winter. It's a matter of supplying documentation of ownership and also that at least 40 acres of your family farm have been in continuous cultivation.

Anyway, I have these lovely pictures of Orofino taken from Gilbert Grade last Saturday and wanted to post them before they become totally outdated. Here you see the little town nestled in the valley where Orofino Creek runs into the Clearwater River. And the back country just seems to run on forever.

We have stopped several times at this spot near the top of the grade because Mike was looking for a geocache (what else?). This time he found it. At first he tied onto the Dakota in order to look in a stump downhill, but you know, most people just don't hide caches where it's steep and dangerous. Still -- you never know and if you're an adventurer at heart, you might just take a look-see anyway. Mike said that's where the "cords" took him.

"Why don't you try this stump," I said. "Seems more logical." (See photo right)
"Okay, but that's way off," Mike said, "but here it is."

This picture left shows the Clearwater above Orofino. I love this view.

On Monday I read that the flood watch on the Clearwater had been renewed by the National Weather Service out of Missoula until further notice. Both the Snake and the Clearwater are high. But -- it's still cold. This morning at Gilbert the low was 37, so it froze in the mountains and that slows the run-off. Here's  a picture I took yesterday of mountains to the south of the farm -- the snowy peaks glistening in the afternoon sun. The sun would be warm this time of year -- but the air is cold. KW

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Friday (May 20) was another lovely day. With the assistance of neighbor Pete, Mike worked on the windmill pump.  Mike took Pete's advice and used a chain saw to trim out the big tire for a raised bed. Now -- to find some dirt.
 I took Nellie for a walk in the afternoon and she pointed a pair of huns (partridges). "Just watch me, Kathy. I'm pretty good at this."
See the snow on the Clearwater Mountains?
 The little Montmorency sour cherry tree is blooming. I hope we have a few cherries. I bought yards of netting at Jo-Ann's when it was on sale. I'm ready to fight for my share.
And these are pear blossoms. This tree is very old but still bears fruit, though last year's crop wasn't edible. Hallie and Nick pruned the tree in hopes better aeration will improve the fruit.
Here's another picture of snow-capped distant mountains. KW

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I have a theory that retired people lose a sense of what a day’s work looks like. Mike does way too much. I, on the other hand, struggle to find a schedule. 

We came to the farm Tuesday morning, and in the three days we have been here, Mike has cleaned out the shed, serviced the riding mower, mowed the lawn, washed windows, patched flicker holes in the house, removed the dilapidated bridge from the pond, sprayed weeds, checked trees. I’ve been moving at a slower pace with the housework. And when Mike needs a helper, I assist. I helped him re-install the pump into the windmill, but it’s more than the two of us can do to lift it. Let’s see – who can we get to help us?

Wednesday the estimator from a siding company in Lewiston drove out to give us an estimate on facing the old wood with metal. So, as he was preparing to leave, Mike casually asked him if he would mind helping lift the windmill. “Glad to,” he said -- this from a guy who had told us the company no longer allows him to climb ladders due to his physical condition. No problem, though. With me pulling a rope and the two of them pushing, we had that windmill upright and operational in no time.
Operational did I say? As the wind began to blow a little harder, Mike realized the windmill still has a problem. “I’ve got to take it back down before it tears itself up!” Mike said. No problem, though. The next person to arrive was a tech from Clearwater Power, a super-friendly guy who came to fix our Wild Blue dish so that we might have internet service. At least he thought that was why he had come. He quickly assessed the internet problem, changed out a part on our dish and then readily agreed to help Mike tilt the windmill back to its garbage can support before he left. 
Today dawned bright and lovely. I hung the feeders and the hummingbirds began to visit. I prepared the raised bed garden with compost and Mike tilled it with my mother’s old electric tiller. Then I planted peas, radishes, and spinach while the old nursery rhyme, “Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow” played through my head. I hope it’s not too late to have planted the cool-weather produce. Mike says not a chance. Oh, and I also threw in some zucchini and yellow squash seeds just to see what happens. KW

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


We came to the farm yesterday (Tuesday, May 17), but we were so busy with chores that we didn't take time for a walk. Today was different. When Mike left for his bike ride, Nellie and I set out to see the sites on Dobson Road.

While Nellie's curiosity led her here and there -- and her legs got filthy -- I watched for scenic vistas.

A strong wind was blowing making it difficult to hold the camera steady. You can see snow on the mountains in the photo to the left.


We hadn't gone far when young Farmer Kyle came along in his big pick-up. He was taking pictures, he said, of spots like this one -- wet places in the field. He said he has to submit them to the Soil Conservation office. "They" need proof, he said, that the fields are too wet to work. He said he doesn't think he'll be able to work the fields until fall. If that proves true, there will be no harvest here this year. However, he did remark that wind could dry the fields quickly.

This is not a pond but standing water on "June's place." I walked across the field without getting my feet muddy, but it's still too wet to work the soil. KW

Monday, May 16, 2011


We live a mile above the Snake River near Clarkston. The river is really high now, and Mike wanted to walk on the levee pathway this afternoon to see what's happening.

As we parked the pick-up at the bottom of the hill, Mike remarked that there was a geocache at that spot -- one he had tried repeatedly to find. Although we weren't geocaching per se, he suggested I help him look. "Oh no, it's a clever hide," he said, as I looked in obvious spots on a chain link fence. "People who have found it have called the owner for hints." Then he dropped to his haunches and picked up something just inside the fence, and it proved to be the cache. Here's a picture of him -- all smiles.

By the time we crossed the road, a county worker was placing a "closed" sign on the levee pathway. "That just means bikes," said Mike; "it surely couldn't mean us." The worker pointed out that the levee was underwater "over there," pointing in one direction, and "over there," pointing in the other, meaning the path was unusable.

We checked it out anyway -- to the left -- then to the right.

But since we could only go so far, we got back in the pick-up and drove south toward Asotin, probably a quarter of a mile. We could see the levee was under water that whole distance.

Again, a sign indicated the path was closed, but we ignored it and continued to explore. The river was very high, very swift. We couldn't go far to the north. Nellie waded in and discovering the water to be a bit deep, simply gave up and swam. She seemed to find the whole experience rather exciting and enjoyed poking around in the rocks and bushes as well as sniffing the river. Seeing that there was an open stretch of path to the south, we headed off toward Asotin.

Here's a view across the Snake River to Hells Gate State Park on the Idaho side. You can see the beach is completely under water.

The river was obviously still rising. And although we did "walk on water," so to speak, in several spots, when we reached this point (photo right), we agreed there was no point in going farther. We could see another long stretch of path was under water. KW

Saturday, May 14, 2011


It’s time again to begin the motorcycle/Geocaching trips. This year I’m doing the “WA COUNTIES CHALLENGE” which requires logging a cache in each of Washington’s 39 counties. I have a head start as I logged about a third last summer when I was in the process of doing all the Oregon counties.

I belong to a group of old codgers that meet at Mac’s Cycle the first Saturday of every month and we plan occasional rides. The first one was May 4th over to Connell for lunch. We left from Clarkston about 9:00 am. As it happens Kittitas County is the only one in the state that I didn’t have a Geocaching route planned. So I took the ride with the group of six over to Connell but after lunch I continued northwest past Vantage which is in Kittitas County and logged a cache. It was a neat cache just off an old highway hidden in some boulders. The cache container was a life sized and realistic looking skull. I had a great ride and arrived home about 7:00 pm having traveled 365 miles and logging caches in six counties.

My first planned trip began Tuesday, the 10th, as we finally had a forecast of two successive nice days. This was my North Central loop. I left home at 7:00 am and headed north to Coeur d’Alene. It was 44 degrees and I had to stop about 60 miles out at the Potlatch junction to warm my hands. I stopped for gas in Coeur d’Alene and took a little break before heading northwest. I went through Rathdrum and Spirit Lake before actually entering Washington in Pend Oreille County. This was rolling forested terrain along side the beautiful Pend Oreille River. At Tiger I turned southwest toward Colville which is in Stevens County. It had begun to get warm so when I stopped for a cache in Colville I peeled off an undershirt.

Crossing the Kettle River at Kettle Falls I entered Ferry County. The terrain begins to rise here as you approach Sherman Pass. I took my lunch break at the Crystal Falls cache which is a beautiful and peaceful spot. I had targeted three caches in each county but there was so much snow pack in Ferry County that the Crystal Falls was the only one I was able to get. I might add that all this travel had been great motorcycling with plenty of curves, hills and beautiful countryside on a sunny pleasant day.

The other side of Republic I entered Okanogan County and was surprised at the scenic but different terrain. It was similar to some of the county in southeast Idaho or parts of Colorado. There were a lot of craggy rock formations with sparse stands of timber with much of my southward route along the Okanogan River.

It was after 7:30 pm when I arrived at my motel in Chelan. I had dinner at a cafĂ© across the street and didn’t have any trouble sleeping that night. It had been long and fun but tiring day.

I was up by 6:00 the next morning and toured the town of Chelan logging several caches in the area before checking out of my motel. Lake Entiat is the body of water that is the result of a dam backing up the Columbia River running southward by Chelan. I followed this lake south to Orondo where I turned east pulling out of the valley. It was a twisty and fun climb up to the high desert floor where the fun pretty much ceased. From then until late afternoon when I hit Highway 195 at Steptoe I was fighting a stiff headwind traveling across desolate desert on an overcast day. I did make a detour up to Coulee Dam at Kathy’s suggestion. According to the sign it was built the year I was born and was then and still is the largest man made structure in the country. I arrived home a little before 6:00 pm having logged 23 geocaches and 835 miles. Don't I have fun! M/W

Thursday, May 12, 2011


It was about 3:00 on Sunday (Mother’s Day) when we arrived at the farm. It was cool (43) and rain threatened. In fact, it rained all through the night and Monday was another "dull" day. An article in today's Lewiston Tribune says the regional farmers are a month behind due to wet fields.

The farmhouse has a problem of some magnitude. The woodpeckers have attacked the old wood – mostly window facings – making large holes. Of course, that leaves the house vulnerable to other types of pests, such as nesting starlings. So, our general contractor came to assess the situation Monday morning and plans are in place to cover the wood with metal. Unfortunately, we must wait several months until he can get to it. Meanwhile, we’ll have to cover existing holes with tin to protect the house from invaders. (Even the beam under the roof has holes in it -- hard to see unless you enlarge the picture.)

And Mike discovered the windmill he built from a kit in 2006 is damaged. It probably happened in a windstorm. Since I am chief assistant here, I was grateful that the contractor and two friends who accompanied him were willing and able to assist Mike in dismantling the windmill and removing the pump. Mike has already called the dealer for repair instructions. Undoubtedly he can fix it easily, as usual. (That's a joke, you know.)

Otherwise it was good to see the signs of spring. Hallie planted these daffodils pictured above in clay soil near the pond ten years ago. I couldn't have done it without her. But I did plant the "Crown Imperial" and daffodils at the porch steps and last year I planted enough daffodils behind the house to finally make a good showing.

We didn’t see a lot of rodent sign but we caught two in traps. Seems like if we can trap a few, we don’t see them for a while.

And then it was back to town along the swollen Clearwater River. This photo was taken at “Big Eddy” below Lenore. We were just giving up on the geocache in the rocks when I happened to see it. KW

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Yes, I know. Geocaching is Mike’s thing, and so we did Mike’s thing on Mother’s Day. But you know – that didn’t even cross my mind until I sat down to write this post. Given that our children all reside too far away to visit in person, we decided to go to the farm. And what better way to take in some sights along the way than to geocache. 

This area still feels so familiar to me. Hard to believe it’s been 40 years since we regularly traversed this old section of road. About 1970 they improved our route by building a bridge at a place called Arrow and sending us down the other side of the Clearwater River.

This cache was an experience. The description said our mission was to find the easiest way to the cache and recommended it was best not to disturb the locals. Not perceiving that as a warning, Mike let Nellie out. It turned out “the locals” were bees. The first thing Nellie did was to check out those boxes. The bees immediate took umbrage and came after not only Nellie but the two of us. We made a quick retreat and put Nellie back into the pick-up. Then giving the bees wide berth, Mike and I climbed a trail on a rock outcropping where the view was rather spectacular. The picture is of Highway 12 where Cottonwood Creek flows into the Clearwater.

We seldom stop on Gilbert Grade to enjoy the view, though there are some turn-outs for that purpose on this narrow winding road. So, when Mike stopped to look for a cache, I spent the time taking pictures. This is beautiful country – and unless you live in that narrow valley – it just seems vast. 

So – I was describing my day to Hallie over the phone. “We found some caches on the old highway after we crossed the bridge at Arrow,” I told her. 

“Arrow?” she queried. "That's not a real place is it?"

“Then we stopped at Cottonwood Creek,” I said. “You know where that is, right?”

 She allowed that she didn’t know where Cottonwood Creek is. “Well, it’s just this side of Cherry Lane,” I explained. “You know where Cherry Lane is, right?”

Long pause, after which Hallie said, “This sounds like Elf. ‘I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.’”

And I just had to think that in all the times we drove from Lewiston to the farm, I really neglected this girl’s education. KW