Thursday, May 6, 2021

Proud mama.

On Monday morning, my husband and I picked up a rental car and made the long trek to Memphis. We've done a fair amount of traveling globally, but have seen very little of the U.S. together, so when we get a chance to detour into other states, we do. First up was crossing the Mississippi River to Arkansas. There wasn't much to see, other than this greyhound racing facility. No dogs in sight, however.
On our way to our hotel, we stopped by IKEA, because I had never been in one. What an odd place. They have all these strange vignettes set up to show their items being lived with. Somehow it all just made me twitchy. That night we met up with my older son and his girlfriend, and all 7 parents (4 parents, 3 stepparents). This is the first time I've eaten inside a restaurant since the pandemic began. The wouldn't let us push our tables together, so we got two close to each other and my son and his girlfriend kept switching back and forth. I really enjoyed getting to know her parents, who are all very friendly and funny. 
The next morning we drove down to Olive Branch, Mississippi to add another state. This one had a lovely park, so it was more worth the trip.
We walked on the trail for a little while before heading back to town.
Mask up y'all! Memphis is doing a MUCH better job of insisting everyone continue to mask than our hometown is.
We walked around Beale Street for a little while, although it was too early for music. 
However, you could buy pretty much anything with a music theme. If, say, for some insane reason you felt like you needed a guitar toilet seat they had you covered. Still, none of all that was why we were there.
We were there for this - the graduation ceremony for the 2021 class of new optometrists.
The graduates were in chairs at a distance and all wore matching masks, and families were spread out through the big arena. But that did not stop me from crying. Several times.
I fully admit, it was a thrill to hear my son announced as a doctor.
And I cried again when his girlfriend was. 
Afterwards, there was the usual round of picture taking, including this one with my son and his best buddies. I know they will miss each other.
I was able to grab my son for a quick photo before he went off for a celebratory drink with his friends.
My husband and I walked back down Beale Street to a bar behind a preserved facade from an old railway station.
This place is famous for its goats. Apparently people used to feed them beer until PETA stepped in and made sure they were being treated better. Now they live in a little fenced in area, protected from drunken idiots.
We sat in the outdoor area and had a pint while we waited for that evening's party. 
On the way back to the car, I ran across the street while my law-abiding husband waited for the light to change. We headed over to a house rented by the parents of one of my son's girlfriend's roommates. Between parents, a couple of siblings, and the four graduates there were 20 people in attendance. All, thankfully, fully vaccinated. It was a little surreal to be socializing inside and without masks.
I'm grateful the vaccines were available in time for this to happen. Finally, hugs all around and we headed home. I'm so proud of my son and his girlfriend - it's been a long four years and a lot of hard work. But they did it, and now they can turn their attention to the next phase of their lives. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

And meanwhile at home.

I haven't posted much about our current home lately, but its awash in spring color right now. I have some weeding and pruning to do here but can't work up much enthusiasm for it. I have a lot to do here in general if we hope to sell this house in a year.

Like clean the fence. It is so humid here that the white painted fence quickly becomes green. We also have a roof leak we need repaired and loads of painting to do, among other tasks. It's hard for me to want to carve out time to work here.

A tree from our neighbor's yard snapped and fell over the fence into our yard. Scared me when it crashed down outside my bedroom window!  Technically it's the neighbor's responsibility, but it's not worth straining that relationship. So now we own a chainsaw. I sent a photo of the chainsaw (a Husqvarna) and my tree service son approved of our choice. And then told us to get safety gear beyond the boots and protective eyewear my husband had on.

I always hate losing a tree, but as long as this gorgeous old oak next to us keeps standing, I'm good. And in spite of all the work, I'm thoroughly enjoying the warmed up weather.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Meanwhile, up at the Ridge...

Working hard at the new property has been helpful as a distraction for me. One of our projects has been fencing in the little orchard. We decided to stain the board along the top to make it less noticeable. I'm planting various vining things on it to provide both food and privacy (mostly grapes and maypops).

My husband built three gates - one to the hiking path, one to the back of the cement pad behind the shed, and one in front. 
We finally got all three sides fenced in so I will be able to work in the orchard without worrying about roaming dogs. Eventually, I will also be able to let the chickens free-range a bit there. I've planted some evergreens on the outside of the fence for screening when they get bigger.
Speaking of chickens, the area we cleared for the chickens has basically become a poison ivy field. We're still waiting on plans from our builder so we are holding off on any construction of the coop but I can't just leave the poison ivy to take over. So this weekeend I covered up and started pulling out the vines.
Three big garbage bags full so far. I want to get it out while it's still relatively young and the other weeds aren't covering it up. 
Fortunately, there are plants I like a whole lot more making an appearance. Like this rue anemone, which is just everywhere.
I also keep stumbling on little patches of heuchera (aka coral bells). They will flower later in the season, but the variegated leaves stay year-round.
While I was transplanting some coneflowers along the road, I found this patch of tiny blue flag irises at the base of a tree.
And possibly may favorite, trillium. I remember being thrilled to see them when we first found the property, a year ago last week. We've now seen it through a whole year, which is hard to believe. I'm really eager to get to be there full-time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Life never fails to catch me off-guard.

So my younger son decided he was feeling a little stuck in life, working as a FedEx driver. This is not a career he wanted and he has been casting around for a way to work outdoors and specifically in a forestry-related field. He called to tell me he was applying for jobs and planned to move. To Portland, Oregon. 2500 miles away. The thought of him leaving broke my heart but I also knew it was what was best for him, so I threw myself into helping him with that. We taped off a section of the garage and he started culling and packing his belongings, taking only what was most important to him.
He moved back in with us temporarily so he could have internet access and started applying for jobs and apartments. Within a week he had a trial work day scheduled with a tree service and a back-up job offer from a FedEx company. I spent as much time with him as I could while he was still here, including a trip out to the lake near where he grew up. 
And feeding him. The age-old mom thing of making sure your child is nourished, I guess. At one breakfast I asked him to smile and along with a wicked grin, I got this.
He's 24, I completely understand him needing to strike out on his own. It's kind of a rite of passage. But all the way to the Pacific Northwest! I'm not going to lie, I was on the verge of tears much of those last couple of weeks. We have a really good relationship and I will miss him terribly. And I know he will miss me. 
Easter Sunday he loaded up the U-Haul trailer and headed out. I waited until he was gone, and then cried a LOT. At my suggestion, he detoured to Memphis to get a day with his brother, then drove to North Platt, Nebraska the next day, Boise, Idaho the next, and then finally landed in Portland on Wednesday. I would stay awake each night until he texted to let me know he was safely at each destination. 
He has called a few times to give me updates. Trips to IKEA to furnish his apartment, hiking near Mt. Hood, and getting out to the coast to see the Pacific again for the first time since he was a little kid. Yesterday was his trial work day with the tree company and it went well. He was hired and they are paying him more than what the ad stated. He is on the ground crew to start and his goal is to get trained as a climber and become a certified arborist. A big piece of my heart is now in Oregon, but I'm so proud of him for taking a risk and following a dream.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Road work.

One of the many projects we are working on is clearing out the area where the driveway will go. One of the things we had to do was take care of all this leftover cement block pieces from the old logging office. We started to use them to fill in the little ravines in the logging road, but that was clearly going to take forever. So one pickup truck load at a time, my husband has been hauling them to a recycling center that agreed to take it for a project that they are doing.
I've been keeping my eyes peeled for any plants I might want to re-locate. I saw these leaves and thought they just had to be something interesting. When I looked them up, I discovered they are a strange little wildflower called Little Brown Jug. I dug up the three sets I found and moved them to a safe place where I can keep an eye on them. 
The other thing we are doing is piling up and rocks to be used for a chimney and/or foundation. There are a LOT of rocks in these mountains, many large and flat.
We have a made a bunch of piles of them so they'll be available to the builder next year.
Tumbleweed likes to drape herself over any available perch and watch us. Here she is on one of the many piles of cut firewood.
She supervises my work much of the time, except when she is expressing her love by purring loudly while she tries to devour my hand.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Man, I hate poison ivy.

So I was working on an update post but got temporarily waylaid. I took off last Wednesday because I'd been advised to not plan anything the day after my second COVID vaccine dose. I had a headache Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, but then basically felt fine. Likely because I have a slacker-ass immune system.  My husband had taken the day off, too, so we went up to the Ridge and while he was setting poles for fencing, I tended a brush pile that we were burning. It was a gorgeous day and I was working in a short-sleeved t-shirt. Unfortunately, there were poison ivy vines included in the brush. Which, apparently, can get to you through the smoke. Within a day, I had poison ivy rash on my arms, neck and face. Even my eyelid! Most unpleasant. 

Because of that, I hadn't felt motivated to do much of anything until recently, and in the evenings we've been lying around watching a global cooking competition show called "The Final Table." The Spain episode stirred up a craving for Paella Valenciana, and I made it this weekend. We made ours with chicken, shrimp, clams, and spicy chicken sausage. I also roasted some peppers and tomatoes to add it. It was pretty good. I even got the browned layer on the bottom, called the socorrat, to come out right. My poison ivy is fading a tiny bit, so I will start working on the update post now.

Sunday, February 14, 2021


We're at that time of year when the weather is so incredibly variable. Some days dawn cold and gray, others clear and warm. We had a morning recently that immediately brought to mind the old saying about "Red sky at morning, sailors take warning." 
In my yard are the early signs of spring, with crocuses and snowdrops blooming and daffodils starting to emerge. 
Up at the Ridge, which is at a higher elevation, it still feels more wintry. But there is still a lot of beauty to be found in the muted colors of the leaves and fungi.
And there are at least a few signs of change ahead. I have no idea what these bulbs are, but they were in the path of a fence we are building so I moved them out of harms way and am watching to see what they develop into. 
My younger son and I inoculated two logs with mushroom spores this weekend - one shiitake and one oyster. He cut down the tree for me and drilled all the holes and then I pounded in the spore plugs and sealed them with melted paraffin wax. I have another two logs ready to do with my stepdaughter. We've put these two in the woods up at the ridge so that they can develop in the shade. Apparently it takes many months before we will get mushrooms, but they should produce for several years. 
I've also been working on another long-term project - chickens! I have to tell you, I'm having  a hard time waiting on this one. We've cleared out an area in the woods and I lugged a bunch of cinder blocks up the hill to mark the outlines of the run and coop. The blocks will eventually go on the part of the fence that forms an apron around the run to stop predators from digging their way in. Today we rolled these back out of the way and my husband used the auger drill to start making the holes for the fence posts. We can't really get chickens until we are ready to build next year, but we are going to take our time building the coop and run this year.
Since we are getting a lot of rain and it's pretty muddy, I decided to get a pair of inexpensive rubber boots for working so that I wouldn't wreck my good gore-tex Scarpa hiking boots. I was planning on plain black, until I saw a pair that were entirely out of character for me and bought them. Because chickens! They make me smile every time I look at them. I won't get a chance to go back until next weekend, but I'm already itching to get to work up there.