Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The stuff of (arachnophobic) nightmares

We have a wooden box near our deck door. This tends to be a catch-all for things like kindling, umbrellas, etc.

This morning I glanced at it and noticed some debris caught in a spider web across it.

Strange debris, isn't it?

Closer inspection revealed it to be – you guessed it – baby spiderlings. Hundreds of them, little golden things.

I'm not particularly arachnophobic, but the girls are. (Even though Younger Daughter is now in Europe, as soon as she sees these photos she'll be going "Ewwww!") I'm the official spider-scooper-upper-and-put-it-outside person in the family. Still, as much as I don't mind spiders, I don't want hundreds of them migrating indoors.

So I picked up a forked stick and swept it through the web.

It was a clean sweep. I genuinely think I managed to scoop up every last spider.

I dropped the stick with the spiderlings off the edge of the deck to the grass below. Be free, little spiders! Eat lots of bugs! And stay out of the house!

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Update on Younger Daughter

Whew, what a schedule our poor Younger Daughter has endured over the past couple of days.

After her flight from Denver to Norfolk was canceled, the airline put her up in a hotel. A very nice hotel.

Here are some of her messages:

"So I finally got in touch with everybody [in Europe], although I got almost NO sleep. Right now I'm waiting to hear back from the travel organization to see if they'll authorize me a commercial flight, because the next military flight isn't until June 12th. Meh, it's all part of the grand adventure, I guess."

Then later: "I will say this hotel is a much nicer place than I normally stay at!"

In the evening: "I have a flight booked now! I get to Norfolk at 1500 tomorrow, early morning flight. Hopefully it goes smooth from there. I'll get to Europe eventually - either wait until the 12th [of June] for a military flight or they'll pay to fly me commercial. I won't find out which one until tomorrow."

Then later: "I had just JUUUUST started to fall asleep when I got a call from Japan. So yeah, I'm flying early to Norfolk tomorrow morning, and they're going to try and get me on a commercial flight to [her duty station] on either the 30th or the 31st from Norfolk. I'm starting to think this is a big conspiracy to keep me from getting sleep. I have to be up by 0230. Flight is at 0530, but the shuttle times leave on the hour so the 0300 shuttle is my best option. I don't get in until 3PM though, I have a layover in Newark."

Then later: "I have a flight! It's super inefficient. But I go from Denver to Newark, to Norfolk, to JFK in NY, to Paris, to [the duty station]. The Newark to Norfolk to JFK seems stupid too, but ah well. They're all paid for by the military. Actually the Norfolk to [Europe] flight is only $600. The Navy knows how to get a good deal, especially since the flight is tomorrow. I made over 70 phone calls to figure all this out."

Early this morning she wrote: "I feel like I've been at the airport for a decade. I'm actively getting older. The precious remnants of my 20s are slipping away. Not to be dramatic or anything."

She then proceeded to update us throughout the day, hopping through various airports: Newark, JFK, and finally Norfolk. She should be boarding a commercial flight shortly to Paris, and from there will transfer to her duty station.

Yowza, that's a lot of hassle for one canceled flight!

Monday, May 29, 2023

How we spent our Memorial Day weekend

We spent our Memorial Day weekend saying goodbye to our military daughter.

We had a wonderful time during her visit, packing in as much as we could. Not just visits with old friends and taking a hiking trip, but engaging in endless conversations. She also fell in love with her parrot again.

On Saturday, I drove her to Spokane, where we spent the night in a hotel near the airport. On Sunday morning, still at the hotel, she made sure her dress-white uniform was neatly ironed.

Then I dropped her off at the airport, hugged her fiercely, and said goodbye.

The plan was for her to fly to the huge naval base in Norfolk, Virginia (with a layover in Denver), then take a military flight from Norfolk to Europe to report to her next duty station. But things went south in Denver when the flight to Norfolk was canceled.

Suddenly she's not only in limbo in Denver, but she's unable to fulfill her orders by reporting for duty. She's been trying to reach her Chain of Command in Europe (keeping in mind the time changes as well as the holiday, which U.S. service people observe even in other countries). The airline is only providing a single night's stay and two meals to compensate for the delay, even though the next flight to Norfolk isn't until Tuesday ... and the next military flight to Europe isn't until June 12!!

Anyway, the poor kid is trying to work through the entire mess. One of the things she's trying to do is contact the military travel organization to see if they'll authorize her a commercial flight to Europe.

So yeah, that's how we spent our Memorial Day weekend.

Meanwhile, a mighty "thank you" to our past and present veterans, whose sacrifices too many of us are willing to overlook, dismiss, or forget.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023


During Younger Daughter's visit with us, we've been trying to show her some of the beauties of the area, since this is the first time she's seen our new (to us) home. We decided to take a family hike to the same spot Don and I went to a couple years ago.

Unfortunately the only day all four of us had free for this hike followed a night of dramatic thunderstorms and heavy rain. In driving to the trail head, we had to dodge a few spots where rocks had been loosened by the rain and tumbled onto the highway (one boulder was about three feet across, smack in the lane; later we saw a highway crew truck on its way to clear it away). Still, everything was lush and green.

The river was quite high and very lively.

The lichens hanging off the trees had been revived by the rain.

Mr. Darcy, needless to say, was in his element.

We all did a lot of huffing and puffing to get up that first extremely steep and muddy half-mile until we emerged onto a saddle at the crest.

Way, way below us was a tributary creek, roaring from the rain of the night before.

After catching our breath, we set off on a trail that followed the contour of a very steep slope.

It was while on this very precarious slope that we met – I kid you not – a mule train consisting of a man riding the lead animal with three mules following behind. I was in front holding Darcy's leash, so I stopped him and asked for a few moments to find a place to get off the trail. He asked us to get off-trail on the downhill side; that way if one or more of the mules spooked, they would spook uphill and not tumble down the slope.

Well, let me tell you, it took us a while to find a spot we could cling to without tumbling to the bottom of the ravine. I would have taken a photo, but I was too busy hanging onto Darcy's leash lest he lunge for the mules, while Younger Daughter actually clamped her hands over his muzzle for extra security.

The rider was a cheerful fellow in his 40s who said he was packing out from a distant cabin, and thanked us profusely for accommodating him. He also mentioned he would be returning within about an hour and a half.

Here are some of the mule prints in the mud.

Darcy found the Ultimate Mud Puddle and managed to saturate his entire lower body. Well, why not.

We saw some gigantic trees. This towering giant was far enough away that its sheer size was hard to appreciate, but it was huge.

We hiked a couple miles in, then turned around. We wanted to give ourselves enough time to get down the mountain before the mule train came back up.

Younger Daughter took the lead with Darcy on the return trip, so I was able to take a few photos.

The arrow-leaf balsam root was especially beautiful. These are big showy flowers that thrive on thin soil on south-facing slopes. They always bloom in May and early June around here.

Let me tell you, Darcy thoroughly enjoyed himself.

It's impossible to underscore how steep the slopes were down to the tributary creek. I understand the mule train driver's concerns about his animals spooking on the downhill side.

I don't know if you can make it out, but just about dead-center of the photograph you can see a patch of the road we drove in on. (Bad grammar there, sorry.)

We reached the saddle and started on the muddy and treacherous descent to where we'd parked the car. Don followed in the rear, keeping Darcy on a tight lead so no one got pushed over on the slippery mud.

It was a fun – if muddy – morning's hike, and we all had a good time. But it does make me wonder: Just where is that cabin from which the mule train driver was coming? Asking for a friend.....

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Lest we forget, this is what things were like

Back when I was in high school in the late 1970s, I purchased a copy of the international best-selling book "Gnomes."

This was written by Wil Huygen and beautifully illustrated by the incomparable artist Rien Poortvliet. The book is charming through and through.

I've kept this book all these years, but hadn't re-read it in quite a while. Recently I went through it again and was just as charmed as when I was a teen.

But one thing in particular caught my eye. Toward the back of the book, Huygen relates some legends about how gnomes helped various people at various times.

Here is the introduction to Legend #4:

"In Kharkov, people enjoy telling this story. Just outside their own lived a certain Tatjana Kirillovna Roeslanova. She was seventy years old but still had a pretty, straight nose and shining white hair which she parted in the middle. She had been exiled from Moscow by the secret police; her husband was dead and she was without resources. Nobody was allowed to employ her, so to make a livelihood she bought a cow with money from secret friends.

Then she did something that Soviet authorities prefer not to see, but tolerate through necessity. She supplied ten houses on the outskirts of the town with milk – they would, otherwise, have had to travel so far for their milk that it would no longer be fresh when they returned. Tatjana lived in a shack in the middle of a small vegetable garden and spent the days grazing her cow along the roadside.

There are hundreds of thousands of these one-cow businesses in Russia. The economic consequences of removing them would be so great that the government turns a blind eye. ..."

The text then launches into the story of how gnomes helped Tatjana during a time of particular hardship.

Keep in mind this book was written and illustrated in the late 1970s by a Dutch author and a Dutch artist, long before political correctness existed and wokeness was a factor. It was also long before the Soviet Union broke apart. As such, these European men were able to give their clear and truthful views of the reality of what life was like under communism in the Soviet Union, and how it impacted lowly peasants such as Tatjana.

Lest we forget, the Soviet Union routinely reduced otherwise middle-class citizens into lives of abject poverty for any deviation from the government-approved narrative. They additionally punished anyone who tried to help the displaced. Remember, "She had been exiled from Moscow by the secret police; her husband was dead and she was without resources. Nobody was allowed to employ her." What I infer from this is her husband was killed for his resistance to communism, and Tatjana was additionally crushed by being unemployable thanks to Soviet diktat. This is the reality of what things were like in Soviet Russia.

Interestingly, it seems "Gnomes" is due to be reissued this coming September. I'd like to point out both the author and illustrator are both deceased and therefore have no editorial control over the contents of the book. I wonder how "updated" the contents will be, and whether the legend of Tatjana Kirillovna Roeslanova will remain intact, or will be rewritten to spin communism as benign and positive.

But for now, I salute  Huygen and Poortvliet. They knew what communism was like for the peasants, and made sure this legend reflected that reality. It's a pity the younger generations are being spoon-fed propaganda and not being told the truth about the horrors of communism.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Preparing for power outages

Recently Don attended a meeting in a nearby town during which, among other things, a representative from the regional power company warned about power outages next summer.

Intentional power outages.

What the power company rep was referring to was preventative power shutdowns, famously practiced by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the power supplier for a large portion of California. After the devastating Dixie Fire in 2021, the blame for the fire was pinned on PG&E after some trees fell across power lines. PG&E has been blamed for earlier wildfires as well. As a result of all the fallout, litigation, and massive payouts, PG&E began practicing planned power outages in specific areas when conditions were ripe for another repeat of hazardous circumstances (i.e. high heat, strong winds, dry conditions). These planned outages can affect millions of people, sometimes for days on end.

Anyway, the local power company rep said they would be engaging in similar planned outages starting in the summer of 2024 when conditions are ripe for wildfires. Based on what happened with PG&E, I can't really blame them.

But why next summer? Why not this summer?

Aside from political considerations, apparently planned shutdowns aren't something that can be implemented without a proper notification system in place. Obviously there are people for whom a power outage can be life threatening, so the power company wants to make sure all customers are adequately notified in advance if those outages are deliberate.

However it means we must be ready for them.

We're pretty much ready to handle winter power outages. Since we have a woodstove and our chest freezer is outside, winter outages never really bother us. We can crack open our chest freezer at night and close it during the day and everything stays frozen. We can empty the refrigerator into coolers outside and not have any food go bad.

But extended summer outages are potentially more troublesome. Our biggest vulnerabilities during summer power outages are water (since our well pump is electric, and we need more than we have stored to handle livestock and garden), refrigeration, and keeping the contents of the chest freezer frozen.

Well, these are issues we're already addressing anyway. This just puts a fire under us to move quicker. Besides, with the increasing strain on the U.S. power grid in general, having more backups in place is, we feel, wise.

More projects to plan!

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Blueberry explosion

If you remember, we planted blueberries two years ago, and then last summer I engaged in nuclear-level weed control.

This year, the plants are exploding with flowers.

Bumblebees have been appreciating the bounty.

There's just something about blueberry flowers I find fascinating.

Which is why I didn't appreciate seeing a doe reach through the cattle panel protecting the berries and nibble on a tender shoot.

Plus, as a reader pointed out, I didn't want to risk any animals getting caught in the panel sections and panicking.

So yesterday evening I cut some deer netting and "sewed" it to the panels.

It was easy to do, and doesn't affect the ease with which I can drop the panels to gain access to the berries.

I plan to cover all the cattle panels with the deer netting. Better safe than sorry. I like deer – a lot – but I also want a solid crop of blueberries this year.