Category Archives: Rural Living

Highlight of Spring

I know I have been neglectful of OurNWLife. I assure you that life does continue, but at a breakneck pace that allows little time for written introspection and online documentation of goings-on.

I’ll cut to the chase. The motivation for this post wasn’t to catch up on months of unshared adventures, but to simply proclaim joy over what has been the highlight of spring. A killdeer bird formed her nest in our front yard about a month ago and the eggs are beautiful. bird eggs 2

bird eggs 1

In fact, at last check two of the eggs had hatched into fluffy, awkward chicks. And that is a wonderful thing.

Advertisements

Hosting, holidays, and icy blue winds

As we enter our fifth month living in this strange new place I find myself giving pep talks (to myself) about how this town should, by now, be starting to feel like home. For Thanksgiving we hosted my parents, brother, husband’s parents, sister and brother in law, and two nieces at our little house (in a suburban development) on the prairie. It was rowdy! The experience very much opened my eyes to the tremendous amount of work that goes into hosting such family events and exponentially increased my appreciation for others’ gracious hosting over the years.

Flying on into the Christmas season, I found myself excited to deck our halls, festoon our house with classic lights, and bedazzle our first ever Christmas tree, but my excitement was tempered by a creeping sadness over the distance of family and friends during this season. I know that many people struggle with mixed emotions, or even downright down emotions, during the holidays, but this is the first year that I’ve personally experienced this yuletide melancholy. Thankfully, I survived those few weeks of holiday blues and as of last Thursday our seasonal schedule kicked off with a long weekend in Vegas with my in-laws!

While on the subject of adjusting to new things in new place, I would like to make space for a comment on our weather: it is cold. I realize that for many of you highs in the 20s and lows in the single digits is nothing out of the ordinary, but for me (and for the residents of this area, as I’m assured by those I consort with) our weather throughout the first several weeks of December was unseasonable, unwelcome, and intolerable! The low temperatures were made more wicked by a regular, and biting north wind. At this very moment the hinges on our garage door are screaming under the unrelenting pressure of those icy blue winds. (Bonus points to anyone who recognizes this lyric)

My husband and I braved this cold and wind (along with several hundred fellow townspeople) a few weeks ago to experience the annual lighted Christmas parade. I say that we were accompanied by several hundred others, not because there were so few people in attendance, but because the smart ones had all arrived downtown early enough to score front row window seats in restaurants along the parade route! Trevor and I were charmed by the festive semi trucks and tractors, but our favorite part was a pit stop along the street where a kind citizen had set up a sizable fire in a portable fire ring and was offering marshmallows and skewers to anyone who wished to warm themselves by his blaze while enjoying a roasted marshmallow. It’s obviously unnecessary for me to say that I partook most willingly.

Be sure to check back here after Christmas, as I have several DIY art projects (dot and otherwise) to share . These cannot be shared before Christmas for reasons obvious to anyone who practices home-made gift giving!

It grows on you.

“It grows on you.” I have heard this statement, or some variation of it, from countless locals over the past three months. I guess it’s only logical that the number one metaphor used to by people in this agriculture-centric town would be one using an agrarian comparison. What they mean by this farming comparison is that the town endears itself to newcomers over time. I cannot truthfully state that I have as of yet arrived at a place of full-grown attachment to this place, but our lives here are certainly growing more and more full. (And yes, these ‘grow’ word play puns were intended.)

view on my morning run

Trevor is now playing hockey on a men’s rec league two nights per week. Though it is uncomfortably cold at the outdoor rink (I am taking lessons from natives on how to keep warm–one woman brings a portable propane heater and sets it up in the stands!), it is a fun connection to the community here and we are hoping it will also be a good venue for meeting friend-potentials.

men's league hockey game

Notice the score; Trevor is on the “old man” team, which has now been whipped three times in a row by the team composed mainly of men in their late teens and early twenties!

As my search for out-of-home employment slowly moves forward I am finding that my time is steadily filling up, even without a job. I am now a dedicated member of three separate book clubs, an on-call volunteer at the church to prepare snacks for the after school tutoring program, and an accomplished baker of rustic and crusty bread (recipe from Simply So Good). And the walls of our home are filling with my burgeoning “art” projects.

crusty asiago-cheddar bread

We have also determined that Wenatchee is the most happening place around, and have embraced that town as our home base for cultural and commercial needs. Just last weekend, amidst a trip designed to meet the uninspiring dual purposes of dropping off our faulty boat motor for rehabilitation and collecting our finally repaired (and thankfully functional) vacuum cleaner, we discovered the most wonderful indoor market. Wandering among the trendy restaurants, artisan bakeries, and fresh local produce stands it felt like we had been magically transported to Pike Place or Fisherman’s Wharf. Needless to say, I was an instant fan, have already planned a friend meet-up lunch date there, and complained vociferously when it appeared that Trevor had consumed more than half of the INCREDIBLE maple bar we purchased to “share”.

That’s right. I’m ending another post on the topic of maple bars.

DIY Dot Art

One component of our new life here in Central Washington is that, due to the local economy, we are able to rent a very large house. I mean, really, really, big. It’s probably at least triple the amount of space that we had at our townhouse in Portland. Our newly expanded environment came not only with increased floor space, but also increased wall space. Since we most certainly were not in possession of enough of anything to decorate these numerous walls, and because living in small town means that there are not sufficient retail options for purchasing home decor (oh, that I could just run over to Target and peruse the always-trendy selections of affordable decorations…), I had no choice but to re-awaken my crafty side and tackle the project myself.

Before I dive in, let it be known that I am not a naturally artistic person. I envy those for whom a pencil or paintbrush will magically bring to life the images dancing in their mind’s eye. Therefore, the projects that I share here may require supplies, patience, or tracing paper (or tracing off a computer screen with printer paper, in a pinch!), but they do not require any innate artistic ability. If I can do it, you can too.

1. Pencil-eraser Dot Trees. The inspiration for this project came from a blog that provides very detailed step-by-step instructions; the author even includes a shopping list with exact paint colors and a print out of her tree shape. But that would be too easy, and I prefer to complicate my projects–so I loosely followed her idea, but created my own tree shape, selected my own paint colors, and decided that it would be part of a two piece set.

This project was very time consuming, but extremely simple and the repetitive dotting even had a soothing, mindfulness-meditation aspect. To be honest, and I will always strive to be honest here, I am not 100% in love with my final product and wish I had spaced my background dots further apart to allow the first coats to show through more. However, considering that I used pencils I already had in my desk, paints that were purchased for a different project, and two used canvas boards (I painted over some oils from a MUCH earlier era in my life), the cost for this project was almost zero. I hung them in frames I bought at Hobby Lobby for 50% off and I do think the overall effect really improves the atmosphere in our newly formed guest room.

2. Fading Metallic Dots. This one is basically a copy cat from another blog, though instead of using a 30″x40″ canvas as that blogger did, I used a 4’x4′ canvas that my husband built ages ago and has been plaguing our garage (and admittedly plagued his sister’s garage for many years; thanks Colprons!). Since our canvas had been through several moves and was rather dirty, I painted the entire thing with white house primer before starting. Yes, I do mean the type of primer you would use on a wall, because trying to cover that enormous beast with a tiny artist brush and acrylic paint was taking far too long. Once I set to it with the primer and a correspondingly beefy brush, the canvas was covered and gleaming in no time. Conventional? No. Effective? Extremely.

The best part was that this was a finished-in-a-single-afternoon type of project. I think Trevor was extremely surprised to come home to find a piece completed in the span of a single day, especially after the sluggish progression of the pencil-eraser dot trees. Again in the name of honesty, I admit that I do wish that my gold dots hadn’t turned out with the apparent orangey tint, but overall my husband and I are both very pleased with the outcome and it looks great in our bedroom.

3. Festive Outline Dot Greeting Cards. I get all the credit for this idea. These greeting cards were actually a way for me to test this dotted outline method for some future projects I have been scheming about. The first ones were not pretty, not pretty at all. But later generations were cute enough that they will be sent out into the world via my old friend the USPS.

The lesson here is that dots are easy! Dots are fun! Dots are very forgiving to work with! And, unless the shopping possibilities shape up around here, there are very likely to be more dot art projects in my future.

Northrup Canyon + a bonus brag

This post is going to be about our most recent, and fabulous, weekend adventure, but first I have to brag a bit about myself. Let me reframe that: I would like to confidently share about some accomplishments from last week.

As anyone who has been reading along will know, my husband and I recently moved to a small town, a town where we had no friends or family, and our closest acquaintances were our landlords. For the past several months my husband, my books, and our German Shorthaired Pointer were my only companions. I really did want to make new friends, but finding opportunities to meet people became a bigger challenge than I realized and, after years of enjoying the built-in community afforded by various forms of education, I was out of practice.

Finally, after almost three months here, things started coming together last week. On Wednesday morning I toured the county mental health department. On Wednesday evening I attended a book club meeting at the library. On Friday morning I visited the young women’s small group. And on Sunday, Trevor and I went to the home of one of the small group members for a football party.

Now, for all of you out there who lead busy lives with jam-packed schedules these fledgling forays into our social environment might not seem like much write home about, or blog about, more precisely. But I was nervous about putting myself out there and relying  on the graciousness of total strangers in new situations. Very nervous. From my vantage point this  week I am feeling very proud of myself; I endured the  stomach-turning and anxiety-sweating that, for me, are an inherent part of trying new things, and I’m now that much closer to building community here in our small town.

Okay, now on to the actual point of this post: a recap of an awesome day trip that we took last Saturday. We picked a trail on the Washington Trails Association website (for all you Washingtonians, this is and AWESOME way to find trails that are nearby and to screen them for your preferences) and drove North.

On the road, headed North.

On the road, headed North.

We planned to hike Northrup Canyon and then hit the Lenore Lake Caves on our way home, but Northrup Canyon was so beautiful that we spent much more time there than planned. I was overjoyed (and very surprised) to find myself among tall pine trees and brilliant fall foliage. Reading an informational pamphlet later on in the day, we found out that we had unintentionally discovered the “only natural forest in Grant County”. My enthusiasm for this place is such that, despite the long drive, I have already requested a repeat trip as soon as possible to hike even further into the canyon.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After our hike Trevor convinced me that since we had already traveled the majority of the distance from our house to the Grand Coulee Dam we might as well capitalize on our position and drive the additional 20 minutes to check it out. We were both sufficiently impressed with the enormity of the structure and very amused by the 1970’s area interpretive videos at the visitor center.

Grand Coulee Dam!

Grand Coulee Dam!

It was a great day, and we finished it off by with a platter of fried appetizers called “The Pounder” at a hole in the wall restaurant in one of the tiny dam towns. No shame. (And also no picture, because it was devoured without regard for documentation.)

Sunset on the way home.

Sunset on the way home.

Inclement weather

This past weekend our little family set out to uncover the majesty of the Wenatchee National Forrest. Neither of us had any experience with this stretch of woods, but since it is now the nearest forrest to where we live we were determined to familiarize ourselves with our camping and hiking options. We used our a brand new, but already well-trusted Forrest Service map, selected a stretch of road that appeared heavily populated with campgrounds and trailheads, and headed out for a long weekend beneath the pines. Well, it was meant to be a long weekend, as you’ll see.

Winding our way up through the Icicle Gorge area we ‘discovered’ some really great campgrounds–beachfront on the rugged river, spacious and thick massive trees, and best of all: almost completely devoid of any other human beings. We knew that this privacy was due to the lateness of the season and the unwelcoming weather, but we boldly assumed that four years of camping on the rainy Oregon coast would have uniquely prepared us for any unwanted precipitation.

View from under the Superbrella.

View from under the Superbrella.

It started raining soon after we selected a most premier campsite, but we remained calm, set up our Superbrella, and made a fire. Everyone we’ve talked to has been cheerfully adamant that the weather in Central Washington is much more sunny and dry than what we were accustomed to in Portland, so we remained confident that the “showers” would pass, if not by nightfall then certainly by morning, and we would be able to enjoy our planned hikes the following day. I settled into my camp chair beneath the encompassing Superbrella with a novel and a glass of cheap red wine, ready to wait it out.

 

Boy were we wrong. It rained and it poured all night long. And it persisted on into the morning. We woke up to this:

And we promptly decamped, tossing our drenched tent, tarp, and Superbrella helter-skelter into the back of the car and tearing away down the mountain. We managed to somewhat relieve our disappointment at having our first ever Central Washington camping trip rained out by stopping at the Fred Meyer in Wenatchee (I do SO miss my good old friend FM…) and treating ourselves to coffee and maple bars. I’m not saying that the maple bars made up for the lost hours that were meant to be spent hiking along scenic gorges and camping beneath towering trees, but they certainly helped.

I believe a good maple bar can go quite some way in assuaging many of life’s upsets.

WEEDS

Now, just so we’re clear, this post will NOT be regarding the popular television drama, nor will it address a more-popular recreational substance. No, this is about a different type of weeds. The kind that insidiously spread through a backyard, slowly but insistently converting acreage of fescue into fields of dandelions and clover. I expressly name dandelion and clover here because they have become two of my worst enemies, combining with their compatriot crab grass to form an arch-nemesis trifecta that haunts my mornings.

dandelions

They may look innocent enough, to some, perhaps, they look like the tender makings of a foraged dinner salad. But to me, a renter who lease specifically states that lawn care will be “at the sole expense of the tenant”, these dandelions are a waving banner of war.

Let me give a little background, set the stage to help you all understand how a nature-loving, live-and-let-live person like myself has been transformed into an Ortho-Max yielding maniac. When we moved in to our new place we noted the presence of some weeds and, thinking it only typical in any lawn as large as the one we had just assumed responsibility for, didn’t think of it again. (For those of who who haven’t heard my pitiful moanings of complaint or seen the atrocity with your own eyes–this yard is a literal acre…of nothing but grass.) As the days passed a transformation began taking place before our eyes: the weeds were growing, spreading, threatening our sanity and our reputation with the neighbors. Trevor suggested that we purchase 50 million bags of “feed and weed” and spread it the poison over the entire lawn. I gasped at the expense and instead took it upon myself to visit revenge upon these weeds with a sprayer, insisting that I had the time and the determination to kill each one.

Ahem. After 6 hours of porting around a 2 gallon sprayer (which needed frequent refilling from the deadly-smelling concentrate in the garage) in the baking Central Washington summer sun the weeds seemed as heart and endless as ever and I was beat. I admitted defeat to my husband, begging for the quick and universal application of the “feed and weed” and consumed with bitterness over the futility of my attempts.

So, now you know why I hate weeds. On a lighter note, I harvested several cups of unbelievably sweet and juicy grapes from our neighbor’s vine this morning. She assured us that we were welcome to collect anything growing  on our side of the fence and I took her word for it.

photo (1)It seems that this fertile land and sun-soaked climate are good for growing ANYTHING–both succulent grapes and maddening weeds. Perhaps I should have called this post “Pros and Cons”.