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.

Advertisements

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.

Jet Lag

I’m going with jet lag, otherwise the alternative is more depressing. Last week I had to travel for work and spend five days at the main office. I travel alone frequently for work, but this time Mitch traveled with me. While I toiled away at the office, attending meetings and helping coworkers, Mitch slept late, ate a really nice buffet breakfast and hung out at the local tobacco shop smoking his pipe in peace. While we were out of town, we had the dogs kenneled, not our favorite option, but out here we don’t know anybody well enough that we could impose on to dog sit.

Flying home, we found out at the airport after we had checked our bags that our flight was delayed about an hour and a half. Yay, now not only we will feel like it is two hours later than it is, but now it will be two hours later when we get home. Talk about major energy drain. We finally landed and by the time I recovered the bags and Mitch retrieved our car it was almost nine o’clock. The drive home takes almost an hour, so tack that on, add in unpacking and getting settled in for the night, so you could say we were well past tired.

The next day we went to the kennel to get our dogs out of hock, who were very happy to see us. After we got home and parked the car, Mitch went around to the back of the station wagon, to let the dogs out. Instead of just opening the tailgate and releasing the hounds, Mitch decided to take off Royal’s harness. All well and good if he had just voiced any command, but no Mitch didn’t say anything to the dogs who were super excited to be home. Without waiting for the tailgate to be opened and the normal invitation to get out, Royal leaped out of the open section, then Orso followed landing badly. Keep in mind that both dogs are large, over a hundred pounds each, and old. Orso is almost twelve years old and Royal will be ten in April. When Orso landed I was for sure he had blown out his shoulder, then his hips collapsed, and I thought, “Oh no now what?” But like a true Labrador, he got up limped a bit, then was off sniffing everything he missed for a week. I looked and Mitch and told him he dodged a bullet and what was he thinking. Standing there and not saying anything with an open access sort of, was like an invitation to the dogs.

We decided to go on a walk to burn off some pent-up energy. We put on their leashes and our jackets and walked outside. I had both leashes in my hands and was showing Mitch some things I wanted to move in the front garden, when we heard a voice calling, “Rocky, no. Rocky stay, Rocky no.” I looked up at see a large black dog heading our way to check us out and say hi. I was standing there, trying hold back two hundred plus pounds of excited muscle mass, keep a strange dog at bay and hoping that everyone would play nice. All the while, Mitch was standing there with his hands in his jacket pockets and a goofy smile on his face saying, “Hi Rocky, hi Rocky, how’s it going?” Just like a ten-year-old boy.

I looked over at him and said, “Take a dog, what are you doing?” Royal was not as giddy about meeting Rocky as Orso was and all I could think of, was that this was going to leave a mark. I could not believe that after almost twelve years of Charlie, Mitch would forget how careful we needed to be when meeting unknown dogs.

I’m chalking it up to jet lag, because otherwise I’m stuck with the ten-year-old boy.

Let’s Not Do It Again and Say We Did

I had the dubious honor of receiving a summons to report for jury duty. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the judicial system, and I would have loved to get to be on a jury back in my old state. In fact, I was never called for jury duty in Missouri for the fifty plus voting years I lived there. I move here and in less than three years, they find me. It’s just that here I don’t know where anything is and how to get there. I have gotten to be a real hermit, more than happy to stay home and order most everything online. Yeah, I know, not the healthiest attitude.

On Sunday before my first day of jury duty, we took a road trip checking out the best route for me to get to the Superior Courthouse. My summons also warned me to be early because parking was limited and only a few free parking spaces are available for the jury pool. We scoured the area and found the allotted free parking lot and the closer lot that charges fifteen dollars a day. Of course, Mitch said, that for ease of finding a parking space I should just park in the closer lot. I added up fifteen dollars times five days and decided that I was too cheap for that.

I was to report Monday morning at eight am, and based on our road trip, the trip should take about a half hour, nothing is fast around here. So to be on the safe side, get there by eight and still get a free parking spot, I left the house at six thirty in the morning. Shaking your head now right? So was I, but I was so nervous about driving in morning rush hour traffic, getting there on time and finding free parking, I left fifteen minutes earlier than I had planned. My stomach was in a knot and my head was hammering away.

I found my free parking lot, along with other early birds who were also afraid of not getting a parking space. I parked the car, put my jury pass in the window and headed down the hill to the courthouse. I was one of the first to get there and walked up to the door. The door was locked and the lettering on the door said the doors would not open to the potential jury pool until seven thirty, twenty minutes to stand there in the cold with my nose running and coughing from the dregs of my cold. Woohoo. A line formed behind me with others. As soon as I coughed or blew my nose, everyone took a step back. Perfect, now everyone thinks I have leprosy, oh well, maybe I’ll get excused.

When the doors finally opened a man came out and addressed the group telling us what we needed to get in the door and what we couldn’t take in the building. After going through the metal detectors and getting scanned, we headed off to the jury assembly room. There were between two hundred and three hundred other potential jurors called in to maybe be assigned to a court. Lucky me, I was selected to go with the first group, a total of fifty in our group. Another group had fifty-five and a third group had sixty potential jurors in it. We were ushered into a courtroom to watch a video about what to expect and what was expected of us.

After the video, we were ushered back out into the hallway to wait. There wasn’t enough seating so we stood, for days. We couldn’t leave, had to stay on the first floor, couldn’t sit in any of the courtrooms, smokers had to go outside to smoke and come back through security. Makes me glad I don’t smoke. Afternoon came, and we were told to return our color coded badge and go home. We were to call or check the website after five pm for instructions on our group for Tuesday. Tuesday was a go to work day for our group, do not go to court, we were directed to check in again that evening for Wednesday. Wednesday was also another go to work day and not go to court day for our group. This was totally wreaking havoc on my psyche, not being able to plan my week.

Wednesday evening came and the words of doom on the website greeted me. Be at the courthouse by eight-thirty on Thursday morning. Eight-thirty meant I had to leave the house by six forty-five in order to get one of few coveted free parking places. Eight-thirty meant I had to stand in the cold for twenty minutes waiting for the doors to open so I could go through the metal detector. Eight-thirty meant that after I got through the screening process I would wait for another half hour in the hall outside of the jury assembly room until someone showed up and to unlock the door to the jury room. And lastly, eight-thirty meant my stomach would be in a knot until I was either attached to a trial or released, whichever came first.

Thursday morning once settled in the jury assembly room, waiting for everyone to get checked in I did what I love to do, people watch. One thing I can say about the jury selection process, is that all different demographics were called in. Some I wondered if they had mirrors in their homes and even bothered to look before walking out the door. Others came that were clearly put out about the whole ordeal, you could tell that they were much too important to be bothered by due process. One man sat in the room with his back turned to the room and talked on his cell phone the entire time, during our videos and even when our coordinator was explaining how the jury pool selections would be made. She finally had to ask him to leave the room until his conversation was done. Another man walked into the room, right passed our coordinator who kept addressing him, wandered around then turned and walked out of the room, ignoring her repeated attempts to talk to him.

Again, I was selected for the first group. We were told that we had enough time to go to the bathroom before we would be escorted up to the courtroom for a trial. Oh yay, that meant if I was selected then next week or longer I would be ensconced in a trial. We were told that we could take our belongings with us, but no food or gum was allowed in the courtroom. No coffee cups, cans or cold drink glasses, the only thing we were allowed to take with us was a clear bottle of water. After going to the bathroom, I stopped at the way overpriced coffee bar and bought a very expensive bottle of water.

This time though, there were seats available in the hallway, so I was able to sit and wait to be led to court. After sitting in the hall for another half hour, our group was called back in the jury assembly room and told that the attorneys for our trial had asked for a continuance, so we were to turn in our badges and go home. I raised my hand and asked if that meant we were done-done and did not have to come back. Jury duty here is for one week or one trial, whichever comes first and there is no jury on Fridays. Fridays are for motions. Our coordinator repeated my question to the room and asked the room what they wanted to do. Of course everyone said done and she concurred. We turned in our badges and almost all sprinted toward the door, just incase someone said, no wait.

Walking back to the car I noticed others walking so fast, it might have been a timed race, there even some that could barely walk in the courthouse damn near running toward the parking lot. I wanted to tell them all that they should thank me for their good fortune. If I hadn’t paid for the overpriced bottle of water, we would be stuck in a trial. Karma.