Ripped Off Twice

I love playing in the dirt. I love planting things and watching them grow. I love harvesting my vegetables, eating them and preserving the surplus. The first year we moved here, we designed a large garden and built raised beds to grow a myriad of vegetables and fruits for the next year. Or rather, I designed the garden and Mitch built the raised beds and installed the fence around the perimeter to protect it from the dogs. We had a truck dump eight yards of garden soil to fill the beds. We over calculated how much we needed and ended up with a surplus of about two yards of dirt.

The first gardening year, I was a bit ambitious and planted zucchini and cucumber from seed. Needless to say, I grew, ate, gave away and preserved close to a ton of fresh zucchini and cucumbers. At least that’s what it felt like. The next year, I paired it back a bit and only planted three zucchini, but I planted cucumber from seed. I still had too many zucchini and ended up trying my hand at pickling cucumbers. I made dill pickles and sweet spicy pickles. They turned out pretty good for a first attempt.

This year I decided to scale the zucchini and cucumber way back. I only bought one zucchini plant that had two little starts in the pot and one cucumber plant with three little starts in the pot. I got adventurous and bought a cantaloupe plant with two little starts. I bought all of the starts from one of the big box home improvement/gardening stores. The plants all looked healthy when I planted them. After a month of growth, all of the plants had blooms and were growing big.

Two weeks ago I was inspecting the cucumbers and noticed some tiny black bugs on the leaves. I turned the leaf over and was horrified that the underside of the leaves were covered in these tiny black bugs, even the blooms had tiny black bugs all over them. Aphids! Oh my god, I have aphids. Now what? I googled how to control aphids, hoping for a natural remedy. Ladybugs are a predator, but looking at the infestation I had I wasn’t sure there were enough ladybugs in the state of Washington to eat their way through my cucumbers and rid me of the aphids. I decided the next option was insecticidal soap and neem oil. Those two didn’t seem as devastating to the rest of the insect population, so I carefully sprayed the cucumbers with the insecticidal soap. I checked the zucchini and cantaloupe too and yep, I had aphids on them too. A week later I sprayed the cucumbers, zucchini and cantaloupe with the neem oil, hoping that if I keep rotating between the two, I might get rid of the aphids before they spread to my tomatoes and peppers.

I returned from a business trip and was going through the garden inspecting my plants saw a cucumber that was ripe and picked it. As soon as I picked it and inspected it I realized that it wasn’t a cucumber, it was a zucchini. The zucchini plants were mislabeled as cucumbers and now I had five zucchini plants instead of two, no cucumbers and the bonus of an aphid infestation. I am really regretting my decision to even have a garden this year. Plus I will never buy another plant from that store again.

I am giving serious consideration to ripping out the zucchini, cantaloupe and the “cucumber” plants and hope that the aphids go to the yard recycling heaven and feasts to their hearts content someplace else.

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And I Thought I Had Seen it all

Well another trip to the Midwest and back home is in the books and there were some interesting incidents. It seems travel dress code keeps getting more and more relaxed. Bathing is also an option it seems. Pajamas are all the rage, along with stocking caps (in the summer???), flip flops or insulated soft boots. Quite the combination. Gone are the days of flying “is an event” and wearing nice clothes. Now it’s grab something off of the floor that doesn’t smell too bad and away we go.

As we landed in KC and as soon as the seatbelt light went off, I stood up and got my backpack out of the overhead bin and was waiting for the door to open so I could face the oppressive heat that was waiting for me. As I was waiting in line I overhead a woman in the row behind me say, “It’s a dry heat unless there is a storm coming.”

I looked at her for a split second then turned around quickly so I wouldn’t laugh out loud. In all of my years growing up and living in the Midwest, we never once used the word “dry” to describe the hot muggy oppressive summer heat. And to prove my silent declaration correct, the screen at baggage claim, read out 89° for the temperature and the “real feel” temperature was 99°, oh yes, a dry heat. I had a week of nineties and up to a hundred with the humidity levels almost as high.

When I travel for work, I try to carefully pack only for what I will need. After four years of flying back and forth halfway across the country monthly, I’ve gotten better at streamlining most of my packing. I still take my electric toothbrush, even though it is bigger than a standard no frills manual toothbrush. I make sure it’s all charged up before I leave so I don’t turn my electric toothbrush to a manual toothbrush. For this trip I was also pulling double duty. I was pet sitting two guinea pigs and a cat. Thursday night, I was sitting down and reading my emails when I heard this weird loud buzzing.

I thought oh no something is going to blow up and burn the house down. Super, how was I going to explain burning down my son’s house to him when they get home? I walked toward the bathroom and the sound got louder. My electric toothbrush just decided to turn itself on and I could not get it to turn off. It ran through the two-minute cycle, then shut off. When I got ready for bed, I tried to turn it on and brush my teeth, but it wouldn’t turn on so I ended up brushing my teeth as a manual toothbrush. I thought the toothbrush had bitten the dust. It was almost ten years old so I wasn’t surprised and planned on throwing it in the trash in the morning before I left for work.

Imagine my shock and surprise when shortly after midnight the toothbrush turned itself back on and wouldn’t turn off until it ran the two-minute cycle. I had just fallen back asleep when it went off again. This went on all night, every fifteen minutes or so, the toothbrush ran its’ two-minute cycle. I considered many solutions, none of which were good ideas. Finally, at three thirty in the morning, the toothbrush ran its’ last two-minute cycle and I had to get up in twenty minutes. Awesome, what a way to start the day.

Now though I had another dilemma. I wasn’t sure it wouldn’t resurrect itself and start running through the cycle off and on. I couldn’t put it in my checked bag, a potential security problem. I couldn’t put it in my carry on, again, a potential security problem and I was afraid of throwing it in the trash. What if it started up and got hot in the trash and started a fire? I don’t think I would be forgiven for burning down the house and killing the cat and guinea pigs. I ended up giving it to one of the guys in the shop at work who said he would put it in the compactor and crush it.

Friday afternoon, I boarded my flight for home looking forward to a movie, glass of wine or maybe two, I wasn’t driving. When the food and beverage cart came around I got my glass of wine and settled back to watch the movie. I glanced across the aisle and was struck speechless. The young woman in the middle seat put on one of those facial sheet masks. I quickly turned away in order to not get caught with my jaw gaping wide open. For a split second I thought maybe she had a skin condition, but no, I remembered when she sat down, and her skin was flawless.

What’s next, depilatory in the exit rows?

Not Again

Don’t get me wrong everyone deserves a vacation, she certainly does, probably more than anyone else, but please couldn’t Mother Nature find a better more astute temp to step in and keep the world on an even keel in her absence? Couldn’t she find someone that knows the geographical parts of the country and maintain the weather patterns that are “normal” for each region?

You remember the “Artic Plunge” a couple of weeks ago, that dropped down from the Artic Circle down through the Midwest and the East dropping temperatures to way below zero for days. That was certainly a lot of fun for those people, not! Now the joke is on the Pacific Northwest, dumping snow, deep snow from the coast all the way to the Cascades and beyond. Not fair! This is the lowlands and the temperatures are supposed to be more temperate, not the artic frigid temps we’re getting.

Then I get the comments from my neighbors, relating how beautiful it is and isn’t it wonderful to get to see snow, which is rare here. That is when I look back at them under my eyebrows and grumble, “don’t miss it and I could go the rest of my life and not see it again. That would suit me just fine.” Then they walk away thinking what a grouch I am. Which is true, I lived in the Midwest most of my life and moved to the Pacific Northwest under the “misconception” that I wouldn’t see snow again, unless I wanted to go visit it.

The side effect of dumping eight plus inches of snow in a part of the country that rarely sees an inch of snow, is that almost every business is closed. The city is for the most part totally paralyzed. They don’t have the experience, the funds or the equipment to handle the snow removal. We are told over and over on the news to stay home and don’t venture out. They warn us days in advance as the weather service would warn of an impending hurricane, the stores are emptied of the staples, bread, milk and eggs. Though no one seems to buy a snow shovel, because we are the only ones on our street that shovels the driveway and sidewalk. A Midwest upbringing.

Of course, I have no inside knowledge that Mother Nature is on vacation, but I hope that she is, and some buffoon is working for her. Because if is not true that she is on vacation, then Mother Nature has had it with us and is striking out, letting us know who is in charge. She has some sense of humor.

Little Mashel Falls

We tried this hike again and were better prepared. We headed out earlier this time and because of the heat, we left the dogs home in the air conditioning. We carried our water and had some snacks back at the truck. There was only one other car in the parking lot when we pulled in and parked. I hooked my water bottle to my camera backpack and swung the backpack on my shoulders. Mitch brought one of his hunting canteens filled with water and strung it on his belt, (old school guy, super functional). After getting our meager gear on, we headed out up, the gravel road, hopefully to find a waterfall.

The morning was warming up as we walked along. The route was poorly marked, with a coupled of letter size pieces of paper in clear sleeves and hand-written word, “Falls” and an arrow pointing up the road. Someone spent big bucks on the signage. We came upon on a large rock that someone or someone(s) spray painted letters on next to a small gravel path. We walked on passing the rock thinking there had to a better marked path ahead. After walking another mile and a half, we decided we had gone too far and turned back.

We walked back to the large graffiti rock and headed down the path, twisting and winding our way into the woods. We walked along a couple of switchbacks, then came to a rather steep dirt path down the hill. The path was steep enough my knees and shins hurt, and my toes were jammed against the end of my shoes. I tried walking back and forth across the trail to lessen the steep descent. I kept thinking that this was looking like a potential AFLAC claim.

At one point we came up on a fork in the trail. Do we go to the right and up or do we continue down and to the left? We chose down and to the left. At one of many forks and some narrow steep ways to continue, we turned to the right and headed on that path. We spotted the falls through the trees and looked a way to get closer without doing a header off the side of the trail.

We found another narrow path that had some trees close enough and small enough I could hold on to for support, that led to the base of the falls. As I walked up on a huge boulder to get a better shot of the falls, I looked down to the next lower boulder and discovered a couple having a moment. Lucky me, I finally find the waterfall and now I’m a voyeur in a porno flick. They looked up at me, so I waved and turned away. Of course, they had the best spot for getting full on frontal pictures of the waterfall.

I had to content myself with side shots, from a few different angles. After taking a few photos, we headed back up the trail, retracing our steps. I was so looking forward going up the near vertical trail, (not). After nearly eight miles we were back at the truck, tired but we found a waterfall. Not the truly majestic one I’m still searching for, that is still out there waiting.

Woefully Unprepared

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is as close to perfect as you can get. Sun, sun and more sun, the days are sunny and clear, humidity is almost non-existent, daytime highs are in the eighties, to low nineties and lows are in the high fifties, to low sixties. This year we are trying to coordinate our schedules to get more time for outings, hiking, kayaking and searching out my dream vistas.

Thursday the plan was to rent kayaks at a lake that was close to us and do some paddling around. After a convoluted call to the rental shop, the guy at the shop said that the owner called in to say he wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t going to open the store that day so he was going to have to call all of the people that had already reserved kayaks and paddle boards to let them know the store was not going to open. I thought wow what a way to run a business and figured it was probably for the best that we didn’t try and use one of their kayaks.

We decided to go hiking instead. I searched around for a hike that wasn’t too far away, since we were going with plan B and getting a late start. I found a hike south about thirty miles away, a forty-five-minute drive that was reported to have three waterfalls. We thought the dogs would enjoy tagging along so we added extra water for them too and headed out. I should have packed some snacks but didn’t think about it. (Poor planning on my part)

Following the directions to Little Mashel Falls, we arrived at an access point on the side of the road that looked really sketchy, with a couple of cars parked that looked like someone lived in them and were not mobile. There was no marked trailhead, so I got out of the car (really smart idea) and walked along the edge of the woods to see if there was a path. I found a narrow path leading off into the woods and walked in a few feet to check out the trail. It looked feasible, but there was a lot of trash around, like a bunch of slobs had been through. I walked back to the car, leashed up the dogs and we headed off down the creepy trail.

We hiked in about fifty feet when we came up on a steep path down to a train trestle. There was even a rope tied to a tree as a hand hold to get down the path without face planting at the bottom. Mitch and Royal headed off down the steep embankment, and I looked at Orso and thought there was no way we would be able to get the dogs back up that path if it was the only way in and out. I wasn’t even too sure I would be able to get myself back up let alone going down without filing an Aflac claim. I called to Mitch and told him that this was not a good idea and let’s look for a better trail down. He and Royal made it back up with some effort and we headed out looking for a better descent trail. We came up one a man just standing on the trail looking off into the distance and said without turning around, “The next trail over has a better access.” Creepy, where did he come from?

We turned around and headed back to where the car was parked and looked for a better access point. Right by the van that was parked there and looked like it was not mobile, was a sign that said, NO TRESPASSING! Property of the Railroad. Too bad we didn’t see that sign first. We loaded the dogs back up in the car and put in a different description in my phone, hoping for a better spot.

We found a better access point, actually a park with a real parking lot and a gravel path and markers with real directions. Imagine that. What a difference a better description makes in my phone. We headed off down the trail noting the sign that said 4.8 miles. We hoped that meant round trip. The sun was shining, and the day was warming up. And we forgot the water, it was still in the cooler in the back of the car, (really stupid). We thought that once we got there, the dogs cold get in the water and cool off.

At the halfway point, we realized the 4.8-mile sign was one-way and the dogs were getting too hot. Orso was panting and struggling, I was even getting tired, lugging my camera backpack. So, we decided we had not planned well at all, and were stupid pet owners. We turned back and headed back to the car. No waterfalls today.

Next time I promise to do a better job planning and packing for a day hike. I will even read all of the trail description, not just the highlights.

Almost Silent

Orso will be twelve years old in August, a true senior citizen in dog years. Not only is he old by dog standards, (seven people years for each dog year), but he also weighs ninety-nine pounds, making him ancient, almost a living fossil. He has started to slow down; his hips are weaker, and he often has a sway to them. He also has a mystery limp in his right front leg. We’ll be walking along, then all of a sudden, he stumbles and limps for a few steps. I’ve checked his paw for any cuts or foreign object, I’ve felt his bones and soft tissue up and down, massaging his leg up to the shoulder and nothing. No cuts, no injury to his leg or paw. Then almost as if it’s a miracle, he takes off trotting along without a care and no limp.

We noticed that this winter, he started breathing heavier and louder on our walks. There was no sneaking up on anyone with him around. He sounded like a little old man with emphysema. As winter became spring, the wheezing got louder and longer. At times there was a bit of a whistle to the wheeze, making me wonder if he had something stuck in his throat. His annual check-up came and as soon as the vet walked in the room, she commented on the wheezing and said she suspected he had laryngeal paralysis. Of course, the only way to diagnose laryngeal paralysis is with throat surgery.

The surgeon goes in and checks the larynx for paralysis. If the dog had laryngeal paralysis, then there are two options, one is to cut one side off which is also called de-barking and hope that allows enough air flow for the dog to breathe and to keep cool. The other option, which is very expensive and done by a specialist, is to go in and tie back one or both sides of the larynx to open the airway. One of the biggest concerns with laryngeal paralysis is heat stroke, because the dog is basically breathing through a straw and cannot get enough air in and out to cool off.

With summer almost here and the days getting warmer, we made an appointment for Orso to undergo the surgery, after talking to the vet, decided the best option was option one, but we would combine the diagnosis and surgery in one. The vet would check and if he had laryngeal paralysis, the vet would cut one side off.

The day of the surgery Orso was definitely not happy with me, nothing to eat, he stood there and watched Royal chow down, looked at me, then back at Royal, and back at me. Definitely not happy. And he had to suffer through a walk, on an empty stomach, life was not fair.

The vet called me after the surgery and said Orso had laryngeal paralysis on both sides, he wasn’t getting much air at all, so he cut off one side as a start. He didn’t want to cut both sides, for fear of too much scar tissue forming causing as bad a problem as before the surgery. So we’re trying one side and seeing how well Orso can breathe and get through the summer.

Orso still pants heavily, but the little old man wheeze is gone at least for the time being and we’ll almost silent.

Breathe

Inhale deeply, close your eyes. Think of a place you want to be. Slowly let the breath escape. Open your eyes. Where are you? If you’re like me, same place before your inhaled. If not, and you are in the place you want to be, I am so jealous. Because you have special powers and I am a mere mortal. A boring mere mortal.

Not that I don’t want to be here, because here is pretty good. It’s spring and there is so much color exploding from all the plants, bushes and trees. Oh, and the grass is growing. And growing and growing. I was out of town for ten days on business and came home to a yard with grass that was a foot tall. I even mowed before I left town, just to be on the safe side. It took me three mowings and raking to get the yard looking like we lived in a neighborhood and not in a hay field. Maybe next year I won’t put that fertilizer down.

The weather is turning around and getting warmer. Rain chances are fewer and fewer and spaced farther apart. After all June is a month away and then the rain will stop almost completely for a couple of months. I have my tomato plants to get in the ground in a week and this year after learning my lesson from last year’s garden, I bought three zucchini and two squash plants, instead of seed packets. I didn’t think I would ever stop eating zucchini.

Now there are more opportunities to get out and go hiking, taking my camera along capturing as many sights as I can, because this is truly a beautiful state, with the ocean on the left, the mountains on the right and just over the hill, wine country. What more could I ask for?