Monday, July 31, 2017


Little Tudor in Christmas finery

 We have occasionally posted updates on daughter Hallie and Nick’s project to renovate their little brick Tudor in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. Hallie has now started her own blog to chronicle their work under the title “Seattle Tudor Renovation.” 

Check out Hallie's blog at:


Sunday, July 30, 2017


After rapeseed harvest
Once again, Mike and I were up early in order to pack the old Silverado and get on the road while it was still cool(ish). Arriving at the farmhouse, we discovered that rapeseed harvest has indeed concluded. The fields are shorn of their long pod-locks. It’s over, and I missed it. We may see harvesters again this season, but they won't be close to the house.

Post-rapeseed harvest, 2017
Today being July 30, I couldn’t help but think of the birthday parties we used to have here for my Grandfather Portfors (Papa). His birthday was July 31, so the last Sunday in July, we invited friends and family to the Gilbert farm for a mid-summer celebration in his honor. The time frame: the years around 1960.

“Why did you have the party at the farmhouse,” you might ask because, after all, Papa was Mother’s father and this is my dad's place. Well, I don’t know how it evolved, so I’ll have to guess. It was a good time for a summer picnic, and folks still liked to get out of town to enjoy the breezes of the upper country. This was a group that had been friends for years, including Vernon and Lolita Kalbfleisch, Hez and Una Evetts, Wayne and Psyche Johnson, and Chuck Johnson. My sisters and brother came with their children, if possible, and sometimes others brought grandchildren as well.

The mid-day meal was a potluck with fried chicken and plenty of salads and finger foods. The cake was simple, baked in my mother’s kitchen. And we had homemade ice cream courtesy of my dad. I don't recall that they made extra to accommodate the crowd. You got a sliver of cake and if there was any leftover, you might ask for another piece. We didn’t worry about planning games and activities or what people would do. Attendees just visited, enjoyed the fresh air, and went home before it got late. Was it boring? I probably thought so even though I looked forward to it.

Mother, Daddy, and I would clean the farmhouse a week or two in advance of the party. Remember -- we had no electricity or indoor plumbing, so we worked the old-fashioned way. My dad had installed a propane “hotplate” unit so that we could heat water without starting a fire in the old cook stove -- and that was a boon! He dipped water out of the cistern, heated it, helped wash windows, and mopped the floors. Mother took down all the curtains (sheers) and took them to town to launder them. Eventually, at Mother's insistence, they bought a small generator so that she could run a vacuum. And she thought that was a boon!

Well, my dad was still farming in those days, and during harvest, Mother and I (and other family) would stay here at the farmhouse to provide support. The house had to be made ready, so I think the party gave us extra incentive.


But – I’m glad we’re not having such a party today because I don't think we'd find as much relief from the heat as we did in those days. I hate to say this, but we're talking almost 60 years ago. I always marveled when my parents talked about the old days and wondered if the time would come when I would think back to the "old days." Hmmm -- seems like yesterday.  KW

Saturday, July 29, 2017


A last picture of the old farmhouse before the rapeseed is cut

 This post contains semi-graphic material that may be distasteful to some. For mature readers only.

“We’ll have to get on the road early,” said Mike last Sunday night.

“Really?” I complained. (It’s not that I mind getting up – not at all. I mind getting dressed and getting to work.)

“Yes,” he said. “We’ll want to get the watering done at the farm before it gets hot. And there’s no air conditioning in the old truck.”

I rolled out of bed at 5:40 and Mike was close behind. We packed food, supplies, and the dogs into the old Silverado and were on the road by 7:45. Bess didn’t much want to let me ride “shotgun.” Mike had to pull her over. Nellie stretched out behind the seat and looked nervous. But they know the drill and where we’re going and basically they’re fine with it.

Lovely maroon hollyhock
Now for my gruesome tale. A couple of weeks ago – before company arrived – I complained to Mike that the lower cupboard between stove and refrigerator seemed to have an odor, like dead mouse. Mike said he didn’t smell anything. I knew the mouse (if mouse there be) wasn’t in the cupboard but likely behind the stove. Clearly Mike wasn’t too interested and I moved on, having other pressing things to take care of.

Rapeseed will soon be harvested
Well, as we left for town, we replaced the traps in the kitchen, always one on either side of the stove – our most successful trapping spots. My first duty when we arrive back at the farmhouse – even before turning on the modem – is to check the mousetraps. And the first thing I noticed was that the trap between the stove and the fridge was missing! “That’s not good,” said Mike. And as soon as he put down the load he was carrying, he pulled the drawer out from under the stove, retrieved an empty trap, and vacuumed the area. He seemed to think the problem was solved and returned to unloading the pick-up.

Evening light
But – I wasn’t convinced. Specks of blood on the floor indicated a mighty struggle had ensued in this place. I cleaned with “Clorox Clean-Up” and decided further investigation was warranted.

Gathering a flashlight, my long-handled Swiffer duster, AND my courage, I began to poke around under the stove. “I already did that,” said Mike defensively. But I was not deterred. A metal part hangs down almost to the floor right in the center of the back of the stove. I could see something behind it, and I maneuvered my duster this way and that until I pulled out another trap, this one occupied by a petrified mouse. We couldn’t recall that another trap had gone missing, but obviously it had, and this might have been the source of the odor I had detected. And this means that the quarry from the trap Mike retrieved managed to escape. Traps in these spots will be more substantial in future. KW

Friday, July 28, 2017


First day of rapeseed harvest, July 26 (Grass burning is actually some distance from us.)

Harvesting near the canyon, July 26
The harvest “crew” worked fairly late Wednesday, the first day of harvest, but Thursday (yesterday) we didn’t see them. We didn’t know what was going on until Mike took the dogs for their late afternoon walk and ran into Farmer Kyle where he parks above Plank Pitch. He said the work was delayed because a deer antler punctured a tire. They were harvesting June’s place but on top where we couldn’t see them. Bummer! We left the homestead this morning at 9:00, and they had just started working again.
Soon we'll reestablish our trail here

Rapeseed in the north field
I suppose harvest will be over when next we return, and I’m sorry to miss it, but it’s okay. Frankly, we’re looking forward to having the crop gone so that we can re-establish our circuitous walking route and come back to the farm yard through June’s field. The stubble may be fairly high, but Mike says he’ll make us a trail. And Hallie, reading my mind, posted this comment on the previous post: “Oh boy! Freedom! Can you imagine all the places you'll walk? Across that field, then across that field. Maybe across that other field. Wheeee!” Not to mention that our views will be unobstructed.

Machinery in June's field this morning
Farmer Kyle says he’ll plant wheat this fall, and in the past, he’s planted about the time deer season opens. He said he committed to rapeseed because at the time he planted, the price was high. Now it’s dropping every day, he says. Gotta be a gambler if you farm for a living.

So, yes – we’re back in town. For one thing, I didn’t tell you about this, but last Saturday, as we attempted to take the dogs to the river for exercise, the Dakota wouldn’t start. We’ve had an intermittent problem for several months. Mike was all set to replace the alternator, but fiddling under the hood after we arrived here today, he discovered a loose connection. So, that was a quick fix and he’s relieved.

The burned trees have to go
So, we made this last trip to the farm in the old Silverado, which was the plan anyway. I helped Mike load firewood from our stash of pine in the barn, and he also loaded the chokecherry. (That lovely chokecherry tree in the draw died as a result of the fire two years ago, and he cut it down.) Then yesterday, I guess he needed more to do on a hot afternoon, so he obtained our neighbor’s permission to begin cutting that stand of burned trees right above our lane. For our neighbor, it’s out of sight and out of mind, but we have to look at it. It’s past time for it to be gone. Mike only had the small saw, but he managed to cut down one tree and load the wood.

Dress for Elizabeth
I don't do well in the heat, so I find indoor activities. Yesterday I finished this cute dress for Elizabeth, Emmy’s doll, once again modeled by Shirley Anne, American Farm Girl. The characters on the fabric are “Shopkins.” Emmy has quite a collection of Shopkins, though I understand she no longer buys them.

We had waffles with serviceberry syrup for breakfast. Oh – I still have to tell you about the serviceberry jelly, don’t I? KW

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Harvesting on Little Canyon

Cut -- and uncut
Monday evening (July 24), we noticed a combine and truck parked at the top of Plank’s Pitch and just a little cutting in June’s field. No one was there. Tuesday morning we noticed a little more cutting had been done -- just a little. 

Harvest equipment from Pete's Pond
Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday) we found Farmer Kyle there, too, and he said he was ready to start harvesting the rapeseed but the header wasn’t working right. He estimated it would take three days to harvest our place, once he gets started. 

Combine without header
I love to watch them harvest, but many years it happens when we aren't here. I kept watching for the big combine to come around the corner of June's field where the road meets the lane. Nothing happened. But after lunch, as Mike and I were sitting on the porch, I happened to look south and lo and behold! -- there they were clear out at the canyon rim. 

So, harvest is happening NOW. KW