Friday, May 31, 2013


The old-fashioned potluck, or covered dish dinner, has a lasting place in society. It’s a good way for a diverse group to come together for a meal. We’re all familiar with the format and don’t mind contributing to the meal. But – the potluck is outside my comfort zone, even though I’ve sponsored such meals myself. That’s why, when we received an invitation to a potluck dinner at the home of people we don’t know – and amongst people we don’t know -- I almost threw it away before Mike could see it. This potluck was a regional meeting of a statewide organization to which Mike belongs with a conservation focus he appreciates. Sure enough! He wanted to go.

And, since the location was near Moscow I knew the attendees would be mostly Moscow people. Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are Moscow people who have their roots elsewhere. Is a potluck amongst Moscow people really so much different than amongst valley residents, you ask. A resounding “yes!” is my reply. Those intellectual Moscow folk are bound to sprinkle lentils on top of deviled eggs or make dips out of who knows what. It’s not so much that I mind that. No, I don’t mind at all. It’s that I’m immediately insecure as to what dish I should provide from my limited repertoire.

“Cheese grits,” offered helpful Mike. So, yesterday afternoon I made “Kathy’s seasoned cheese grits.” Because I don’t like garlic, the traditional ingredient in cheese grits, I used seasoned salt and seasoned pepper. And this proved to be a good choice. Those folks recognized the dish and cleaned them out. Unbeknownst to me, the host provided ham, and grits are a great accompaniment.

Well, that was the good part. But – there’s always something I just don’t understand. When I double-checked the invitation, I saw that we were to bring a beverage to share. It never occurred to me that the beverage should be wine or beer. It just didn’t click with me. See – that’s what I mean about the intellectuals on the hill. If they mean “bring a bottle,” why don’t they say “bring a bottle?” The picture it drew to me was that the host wasn’t providing beverages, so I took a 2-liter bottle of Diet Coke, which works in the valley but was out of place here – and which no one touched except Mike and me. (I have to say it tasted ever so much better than the “natural” soda provided.)

But the reason I’m writing this is to tell you about the “tomato jam and lemons” offered with goat cheese and baguette slices on the appetizer table. I wished I could share it with son-in-law Nick. The provider had written out the ingredients, which I hastily copied on the back of my grocery list: lemons, cumin seed, cinnamon sticks, juniper berries, cloves, tellicherry peppercorns, cardamom pods, allspice berries, sugar, cherry tomatoes, unsalted butter, champagne vinegar, lime juice, molasses, fresh ginger, kosher salt.

I thought it was delicious. But you do see what I mean about the Moscow folks, don’t you? I've never heard of juniper berries, allspice berries or cardamom pods, champagne vinegar, or tellicherry peppercorns.  KW

[Naturally, we geocached to and from the event, and I took the late evening pictures of the Valley from the “Old Spiral Highway.”]

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Nellie loves her new home, an upscale "dogloo" that replaces the barrel behind.

I didn't think she was going to love it. She seemed quite anxious as her old home was pulled away from the kennel and the new one inserted, but she agreed to give it a try and once she did, she decided she prefers it to the human house. She frequently chooses to be in her dogloo when she's outside.

Monday, May 27, 2013


 Friday, May 24
The distant storm

Mike tries out his new Homelite chain saw. It's heavier and not as handy to use as he had hoped.

Interesting cloud formations to the north.

Friday night Mike took this picture of the moon.
Saturday we went over to the Gilbert Cemetery. I make only one live bouquet which I place on my dad's grave. The rest are artificial from the dollar store. Every year I add a few more flowers. Next week I'll go back to the cemetery and gather them up. Some folks like to leave them, but frankly I think the caretaker prefers we pick them up.

I took this picture because of the snow on the distant mountains. KW

Saturday, May 25, 2013


The old term for Memorial Day was Decoration Day, and when I was a child, that’s what my family called it. In the "old days," Memorial Day was May 31st, regardless of the day of the week -- and yes, I remember those old days.

Many of my Grandmother Portfors’ family, the Stinsons and the Sanders, are buried at Burnt Ridge Cemetery near Troy, Idaho. On Memorial Day, she and my grandfather would load several washtubs of flowers in the trunk of his Lincoln (she didn’t drive), and travel to Troy where they would pick up Aunt Hattie (Harriet Chapman Stinson). Her husband, Grandma’s uncle, had died, and they would add her flowers to the mix in the car and head out to the cemetery to place bouquets of fresh flowers on family graves. Afterward, they would have dinner – either at Aunt Hattie’s or at the hotel in Troy.

After Grandma Portfors died (May 1955), my mother stepped in to help my grandfather carry on the Decoration Day tradition. Grandma was buried at the Normal Hill Cemetery in Lewiston, so of course that cemetery became one of utmost importance, but we also continued the tradition of visiting those old graves at Burnt Ridge Cemetery and others in the area. Of course, I went along.

By May 31, school was out, and this lovely tradition marked the beginning of my summer vacation. Rest assured that we were dressed in our Sunday best, regardless of the weather or the fact that we would be bending over in breezy conditions to sort flowers. (Women did not wear slacks in public in those days. Apparently it was better to show your undergarments than to be seen in pants.) My grandfather wore a suit. It was a rather solemn occasion -- showing respect for the dead, as it were.

And I just have to mention this – on the way back to Orofino from Troy in the afternoon, my grandfather would find the Indianapolis 500 on the radio. BOR-R-R-R-R-ING!! And I assure you, nothing was provided for my entertainment and if I had complained, the consequences would have been swift -- and unpleasant.

But – I digress.

We made lovely bouquets of mixed flowers. You may wonder that there would have been enough flowers, but in those days we had lots – iris, tulips, lilacs, bleeding heart, peonies, columbine, coral bells, roses, and sprigs of hawthorn blossoms. Yards had flowers in those days – which is probably a glittering generality but a concept with which I grew up nevertheless. Not only were there flowers at our house but also at Grandpa Portfors’ and Grandma Walrath’s. And if the lilacs were past in Orofino, my dad would go to the farm at Gilbert – two thousand feet higher in elevation – and come back with a pail of lilacs and maybe some narcissus.

But finally the day came when there weren’t enough flowers. Grandma Walrath passed away in 1957. Grandpa Portfors became too ill to care for his yard. And by the early ‘60s my parents had remodeled the house and grounds, eliminating flower beds in favor of easy-care landscaping. Did Mother give up on Memorial Day decoration? No. Instead my dad made planter boxes for her, and late in April she would plant them so that they were at their peak by Memorial Day. KW

[Top photo: The William and Eliza Stinson family, my great-great grandparents on my mother's side. The woman seated back right is Alice Mary Stinson Sanders, my great-grandmother (Grandma Portfors' mother). William and Eliza, Alice, and one of the sons (Will?) are buried at Burnt Ridge Cemetery near Troy.  Note the iris in the picture of the doll. The picture was probably taken about this time of year at Gilbert.]

Friday, May 24, 2013


Thirty-eight years. A long time to be married. Not as long as some – longer than many others. Lots of people give up on a marriage (relationship) long before the 38-year mark. Others stay with it according to the vow – “till death do us part.”

Yesterday (May 23) was our 38th wedding anniversary. It was an ordinary day and we celebrated in ordinary ways. Late in the afternoon, upon completion of our errands, we loaded up and left for the farm.

And -- along the way we pursued celebratory geocaches. We located one on the levee near a park in north Lewiston. I noticed blackberry bushes along the levee at that place – also a few elderberry bushes. The spot is probably well known to berry pickers because the bushes are accessible with plenty of parking nearby.

Then, at Orofino, Mike decided to make a fourth stop at a cache he’s been unable to find. (I was with him on the first try.) We drove past the church where we were married (Mike used to call it “the first church of Texaco” because of its proximity to the service station) to a location near the funeral home. Something in me had just had enough of this “did not find” nonsense. As Mike watched in amazement, I pulled a solar light out of the ground and took it apart to reveal the cache container inside. Heretofore we had been reluctant to do that, thinking it was part of the landscaping, but there was only the one light, and that was my clue.

Then we went to the Mexican restaurant for dinner. The sign on the door warned that their credit card machine was down; cash or checks only. We paused momentarily to reflect on the ramifications of that because we don't carry the checkbook. But -- we were in luck – I had cash. We enjoyed the meal and had enough left over for tonight’s supper.

We arrived at the farm at 7:30. The temp was a chilly 54. A chilly weekend is forecasted. A fire in the fireplace makes us cozy, and as Mike says, we can turn on the lights if we need to. KW

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I learned early in life the dangers of over-fertilization.

My Grandfather Portfors, “Papa” we called him, lived just a block from us on Brown Avenue in Orofino – right there in the heart of town, so to speak. Papa had a modest but neat home, as befitted his conservative nature, with a lovely yard. It was picturesque – and to my memory much larger than it really was. (I know this because when I go by there today, I can see it’s really not a big lot.)

It was a well-planned yard, the sort that reminds one of the ‘30s and ‘40s when people were knowledgeable gardeners, creating neat homes and outdoor living areas. Rainy springs and summer rains helped. Women worked at home, taking care of the house and grounds – or creating the time for a working husband to be a gardener.

Papa’s backyard included a vegetable garden, a patio with fireplace, a weeping willow, a grape arbor, and a clothesline. I remember the house surrounded by a lovely green lawn edged with rose bushes along the sidewalk. Yes, Papa took pride in his yard.

Well, I say it was a lovely green lawn, but suddenly – about 1960, I’ll say -- it developed ugly brown spots. Papa, by then 85 and a little forgetful, just couldn’t understand what was wrong. He had done everything right, he thought. He had fertilized as usual. He had watered – and watered and watered. And when the lawn didn’t appear to respond, he fertilized again. The condition of the lawn worsened.

At first my parents were stymied, too, but they began to suspect that too much fertilizer had burned the lawn. Papa was unconvinced. Fertilizer was a good thing – and necessary. He dug down into a brown spot and saw a few bugs. Maybe that was the problem. If so, no one else’s lawn was affected.

The next spring the lawn looked a little better, so Papa encouraged it by fertilizing. Naturally, it turned brown again with a vengeance.

Finally, Papa went to the county extension agent for help. The agent visited the lawn and advised that too much fertilizer had been applied. Only then did Papa concede that perhaps this was the case, though even I could sense his confusion on the issue. He just didn’t quite understand how too much of a good thing could be bad. 

About that time, he became ill and unable to care for the lawn. Without fertilization, the lawn responded by greening up, eventually making a full recovery. KW

[The top photo is a picture of my grandfather, C.O. Portfors, standing in the midst of his vegetable garden on Brown Avenue in Orofino, about 1954, I think. This garden was not at his house (Brown and C Street), but at Brown and A Street where he owned a vacant lot. Eventually the Methodist parsonage was built on that lot.

The bottom photo is Papa's birthday, late 1950s. Brother Chuck is assisting. Nice profile of nephew L.J. at the bottom of the picture and the back of my head.]

Sunday, May 19, 2013


It was 3:00 p.m. on Thursday and technically our embroidery club session was coming to an end. Participants were leaving with projects in various stages of finished, or so it seemed to me. Mine wasn't anywhere near finished.

"I'm going to sit right here until I finish this," said the sewist sitting across from me in quiet tones as the others left. "Otherwise, I will never finish it."

"I know what you mean," I said, "but I just have to go home." I would have stayed with her, but I knew Mike was waiting for me so that we could leave for the farm.

So, that left me to finish the wall hanging alone, and yesterday I settled down to it. Actually I failed to follow instructions carefully (what else is new?), and mine isn't quite exactly like the samples provided by our instructor, Chris of Little Mama Designs. I think, though, that she would say it's fine -- perhaps even the best for this fabric.

Making these things is such good practice. And actually -- I'd kinda like to do it again. I had a good time! KW

Friday, May 17, 2013


We had summer last week. This week it’s sweatshirt weather again, and Mike says there’s no warm weather in sight. “Oh well,” I say, “maybe the rhubarb, the peas, the spinach and the radishes will like it.”

Tell you what, though – it’s dry, dry, dry. The need to carry water to my garden beds is quite evident.

The dryness was also evident as the farmer worked the fields. The house and grounds here are surrounded by fields – all of them planted in garbanzo beans (garbs) this spring. First they spread the beans. Then they tamped. Then they sprayed fertilizer (or something). And every time they worked, it created clouds of dust. “Are they ever going to be finished?” Mike demanded to know.

Well, I simply can’t be expected to clean house while dust swirls in the breeze. Instead we did outside things.

Mike has done a number of scary chores with my assistance. He cleaned the roof outside the east dormer by securing a ladder to a rope. He climbed out the corner window, braced himself on the ladder, and I passed him a small pail of water and cleaning materials. Then, using a staple gun, he attached wire fencing to the braces where the birds like to roost. I took no pictures of this feat. I was afraid they would be his last. 

Mike also undertook to remove pine boughs resting on the old woodshed. I do have pictures of that. I held the ladder while he cut the limbs. I always think the woodshed is rather picturesque. 

I'm not sure when the woodshed was built. Someday I'll research pictures and see what I can determine.

Today Mike said he was tired, and I encouraged him to take it easy. Next thing I knew we were trimming the old apple trees down by the pond. Nick and Hallie pruned the healthiest one last year, and Mike was so impressed with its appearance this spring that he decided to trim the deadwood out of the others. Again, I was the assistant. There’s a lot of down time in assisting and I politely declined to participate again this afternoon.
But in the process of this work, Mike decided he has to have a new lightweight chainsaw. Believe me, if Mike says he needs a new chainsaw, he needed it at least two years ago. He loves to keep things running. So, he did the research and plans to get one when we’re in town. KW