Sunday, May 31, 2015

MOWING THE LAWN



Mike on mower, 2008
In the previous post, comments developed along the theme of mowing the lawn. “Uncle” Dan is enjoying his new John Deere 300 riding mower with 48-inch deck, while Mike recently bought an old Yard Machine with 46-inch deck. Meanwhile, Hallie commented that they use “old technology” -- the whirring push mower.


When I was a child, the push mower was common. That’s the way you mowed your lawn in those days. There’s something comforting about that whirring sound. Then those noisy gasoline mowers came on the scene. A few people had electric mowers –less powerful but quiet; just don’t mow over the cord.

About 1960 my dad got a “self-propelled” push mower, which was a step forward in ease of use. You just released that lever with your foot and the mower took off on its own. It just needed the guidance of the operator. Now Daddy could leave Mother and me to mow the lawn at the farm while he did other chores. Mother was not happy about that, I think. I don’t know if he asked her to mow or if his idea was that I should mow and she decided to job share. (It was the ‘50s, remember, and the division of work along gender lines was alive and well.) At any rate, Daddy did “the hard part” by going around the perimeter of the grounds. Then Mother and I took turns, one round at a time until she decided we could do two, then three, etc. It was a hot day, and she insisted we sip lemonade when we were sitting out.

But, I don’t remember that she and I ever mowed more than a couple of times. For one thing, we don’t water the lawn at the farm, so as hot August approaches, the grass dries and quits growing. The yard in town was another matter. It was a big job, and Daddy did it.

I suppose it was the ‘70s when Daddy bought a riding mower for the farm – a Craftsman from Sears, I think. And as his health failed, our neighbor, friend, and farmer, Neil Miller, mowed the lawn. He said he enjoyed doing it, and he probably did. I’m sure there was at least one upgrade. A riding mower was there as Mike and I learned the ropes of caring for the old place. Mike remembers that he used up that mower and sold it for a hundred dollars. Being an old tinkerer, Mike always replaces the old mower with another old mower, but I know the ride isn’t smooth (like Uncle Dan’s) and that’s noticeable in his back.

I don’t know how they mowed the lawn at the farm in the old days. Maybe Chuck can enlighten us. KW

[The top photo shows Mike on our riding mower in 2008. He wrote "R.I.P." on that mower last week. In the two old photos, Mike mows at the farm with Milo in July 1980. Seems to be solemn work.]

Thursday, May 28, 2015

FORGETFULNESS



Mike and I left the farm Wednesday morning (May 28), packing out garbage, recyclables, left-over food, electronics and reading material, Nellie and Bess, and a whole lot of other stuff denoted under “etc.”

Mike’s town agenda was to get a “rebuilt” computer tower installed and running. Alas! The hard drive was faulty and he’s in worse shape than ever – or at least it seems that way. (Wisdom by Kathy: When technology takes a step forward, it isn’t wise to try to stick with the old, however much you think you like it.) Meanwhile, he’s also dickering over a rebuilt riding lawn mower to replace the previous old mower. That process takes us to Lapwai.

Long story short – We had to go back to the farm this morning to get Mike’s previous computer tower. And we each made a list of other items we either forgot or would like to bring back – like the teddy bear afghan I’m making, a Hallmark catalog, the cookies we left in the cookie jar, one of Mike’s supplements, etc. However, I forgot to take the camera and my iPod with me on this short trip, even though I had them laid out, and the jar of milk I did manage to take I left in the fridge on the farm.

My mother used to say, “I’d forget my head if it weren’t attached.” I would try to calm her frustration, but darned if she wasn’t right!!!

When we woke up this morning, it seemed like a warm day, but it was chilly at the farm – in the mid-50s – and breezy. It rained but not much. We’re looking at a warm weekend coming up (90), so hopefully our new plantings will survive. Before we left, we re-caged the new apple tree.

Anyway, Mike picked up his computer, and we loaded two old lawnmowers on the trailer and hauled them to Lapwai in partial trade for the one we’re buying. And the guy actually seemed glad to get them!

We were back in town for a late lunch, and then Mike began the work of reconstructing three weeks of bookkeeping. It’s too bad he had to do it, I guess, but he seemed to come through it all right. KW

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, CON'T


Kathy & Mike measure for fencing.

For quite some time, I have wanted to fence a strip of the farm yard (south side below house) to protect three lilac bushes from the deer and also provide additional protected garden space. I finally convinced Mike that I believe such an area would actually be easier to mow and trim than leaving it open. Sunday (May 24), with Mike leading the work, we were able to finish the fence. I’m challenged now to remove grass and weeds from the area. It’s an ambitious project. I know I will be less inspired as the summer heats up and the ground dries out.
Mike drives post

Hallie brought her new bedroom drapes, and we shortened them by removing the grommeted header and folding a new header. With Hallie and Nick cutting and pinning, the stitching went quickly.

On Saturday and again on Monday, Hallie and Mike rode the pavement out to Nezperce and back. Hallie was a strong rider as a teen-ager, and Mike comments that she is still a strong rider. She said Mike passed her on the hills and she whizzed past him on the flats.

Sunday, Hallie and Nick ran to the mailbox and back. Surprisingly, both dogs went with them. It’s no feat for Bess, but to hear that Nellie trotted along the whole way was heartwarming.

Cuddling after a busy day
On a previous visit, Nick noted a gooseberry bush beyond the north field, and he took the dogs and hiked out to find it again. He found that one and even another. We’re anxious to see if they bear this summer.

Monday (Memorial Day), we visited the Gilbert Cemetery where we placed artificial bouquets on the family graves. In a week or so, I’ll retrieve those flowers, discard any that are bedraggled, and put the rest away for next year. We met our neighbors at the cemetery and had a nice visit.

Then, having obtained permission, we picked rhubarb on nearby property. I have never seen such large stalks! I froze 16 quarts. Sadly, that rhubarb grove is endangered by invasive blackberry bushes and wild roses.

Ship's clock on Tudor mantle
Tuesday morning, I had Hallie help me carry two boxes from the attic, and we had a good time going through them. They were full of the kinds of things it’s easy to leave in storage – collections of bottles and old-time crock pots – but we agreed that these things are interesting and should be left out. I gave Hallie a ship’s clock that had belonged to my dad – probably something he came by when he lived on the Washington coast. It seemed fitting it should return to Seattle.

Newly fenced garden
And then it was time to say good-bye. “Tell Nellie ‘good-bye,’” I advised Hallie, “but don’t linger over it. She doesn’t like ‘good-byes.’” Nellie totally got the picture and commenced to tremble as Hallie and Nick said their farewells. Bess took the news in stride but seemed a bit bewildered. Why did something so much fun have to come to an end? Both dogs have eaten little since the departure, but things will return to normal. KW


Sunday, May 24, 2015

MEMORABLE MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND



 
Friday (May 22), we came upon not one but two rattlesnakes, the first one larger than the second. It’s rare that we see two in a day. The first (and larger) was at the top of the lane. The second was across from the Plank home site.

Thunderheads south of the house (Friday)
Hallie and Nick left Seattle after 3:00 Friday afternoon and encountered traffic problems that delayed their arrival. Mike and I just couldn’t stay awake and retired at 9:30. Nellie was already in bed, but somehow Bess knew that something was up, and she opted to sleep on her pillow in the living room. At 11:30, their arrival was announced by Bess and we got up to share the joy of dogs greeting favorite people. Nellie was not disturbed by the commotion, but she responded when Hallie awakened her. “Oh! It’s YOU!” Nellie said, coming out to get her pig ear.

Note building cloud formation
And what it looks like 15 min. later
Saturday morning we took both vehicles and drove to Orofino. We stopped at Green Things, the nursery on Riverside, and bought two fruit trees – a Lapins semi-dwarf sweet cherry and a Honey Crisp apple. We planted the cherry tree behind the woodshed where the outhouse used to be. The dirt there looks really fertile. Discussion ensued, and the consensus of opinion was that any harmful effects have long since degraded away, leaving fertile soil.

We tried to plant the apple tree at the pond but decided against it because of the heavy soil. Instead we moved it to the grove. The Honey Crisp needs a pollinator, so if it doesn’t bear next year, we may have to plant another apple in closer proximity.

  
Add caption
Friday we watched distant storms, but no precipitation fell here. Some of us like that, but others know that we could really use some moisture. No matter – Saturday afternoon thunderheads developed and we heard the distant low rumble of thunder. Nellie was characteristically nervous, eventually retiring to the doghouse, her safe haven. About 5:00 p.m., a ginormous hailstorm hit, and it was not brief. Mike commented that it was the longest hailstorm he had ever experienced. It seemed like the little men playing 10-pins were really angry. Hailstones the size of large marbles fell which after 15 to 20 minutes became heavy rain. Fortunately, we did not lose power or our connections to the world.
Artistry by Mike
I thought of brother Chuck who would have spent the afternoon lounging on the front porch and watching the storm build. It was awesome to hear the hail pounding on the metal roof.

Vehicles under maple tree during storm
Damage? Well, the trees we planted seemed to take the beating okay. I’m no judge, but I think the crops are probably okay, as young as they are. The iris and poppies are beat down, and I’m glad we hadn’t gone to the cemetery yet. However, Mike is concerned for the bird hatch. KW

Friday, May 22, 2015

RED CLOVER



Hallie and Nick will be here tonight, and at some point during the weekend, we’ll decorate family graves at the Gilbert Cemetery. That’s fine, but I always feel a little guilty when Memorial Day activities don’t take me to the Normal Hill Cemetery in Lewiston to decorate my mother’s grave. Mother loved Memorial Day and visited a number of regional cemeteries – Lewiston, Troy, Orofino, Gilbert, Grangeville, and Cavendish – to place cut flower bouquets and/or planted flower boxes on family graves.

Mother knew that no one languishes in a cemetery, but her parents had a long tradition of visiting the cemetery in Troy, and continuing that tradition was special. When I was a little girl, we dressed up in our best dresses to do our cemetery work. Sometimes the wind would whip our skirts right over our heads. Gradually the dress code relaxed to more practical garb.

I had to laugh the other day as I passed a hanging flower basket at Albertson’s. Red clover spilled out of those baskets and looked just lovely. However, red clover spreads “like wildfire” and I couldn’t help but think that no one would appreciate such a gift, especially not the cemetery maintenance crew.

One long ago summer of my youth, we had an infestation of red clover in our yard. In serious tones, Mother assigned me to do the lunch dishes every day (wash, dry, and clean the kitchen) while she took an old paring knife and went out to the west side yard to dig the red clover out of the lawn. And that’s the way it went for the rest of the summer. She sat right down on the grass and dug out that red clover, root by root -- a painstaking task, I assure you.
 
One day, the neighbor came out and asked Mother what she was doing. Mother explained. “But red clover is so pretty,” said the neighbor. “In fact, I just planted some.” Mother explained that once you have red clover it’s impossible to get rid of it. With that, the neighbor rushed to dig out what she had planted.

I don’t know the rest of the story – whether or not Mother was successful. I doubt it. I do remember her progress was really slow. Digging was too little, too late. I suspect eventually some chemical was applied to control the red clover. Perhaps Mother was just making a point. But – Mother was a determine individual. She gave it her best shot, whatever her motives. KW

[Today I would capture Mother working in the yard with my camera, but in those days we didn't waste film on such activities. The pictures here were taken today at the Gilbert farmhouse.]