Sunday, November 29, 2015


It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving – late afternoon. Ina was enjoying a quiet time of reflection as darkness fell on the room. She was comfortable in her old rocking chair near the dining room window, her well-worn Bible open in her lap. Her husband Jack was dozing in another rocker near the fireplace. Soon she and Jack would have a light supper and then listen to a radio program before bed.

Orofino in the early days
Jack and Ina had homesteaded this land on the breaks of the Clearwater River south of Orofino, Idaho, some 35 years ago. The land was both their home and their livelihood. Now in their 60s, their six children grown and gone except for the youngest, Shirley, the elderly couple still worked hard to sustain themselves through the farm.

Jack and Ina's place
Suddenly the telephone box on the wall began to jangle, jolting Ina from her reverie. As if coming out of a dream, she recognized their ring – short short long – and hurried to lift the receiver.

“I have a long distance person-to-person call for Mrs. Julian Dobson from Mrs. Ernest Robinson,” intoned the operator at the central exchange in Orofino. “Is that you, Ina? Will you accept Ethel’s call?”

“Yes, Mabel,” Ina responded.
“We’ve reached your party, Mrs. Robinson. Go ahead, please,” said the long-distance operator.

“Hello, Mama. Everything is fine here. How’s everything there?” Ethel’s voice squawked over the line. “Listen, Mama,” continued Ethel, “I’ll make it quick. Ernest is between assignments, see, and we can get away for Christmas. Mama, we wondered if we could spend Christmas at the farm.”

Ina was momentarily stunned. She wondered if she were dreaming after all, but she had the proof of the receiver in her hand. “Why, yes – yes, that would be fine, Ethel. When should we expect you?”

Ethel explained that she would not talk longer since she had already mailed a letter with further details.

Ina could scarcely believe that the call had happened. The anticipation of a grandchild in her home for Christmas was all Ina needed to set her in a whirl. Jack, roused from his nap by the telephone, was now wide awake and asking what Ethel had said. Ina explained briefly but added that they would have to await Ethel’s letter. KW

Saturday, November 28, 2015


(A story of Sadie, American Farm Girl, wherein Ina makes a rag doll)

An advent calendar, c. 1960
In my childhood (the ‘50s and ‘60s), a syndicated serialized story about Santa Claus appeared in our daily newspaper during the month of December. It was a countdown to Christmas, the installments appearing weekdays from December 1 until just before Christmas. I remember Mother reading them to me, and I also remember my older sister Nina reading episodes to her boyfriend in her best “little girl” voice. Mother even clipped the series from the paper and pinned them together. Eventually I tossed them. (What was I thinking!)

After years of searching the internet for information about these “countdown to Christmas” serials, this year I evidently put together the right combination of words and came up with information. I now know that the advent series were written by journalist Lucrece Beale. The story presented a problem that Santa had to solve in order to meet the Christmas deadline. If you’re interested, you can read the history of these delightful series here.

Aunt Ethel with her daughter Shirley Jean
This year I’m celebrating December with a “serialized” story of my own -- fictionalized family history based on Depression-era life at the old family homestead located at the now-defunct community of Gilbert, Idaho. My story has Grandma Ina anticipating the visit of her daughter Ethel’s family and looking forward to sharing the holiday with granddaughter Sadie. I try to capture something of an old-fashioned cozy Christmas in a time and place where life was simpler but not without problems.

Happily, the calendar of 1931 coincides with that of 2015, so 1931 it is. Though based on events that my grandmother related in letters to her son Vance (my father), the story is my own. Ethel and her husband Ernest were real people, and they had one child, Shirley Jean. However, the little girl in my story is a fictional Sadie. KW

Wednesday, November 25, 2015


So, Monday morning we finished stacking the wood and other yard chores and congratulated ourselves that we had finished in the nick of time. The forecast was for rain (or snow) on Tuesday (Nov. 24) followed by a cold snap. Over the next week, lows at Gilbert might be in the teens while highs would be at freezing or not much above. We would have to winterize the farmhouse before leaving – bummer!

But first, after lunch Mike decided to take Bess and go bird hunting. I said I would take Nellie for a walk. Nellie just doesn’t focus on hunting these days – is actually in the way – but she hates to be left behind. Mike and Bess went out behind the house to the canyon edge while Nellie and I headed south beyond the pond. Before long we met up with the hunters, and Nellie went on with them. Frankly, I didn’t care to keep up with the hunters, so I pursued my own course and took the pictures you see on this post.

As Mike says, the farm is not much fun when it rains or when the ground is soft and muddy. Going outside brings the necessity of cleaning boots and paws -- not fun. Actually, though, if it weren’t for that, the house is a nice place to be.

So, before we left, we shut off the water and drained the pipes. It sounds easy, but it requires a trip under the house and a few other distasteful chores. And of course, we aren't finished with the house yet -- not until after Christmas -- so we'll have to turn the water on and then winterize again.

We arrived in town about 5:00 – just about suppertime. The tendency on a chilly evening after hard work is to want creamed tuna on toast, which seems to be the ultimate comfort food for our household. However, it requires a tired “someone” to stand at the stove and stir the white sauce. This time, though, I was ready with a great alternative – frozen venison enchiladas. When I put them in the freezer, I said to myself that the night would come when I would be grateful, and I was right! It was no trouble to warm it, and it hit the spot. KW

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Evening to the south, November 22

“I’m not looking forward to it,” I muttered to Mike as we were getting dressed Sunday morning. “I’m not either,” he said.

But it had to be done. The firewood at the farm, now split, had to be moved to shelter, or else it would quickly rot in the field. It would be a big job for the two of us “seniors.” Chores in town gave us a late start. We drove the “new” old pick-up with dogs riding behind the front seat of the expanded cab. (Bess loves it -- Nellie not so much.) We didn’t get into the wood project until nearly 11:00 a.m.

Mike positioned the old pick-up as close as possible to the wood piles in the north field. He tossed the wood into the bed and I stacked it methodically. Our first load was less than half the wood in that area. Then we drove down to the south side of the barn (the open door near the pond) where we parked near the door. (The lay of the land and lack of traction made it impossible to back into the barn.)

Mike leveled an area about 20 feet long near the back wall, which is constructed of farm rock. We soon developed a system. I climbed into the pick-up bed and moved the wood near the tailgate so that he could reach it. He then loaded the wheelbarrow and rolled it to the stack. The distance was only about 15 feet, but it was a lot of back and forthing over unlevel ground. 
With the warmth of the sun in the afternoon, the ground in the north field became muddy, and after the second load, Mike opted to leave the rest of that wood until early Monday morning. Instead, he picked up the pile in the lane. It was getting dark as we loaded it. By now we had abandoned all thought of neatness and just tossed the wood in the pick-up.

Moon approaches full
Work started at 6:45 Monday morning as we unloaded and stacked the wood from the lane. It wasn’t as cold as we had anticipated – only 29 – so again we had to work quickly to unload so that Mike could drive into the north field for that last load. We were finished with that work mid-morning. Mike calculated our firewood in the barn at two and a third cords (a double row 20 feet long by 5 feet high).

Then we moved to the woodshed. That wood had been stacked earlier in the season, but Mike decided to take the stacks down and split the wood with the rented splitter last weekend – a bit of extra work at the time for which he thanks himself now. We re-stacked and covered it. Then I picked up small wood for kindling while Mike cleared the grove of limbs that blew down in last Tuesday’s windstorm.

Of course, I say we were finished, but in actuality this firewood-making will continue for a while. A small pile in the gully is still there until the ground freezes and we can drive to it. And in the spring we will have to address the trees that are still standing. It might be a lifetime supply of firewood. KW

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Evening falls over the farmhouse at Gilbert (taken Nov. 14)

Goodness! Where HAS the time gone?

Quiet times – not much happening. Monday I worked to make a few things for the P.E.O. silent auction, which occurred on Tuesday. Yesterday I accomplished nothing more than shopping. Perhaps it’s been more interesting for Mike, who enjoys bird hunting every second or third day.

Nellie and Bess share the pillow
The piles of split wood at the farm are waiting for us to load, haul, and stack. Mike has a spot in the barn where we’ll store it for now – that is, if the barn is still standing. We had big wind Tuesday that caused damage around the region. And now it’s raining and a storm watch is in effect. And next week it’s supposed to turn quite cold. So, the plan is that we’ll get to the farm on Sunday or so to do our work and then we’ll probably have to winterize the house. I guess it’s good that we have those weather apps so that we can better plan our activities.

Maple tree in town
Now I’ve begun to realize that the holidays are upon me and I won’t nearly finish all I want to do before Christmas. Oh well. I mean – what can a person do? I try to stay in the moment, remind myself that I’m having a good time, and remember that Christmas doesn’t really change anything. Nothing stops because of a calendar date. I can still keep doing what I do, and above all, I regularly remind myself that I’ll get through it all just fine.

"Socks and Bows" and "Rocking Horse Border"
But just to show how distracted I can become, yesterday I hauled out some holiday fabric I purchased years ago (see photo left). I loved it then, and I love it now. I was going to make a dress and pinafore for granddaughter Annie, but the time passed. So, when Emmy came along, I thought I would make it for her, but Emmy is a contemporary gal whose style is “uncomplicated.” Let me put it this way – when it comes to my efforts, I think there are other things she’d like better.

The two fabrics were printed in the USA for Daisy Kingdom -- “Rocking Horse Border” (1996) and “Socks and Bows” (1995). I have 3 ¾ yards of each. Okay -- what shall I do with it? I agonized over this yesterday until I remembered that I’ve had this fabric for 20 years and using it is not on my “before Christmas” list. Realizing that I was acting on a whim, I carefully refolded it and put it back in storage.

My inspiration board
But – the question remains, what shall I do with it? It feels like I should use it for something “special.” The fabric design might not lend itself to a quilt. Or, I could just make aprons, pillowcases, or table runners. I kind of like the apron idea. Suggestions? KW