27 December 2015

two snowy days

We've just begun to learn how challenging the forecast can be at 750 feet elevation.  I've been watching the W.Underground site try to forecast snow but it comes and goes daily, sometimes more than daily.  At one point the forecast showed some snowy periods were possible on Christmas eve, and later on the 27th and 29th of December.  The next forecast cycle it was gone, or just barely there for an hour or two.

So in the end, we had snow on Christmas Eve.  Only about an inch, and when it melted by midday on Christmas it totaled .21" which generally translates to less than two inches of snow.  Since it was on and off it would melt a bit between showers, so making a full inch was a challenge.

Then came the 27th.  It snowed from just after sunup to late afternoon, sometimes heavily.  It tried to switch over a time or two, but snowflakes resumed each time as a new shower pulled down colder air from above.  Our deck shows 2½ inches, more or less, but the yard shows plenty of grass so the wetter soils kept accumulations down compared to the faster-drying wood deck.
Portland had snow showers mixing in but apparently it didn't add up to anything.

So what about the 29th?  Shows all rain on their graphics, yet 34° implies we're right on the line again.  And now instead they've put some snow on the 3rd of January after a few dry days!  Total precip on the 3rd is pretty low so only a dusting would come about.  But as we're already seeing, it's all subject to change...

13 December 2015

another winning month

It's only the 13th of December but we are already above the PRISM climatological normal for December!  It would be hard to keep up this pace for the entire month but wet (thouch cooler!) weather remains in the forecast.  Portland is at 9.57 vs. 2.27 normal through the 12th - so records could and should fall for the past few months.  My in-laws have a leak in their roof, and it's clear that this house needs improvements to its rainwater plumbing: the roof overhangs the gutters too much, and one downspout just dumps onto the driveway where it can go almost anywhere but generally ponds by the garage.  I installed a rain barrel to hold some back, but it takes only 1/2" of rain to overflow it, and my siphon hose.

The November and December numbers are conservative due to weather-system resets.  I didn't notice that resetting the system resets the totals as well as reconnecting parts of the system once their batteries are replaced!  I believe a system total might lurk in the database that I can use to improve the numbers in blue.  I know that November was not 0.02" too low - both months had at least a quarter inch lost to resets.

I spent the early afternoon (after another .42") with the outdoor broom, sweeping wet leaves and large puddles away from the garage and driveway side of the house.  I also swept out the driveway below the cedar tree, which had accumulated over a quarter inch of cedar debris that held water and made the drive more slick than it needed to be.  Nice to step outside and do something for a while!  And if the rain holds off another hour or so, I may even light up some Christmas lights on our semi-useful gutters.

08 December 2015

the storms of autumn 2015 Really like us!

This has been an exceptional wet season. The number of atmospheric-river events seems way above average - and every one feels like it has visited our home for an extended time! I have not counted these events in the past, but I'd say that three is a pretty typical number. As a life-long Portland resident I found that most of them hung out in Washington. I especially remember those that did great damage to outdoor sites: at least once the Wonderland Trail around Mt.Rainier was put into major disrepair, and of course the time that Kennedy Hot Springs was erased from the Glacier Peak map by forty feet or so of mud. Several others that didn't do such huge damage also come to mind, like I-5 becoming a long narrow lake in the Centralia a time or two.

This year has seen at least five atmo-river events, perhaps more. Two hit during and after Veterans day, and thus we endured a week with 10 inches of rain poured on our roof. 

Portland was hammered with over 2½" of rain yesterday while we had about half that.  Today's storm hit Portland with an inch of rain then lifted to focus on a zone between Scappoose (two siblings & a neice live in that area) and our place - a persistent yellow-gold radar echo has been in place for a few hours now, with Portlandon the ragged southern edge of the rain shield. As I type at 9:45 our rain gage is at 3.11" and climbing at about .2" per hour, and it's expected to continue in a similar pattern overnight.

A Quick Fact from the ESRL website: On average, about 30-50% of annual precipitation in the west coast states occurs in just a few AR events, thus contributing to water supply.

And from Wikipedia: Atmospheric rivers are typically several thousand kilometers long and only a few hundred kilometers wide, and a single one can carry a greater flux of water than the Amazon River!

07 December 2015

it's a L - O - N - G story

Once upon a time -

more exactly in early September 2013 - we decided to sell our Portland home and find something a bit more austere. Portland is a fine city but not the cheapest place to live, and medical bills were filling up the debt accounts faster than we could pay them down. I had retired earlier in the year so the work commute was not an issue.

We were unable to empty the house, sell it and move out until July 2014. We got a nice price for our home, and the proceeds would buy us a typical home elsewhere with excess funds able to remove nearly all our debt. Unfortunately for us, we did not find a 'typical' home to bid on, as it was unavailable for conventional financing. We privately offered a larger down payment and monthly payments that were as high as Portland in order to get it - thereby getting a great residence but minimal debt relief from the move.

This past August - thirteen months later & further in debt - we were able to have work done and secure evidence that our manufactured home was eligible for a more conventional loan.  At long last those debts would be gone.  Our home payment would be similar to Portland's but on a shorter-term mortgage: hooray!!

Three months later, after several fees and permits and inspections, the day has come.  And just before the signing CenturyLink chose to smear our credit report with an unpaid balance, so up went our interest rate. We sent them a note to stop our Portland phone service in July 2013; they closed it on 12/26 and demanded we pay those five months for a service we could not use and did not ask for. . .
Guess we showed them?

So the refinance papers will be signed today, several debts will disappear and a bit of cash will reach us to clear up other accounts. It will be a good feeling. It's a feeling that we had hoped to feel about TWO YEARS ago - but we shall enjoy it the more for the extra effort. Assuming those efforts do not hospitalize either of us, it will most definitely be worth it!
We're pretty sure about that.

01 December 2015

A time of thaws

Two different ice-jams were broken in the past few days.  The first was quite literal, as cold weather combined with the low sun to keep our drivreway in thick frost.  Temperatures in general reached 32° or more but the frost held on.  We finally received some light rain, but that froze into the frost and made things worse!  Today we broke into warmer conditions though, and tonight a warm rain has taken over.

The other ice-jam was financial.  The home-refinance project has finally turned a corner, with approval and rate-lock now in place.  A week from now it might all truly be over.
Oh yes please!

20 November 2015

watch that last step!

We are on the final leg of the home-refinance journey: county inspections!

No matter how close it appears we are to finishing the process, something silly steps in to slow things down.  Yesterday I signed papers on the final county documents, received permit #s and a phone number to call after 7:30AM for scheduling.  Today I called about 8:00 - and the message says requests made "BEFORE 7:30" will be processed the same day.

How did I confuse that small but vital before/after word?  Who knows - but now it's up to their schedule and not mine to determine if today is The Day.  We hate to have this try to finish up the week of Thanksgiving when families gather (and sales events drive them apart) but that could be what happens.

Pretty sunrise though - and our first frost of the year.

Hooray we passed! 

 Final payouts to process, papers to sign, turkey to eat..

16 November 2015

More weather fun

Another atmospheric river is striking today.  It has a shorter fetch, back to the dateline not Taiwan!
The local area handled the last one fine so no major issues  - though it should be noted that two trees fell across our only route to civilization last weekend.  Good thing it's a popular route, as our electric chainsaw draws more power than our car can supply.. I guess the pruning saw should hang out in the car for non-Christmas-tree cutting?

Speaking of Christmas, our first snow forecast is now showing up in the 10-day forecast.  Unlikely at day 8.. but not impossible!  I feel like early-season snowfall is more common in el Niño conditions, before winter and its common split-flow pattern rears its ugly graphics and the moisture heads elsewhere.  So far so good though, and the weekend snowpack needs to absorb just 24 hours of rainfall before it gets cold again.. we'll see how it goes.  I would not be surprised if some sites already have as much snow as they had all of last winter!  Yes, 2014/15 was that bad.

Update - warm air retreats soon!

I drove into town and got hammered by some seriously strong rain.  Out here it's been almost 1/2" per hour for quite some time, resulting in 9½" in (th fr sa su mo) FIVE DAYS.  And it's still raining hard - but the cold front seems to be on the radar now.  It's broken into several pieces, something we never saw before the KLGX radar came into play.  Nice!
Note winds from the west and NW behind those fine gold bars, mostly south from Centralia south to Astoria.

And here's our gage update.  Whoops it went to 4.1" before I finished the post, 2.82" today and 9.58 this week.

16:30 - we're Winning the War on Weather!

Look at this - a mere 1/2 inch for the wettest day?  Mission Accomplished!

And that was indeed the cold front - it arrived ~15:50 with strong WNW winds breaking limbs and rattling someone else's tin roof nearby.  Our roofs held, but the new woodpile cover almost took flight; I wrestled a framework of steel pipe back into place but left no gap for the wind to lift.  I also put up the tarps, and one was down within about a minute.. so let's leave well enough alone, shall we?

The last hour saw a miserly 0.12" for grand totals of 3.02 since midnight, 9.78 for the week.  Not the month, as I had to reboot my weather system just before the Thursday 11/11 storm - so well over 10 inches for November.  Hey, two wet months in a row - another win!

 p.s. Oh looky here - forecast is still trying
to bring in a pinch of snow next week..

Final report.
As of about 5pm today we crossed the 10-inch line for the week.  From about noon last Thursday to 4pm Wednesday my gage counted 10.03".  Another half inch is expected before noon tomorrow.

15 November 2015

Cat Negotiations continue

Duncan and Zuzu continue to sort out their positions in the new world order.  Slowly but Shirley things are styling in!  She's almost touching him, and his tail randomly slaps her face; isn't that nice?

Regional rinse

From NWS Portland Facebook page.. we stopped at ~ 5.3"!

13 November 2015

Hooray for November!

Another heavy soaking for the 12-14th keeps our November typically wet - perhaps more so! As of now (8PM on the 13th) we've had about 3½" with this storm that began around noon yesterday.  Thursday 1.04, today 2.44 - and tomorrow?  Another inch or more as the cold front clears the area.. for a few days of mere showers.  We were in Portland for much of today, on the south side of the dumping; they had 60° and a trace, with a tenth of an inch yesterday.  Their turn will come, yes precious!

Apparently W.Underground site was being reasonable and cautious.. and therefore substantially low. 
Maybe Saturday and Monday are high enough?

smaller of our two NW Salamanders, covered
in white goo somewhat similar to the eggs

The good news is that the woodpile is now emplaced under a fine fiberglass roof that is bolted to the metal super-shed.  In a curious matter, while moving the wood to its new home I uncovered two Northwestern Salamanders, a type I had not met before.  These critters are dark brown with grey bellies, far different from the rough-skinned newts and their orange bellies that I've known all my life.   

I also uncovered a host of white eggs, (which for salamanders should not be in gravel but underwater). I left some pieces of wood over the eggs and a tarp covering the area.  Whatever the eggs may become, I felt they should have a decent amount of protection after my efforts deprived them of their shelter!

Perhaps I can remember to make a weekly visit to see what hatches..

03 November 2015

Typically damp

The last post sounds amusing now, after the Halloween weekend came with 3.8" of rain in 48 hours! Over 2.2 inches with the warm front and 1.5 more on the 31st.  The October total of 6.35 was our first wet (above average) month in a long time. The deluge knocked down a bunch of leaves and my impromptu firewood shelter; that portion of our wood will need a while to dry, and I haven't yet dared to look at the other weakly-protected pile.  Time to make a real shelter, and soon!

26 October 2015

be careful about wishes

Well that was seasonal weather: 0.95" of rain in the last 24 hours!  That doubled the October total, and more should be along midweek.  A fresh south wind was blowing maple leaves off the hill-top, we watched them drift for 20 seconds or so before reaching us 35 feet below the crest.  Leaves drifting, seeds spiraling and a bit of sun between showers - but after dark came a decent deluge.

Indoor weather has been interesting as well.  Duncan and Zuzu met and the territorial wars have been civil but present.  Zuzu hisses at Duncan and he falls back; he has been impressively patient for the most part.  Still, he clawed at the rug a few times to vent before remembering the scratching post!  Hopefully they will find a peaceful solution and start chasing playing & napping together.  Time will inevitably tell.

Update 10/27 - and then we have this:
Generally speaking, W.Underground has been high with its precip forecasts.. but the NWS
Fri-Sat chart shows several 5-inch totals in the high hills.  This could be a correct call!

24 October 2015

transition time

Several transitions this weekend.  While recent wet forecasts have ended up less wet, the odds improve a lot by late October.  With that in mind, I mowed the uppermost lawn one last time, and munched up plenty of leaves in the process!

We also took Zuzu in for her neutering appointment so she can become an indoor cat before cold rains make her miserable.  She's a bit freaked by Duncan so far (24 hours in), but he is mighty thick compared to her family thanks to his Siamese coat (Zuzu is a short-hair study in black and white, Duncan more of a downy caramel mocha).

I also took partial advantage of the last dry day to get our wood-pile in a better place, and under some rain protection.  It will now sit near the wall of our metal outbuilding to minimize carpenter ant interest in a pile of wood leaning on our home! The main stack must sit under a temporary blue-tarp roof.  At some point it will be more of a wooden lean-to structure, but time's up to get that project underway. It's a longer walk now, but perhaps later I will set up a staging area with some wood near the front door (after the porch roof is built - another item that didn't get done in time!).  My wrists already ache from picking up and setting down so much wood, and I didn't get finished either - so the next dry spell will see me out there again.

It would be nice to see some seasonal weather though; we were quite mild last winter and quite dry since early Springtime.  Real October weather would be a nice change of pattern, in more ways than one.

11 October 2015

sad farewells

Duncan the King of Indoors has been really stressed lately.  So much so that he's torn (scratched) out much of the hair on his forehead!  We knew the house was still suffering from our slow move-in, so we quickly moved some things to better places and actually put some back in the garage - but it didn't help much.

After research and agonizing we accepted the obvious answer: Duncan sees cats outside everywhere and doesn't like it.  More than that, he smells cat food he's not eating, and Zuzu's demand for head rubs brings more stress and confusion.  It's time to thin our herd of cats - and most notably the fertile mom, before she repeats her performance.

On Friday I put our two travel cages in the garage with food inside.  Hungry Spook fell for the trick easily, and both Zuzu and Pinky gave it some thought.  In the end Pinky got her hind end shoved in and off we went to the Humane Society, wailing all the way.  It turns out they have a one-cat limit, but being semi-feral I could not guarantee a recapture so they took both and told me to stay away for a few days.

friendly Zuzu is still here

So Zuzu and mama remain.

This actually was what I had hoped would happen, as the other two youngsters were still enjoying their wild nature, and not being sociable like Zuzu. Perhaps Duncan will relax and (after mama is relocated) we can manage two cats, whether indoor/outdoor or combined under one roof. As Sadie tolerated then mentored Duncan in his early days, perhaps he can pull off a similar task for a step-sister.

21 September 2015

one more excuse to get dirty

Our nearby yard place had some late-season deals on mums, asters and dahlias.  We still have plenty of space for plants along the wood wall, so they will go in this week before the next rains.  Besides the flowers I also found a Honeycrisp apple tree for about $30; that will go on the slope below our withered grape vines where it will receive plenty of sunshine.

I hope those vines are surviving below ground because the hot summer was not kind to them - and our watering system could not reach them.  We now have a 100' hose, when added to our other ones the sprinkler can now get beyond the hill-crest.  Next year we are ready!

p.s. It took over two weeks to get these in.. but they are in!

20 September 2015

Early: autumn

After record-setting regional heat and a dry spring and summer, the early onset of cool and wet weather is a nice surprise!  This usually occurs in October around here but September has had several weak storms dampen gardens (and better still, forest fires!).  The dry weather is most often July through early October here, and 90° temps in Portland can happen through most of September. This year it would take quite a turnaround to reach even the mid-80s, though it's possible. I turned on the furnace around the 15th, so it's beautiful time to get the wood stove ready for another season. Thankfully the chimney is swept so I won't be working on a slick roof!

Maybe this year we'll see some snowit would be fun.. for a few days at least!

One interesting item about snow: Portland often gets bitter east winds through the Gorge which can freeze (or re-freeze) precipitation in the cold season.  We're further away from that effect now, and around two sharp curves.  Also valuable is that we're 800 feet up; the Arctic air will have to flow further to reach us and its effects are at the very lowest elevations since cold air sinks.  We may well stay out of the bad winter weather that I've spent my lifetime seeking (or avoiding if I must travel in it).  Huge east winds often produce sleet and freezing rain in Portland.. maybe not so much here?

The easterly winds still reach us: we had many hot summer days here when east winds passed over the Cascade crest and down to our homestead.  This will provide cold air and snow now and then - but since the coldest air prefers the 100-foot high gap by Portland to jumping the 3000-foot crest, we could see fewer sleet and z-rain events.  It may take a few years to demonstrate this though!

I recently found the PRISM website at Oregon State University, where regional climate normals can be found - and they are calculated in very small areas.  I narrowed down to my site and learned that we can expect just under  64" of precipitation each year.  That's quite a jump over Portland's sub-40" total, though not a surprise. Portland has the west hills and coast range to buffer it from the dominant westerly flow, while we're right up the funnel of the Columbia estuary.  We have been here for over a year now, but the weather system has not been up long enough for me to see how we've measured up.  Since April though I'd say "DRY" since no month since has seen 0.92" like our driest month should be!

11 September 2015

the Steps arise!

I'm tackling a staircase to the patio at last.  We had held off with the idea that our house refinance could allow us to pay someone else to do it, but that might not be complete until late October when the weather has broken down.  So what the heck: let's make it happen!

After picking out the basic framework it was time to raise the bottom of the stairs to match up with the stringers. That process has been .. interesting! My first attempt was not high enough to end with a solid connection to the deck, and rather than lower the huge deck the answer was a higher base from which the steps would rise. I now have tall concrete blocks for the base, and the steps come to just below the patio height.  The metal clip for the stringers' upper end lands solidly on the deck foundation so everything should be quite sturdy!

I didn't think beforehand about the need to level so many parts in three dimensions though!  First see how off-level the deck is, then align four concrete blocks in a reasonably rectangular array, square to each other And all at the same height - or enough so that the bottom of the staps are as level as the deck itself (i.e. not quite).  If that is all done properly the planks should sit on the blocks without any wobble so the stringers can rest securely on those.  Once all that is done, check that the stringers reach the deck while maintaining their own level bases and top ends that are square to the deck pillars. My first iteration was too close to the deck - so down came everything so I could shift the blocks back several inches from the deck. After re-leveling, re-planking and re-measuring the result is..
It's pretty close :^)

I have a couple of spare blocks that I placed upright on the corners - whether for plants or candles remains to be seen!

In other news Zuzu (ex. Sue from Ms. Pac-Man) has renounced her feral affiliation and now lets us pet her, and she rubs against our legs & occasionally gets kicked when we start walking (oops).  She followed me out to the work site and played around under the steps, through the concrete blocks, and pounced on weeds.  Very helpful.. I suppose?


03 September 2015

Stranded in the Wilderness!! *

* Yeah, not quite - but always use the dramatic headline..

We finally got the car in to the shop, after four attempts that went awry for one reason or another.  The thing's had a growl under the hood for a couple of months now, and we hoped it was a simple item (and one under warranty).  The good news is that it was found and is under warranty - but it would take another day to get it finished.  So last night we were stuck at home, with just a bicycle for travel.  That might work for the 800-foot drop to a store, but I'd be ruined getting anything back up that hill; I've not ridden the bike more than a half-mile in well over a year now.

We were not in need of anything though, so just being at home was no hardship at all.  This morning is very autumnal, fog and spider-webs abound.  Very pretty, and a nice change from recent weeks.

Update: wow.  The car needed a special tool to remove the noisy part, so it wasn't until middy Friday that it was restored to us.  This makes a good case for owning two cars for remote living!  We were considering a rugged truck for towing and haulng, plus a cute hi-mpg commuter vehicle.  With fuel down to nearly $2.50 with discounts a few bargains could be had!

31 August 2015

storm(s) info

Here's how completely the south wind is blocked here.  The hilltop behind us shows the firs waving in the strong breeze, but we recorded no south winds at all!  Unless one of those trees is uprooted and hurled about 30 feet horizontally, we just won't know about wind storms from the south..

it should be noted that this was among the strongest August storms on record 
in the Pacific NW, though just barely not a September storm.

And how about this interesting result from the storms!
Just before the 'big one' hit (the wetter of the two) I took an unused plastic garbage can and put it under a downspout.  I then cut the downspout with tin snips, pinched in the lower part to (supposedly) make a ramp from the back so all the water would fall into the 'storage bin' . I added a small square of plastic foam to improve the diversion, it's at least 80-90% effective in stopping drips below the downspout.  

In theory this would catch 1/4 of the rain hitting the roof, assuming gutters are fully balanced and each corner is doing the same job.  Our home was recently re-leveled so it's a fair generalization. 

The next morning I found the standard garbage can to be Completely Full with a decent amount pooled on our driveway.  This for a storm of less than 3/4 inch!  I siphoned most of it to the ditch beside our driveway, so less water hung out on the concrete and found a way under the house this way.  Proof of concept successful, but clearly not yet a permanent solution..

And another thing..

How's this for entertainment, and for the record 'books' - three cat-4 storms in the w/central Pacific at once!.  Hawaii is left of center between the two storms on the left, so Ignasio is aiming for it but should be curving north in time.

And of course there's this nonsense - "The event has been linked to a stronger than usual El Niño event, which researchers are saying we should start to get used to, as many more are expected in the future. "

But wait there's more! 
Hurricane Fred developed closer to the African coast than any storm in history*!  
Hurricane warnings in the Cape Verde islands, first time Ever!
* at its latitude, at least - a few further south have it beat on this one.

28 August 2015

something changed

This region has been in rainfall deficit since late winter.  Spring rains were minimal, summer as dry as usual.  Portland reset its #days with temperatures above 90°!  Given all this it's quite the surprise to see the weather do what it always does, which is break from one pattern to another.  Cool and wet will prevail for the next week or so, and decent widespread rain will quench wildfires and restore greenery to the brown lands.

Often this can happen as other areas of the Pacific fill with late-summer typhoons and Hawaiian hurricanes; these inject plenty of energy and moisture which inevitably gets carried to the west coast of US/Canada.  Here comes the first of them.

We live near the boundary of the Willapa Hills and Lower Columbia forecast zones.  One has a High Wind Warning, the other a Wind Advisory.  Boundaries do that, and we must have boundaries!  It doesn't really matter though, as our home is strongly sheltered from the south wind - we will hear it and its effects, but feeling those winds is unlikely except as they swirl around the highest areas to reach us.

I planted several of our potted plants yesterday, feeling like one warm day followed by an inch or more of rain might settle them in nicely.  Our wood wall now has a sunflower, bush and rock roses as well as our potted daphne are now in place.  The exceptionally dry ground did not wish to yield but I put them in place and gave them an advance sprinkle  Hopefully they will enjoy the rain on their leaves as well as their roots.

UPDATE - here's how well the south wind is blocked here.  The hilltop behind us shows the firs waving in the strong breeze, but we recorded no south winds at all!  Unless one of those trees is uprooted and hurled about 30 feet horizontally, we just won't know about wind storms from the south..

21 August 2015

cat update!

The girls spent a couple of days on a field trip (literally, I expect) and poor Inky/Spook fell behind.  He spent most of two days as a solo artist, working on his pitiful meows to make us feel he'd been totally abandoned.  I've found the kittens love chasing coins rolled down the driveway; their reflexes will thank me when the first mousies appear without mama to help!   Later he jumped under the tarp and did some self-motivated play.

Last night mama returned though, so Inky had a little more company at dinner.  And this morning the girls are back!  They were quite hungry so I made sure a bit extra was in each bowl.  Now they're wandering in and out of view, like they have been doing since early June.  They all come running when we step outside (unless it's siesta time) but rubbing against us or actual touching is still not their thing.

01 August 2015

a semblance of normalcy

Life on the Heights began just a year ago, in late July.  It's been a really fine place to be, almost like camping in a cabin all year long.  It is further from amenities and family than we'd like, especially with out 20-25mpg vehicle.  It's also been a financial burden that we did not expect when we decided to leave Portland.

Finances had been tight since my retirement in June of 2013, but being a caregiver came first.  The financial side of caregiving took its toll though, as doctor visits and tests took up a higher percentage of our smaller pension.  Portland is not an inexpensive place to live, and Oregon's state income and combined property taxes were hard as well.

So we began looking north with a few good reasons in mind:
· decreased tax burden overall (although WA sales tax would do its work);
· lower overall  property values outside the Big City = more home for less;
· we'd be a bit closer to my wife's family in NW Washington - and
· financing a less-expensive home would pay down medical & other debts   (That was a big one)

However, after we decided this was the home for us we learned that traditional financing was unavailable!  It's a manufactured home in the usual sense, resting on jacks and concrete blocks - and a new Washington state law (enacted while we were house-hunting!) said that without a Permanent Foundation such homes could not use traditional financing.  That nearly scuttled the deal and force us into a place we'd like less.  Instead we crafted a privately-arranged offer to the owners with a high down payment but a quick payoff time - so relief from out other debts would need to be deferred.

We're still glad we did it though, and figured we could hold on for a few more years despite the debts.   We were wrong: health problems stayed bad and several ER visits were costly (and worse: unproductive).  We made a few budget-tightening changes that helped, but more needed to happen.

And now for the relief: sometime in August we will contract locally to add an acceptable, permanent foundation, which will allow us to seek traditional bank financing.  That mortgage will pay off the private note and it will pay debts down, fix the place up, allow us to seek more options for improving my wife's health, and generally bring us both a far less stressful retirement.  The mortgage will take a little longer to pay off but it's worth doing. Maybe soon we can even buy a 35-mpg used car to make Portland less expensive to visit!

We've been optimistic for five years that things were soon to turn our way (on several levels) - and not, God willing, that's about to be true. Hallelujah!

27 July 2015

Chim-chim charoo

Up on the roof today, sweeping out the chimney; that would be a first for me!  My main goal was to reattach the zinc flashing on the roof-line that was removed by a few wind gusts last week, but once I started why not sweep off moss, clear out gutters and check the wood stove from the top?

Another heat wave is imminent: prepare for the plunge!  Temps in the 90s for Wed-Sun, give or take a degree.  Ugh.

24 July 2015

deferred-yardwork time

After a few extended heat spells I was able to get back into the yard and tidy up.  The heat has scorched the grass and sun-facing plants, but shaded areas are lush and happy.  That includes the hydrangeae and lilies that sit against the north slope by our driveway.  The lilies are between blooms for the most part but a bouquet of the former for our table was effortless!

A quick mowing of the upper yard was useful as well.  Right against the house the grass is green and about 4" tall, while the rest of the lawn is toasty brown and gone to seed (except for the dandelion of course).  All the loud mowing probably scattered the kittens for a while, but after it was over I saw that they had settled back into place.

Just to prove to me how powerful the mower is, I utterly demolished a 7up can that the occasional winds must have blown partway down the driveway.  I didn't see it until I heard it, and the mower didn't even wind down as it pulverized the thin aluminum.  Glad no spare fragments came my way!!

A bit of fine tuning followed with string trimmer and pruning shears.  Many of our rhododendri are creepers, choosing to grow low rather than stand up tall. That seems curious as many of them are under fir and maple trees, where they often get gangly in an attempt to peek through the gaps. (Those exposed to the wind I deem as lost causes for forcing them tall, so they were left alone.)  I encouraged some verticality with the shears by removing the most egregious creepers; we'll see where that leads but it felt good!

07 July 2015

kitten updates

Mama and kittens remain nearby, and are getting more familiar with us.  Voyeuristic viewing suggests that the twins are both girls and the all-black is a boy overwhelmed with girl attention!  Clyde is therefore Sue (a la Ms. Pac-Man), and Inky has been dubbed Brave Sir Robin* .  Sue is still the most curious, often attending me to the garage door as I get out the cat food; Pinky hangs back a bit and Sir Robin the Brave is loitering anxiously near the exit :~)

Clearly they've adapted to the spa noise and the presence of a nice chair!

mama Pinky and Sue, the matched set.  Sir Robin = Sir Not Appearing in This Image (behind the others)

* "when danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled" (from the Holy Grail movie)

domestic battles

I've been fighting on two fronts recently.  It's a stalemate that has seen me lose some ground.. but confidence is high that both tides will soon be turned!

home depot / glacier bay
First up was the primary bathroom's toilet.  It's clearly an original fixture here.  It has failed to properly flush for a few weeks now, and we decided that replacement is a fine idea.  Lórien wanted a black one since the room will have an Asian theme soon, so we found a good deal that is shipping its way to town.  Since the other bathroom works fine it's not a whole-system issue, so hopefully this will progress swiftly once I have the proper weapons available (plungers and snakes having failed to assist).

similar to this but not quite
Battle #2 is the new ceiling fan.  First I needed the right supports, then a few tools went missing.  At last the beast is in place -- but it doesn't work.  I wired in a remote as I went along, so it has one too many failure points; disassembling to the wiring and leaving that out will help us see where the issues lie.  After the fan&lamp are working with pull chains we shall move on to the remote business.  The heat wave is nearly over so I'll have less heat - but of course that was the ideal time for the fan to be functional..

Update - As of mid-July both battles are won.  Hooray?  I confess the fan battle was only half-won, as I could not get the remote-control apparatus to work.  I may try again some day, but perhaps I should take it back in case of defects; trying and failing again won't do anyone any good if it won't work for anyone.

05 July 2015

small-town July 4th

Lórien had often lamented the loss of small-town celebrations on the Fourth.  Parades, festival atmosphere - and pyrotechnics in many small bursts rather than a continuous overload.   She got most of that this year!

Unfortunately it was a really hot day, and pain kept us from the festival during the heat of the day - but we did manage to find a spot by Lake Sacagawea before the 10PM fireworks, and it was great fun.  We had several families around us, including a child who followed every big light display with "is it over now?" - not sure if he was disappointed, eager to go home to launch his own, or something else!  It was funny though, and the parents were very patient with their explanations as the next flash lit the sky.  And once it ended we were out and home within about a half hour.


We once visited the Vancouver WA show and it takes forever to return to Portland; also that year I lost my prescription glasses then lost a hat while returning the next day in search of the glasses!  The next time was also expensive, as we were rear-ended by a drink-hit-run driver after choosing to stay on the Portland side to make the home trip easier.

Nice to leave those memories behind!

26 June 2015

lost and found

Early this week the cats vanished.  One evening we were outside and didn't see much of them, then no sign at all.  Mama cat wandered past, and her new friend a bronze tabby! - but the kittens were gone.  I picked up the play toys and food trays and we mourned their brief time with us; I had expected more time to decide if we could make their stay more permanent but it appeared the decision was made.

After a long and exhausting yesterday I saw mama and kits over by the big garage; apparently they had a new home in the wilderness.  Then this morning they sat near the corner of the house watching me as I shot the beautiful sunrise.  Like nothing had changed!  So out came the food which they gratefully devoured.  Curious.

This image covers all the bases nicely.  One adventurous kitten closer to me than to his/her mama, one near mom & one under cover.  'Clyde' has always been the most inquisitive and daring of the three, 'Inky' (brave brave Sir Robin?) the most likely to flee at any hint of danger, and 'Pinky' the in-betweener.  

And so the decision begins.. again.

Oh yes - that beautiful sunrise?  The solstice has just passed, and it turns out the far-north sunrise is adjacent to Rainier!  That's quite the ogham stone to use, Ireland would be jealous..

St. Helens at dawn

14 June 2015

a fortunate turn

One factor to remember when living further out of town is the value of self-reliance.  In the big city one can shout "hey can you help me?" and several neighbors are in earshot.  Out here that's less likely!

Our car battery died over the weekend, but we didn't go anywhere so it was good and dead today.  I don't even have normal jumper cables at hand, far less any other easy options.
Oh wait I sort of do.

Once upon a time I bought a power center with multiple purposes.  For one it could power a items via 12v power plugs; it could also convert to 110v and power telescopes and other items used in remote areas (its primary purpose for us).  It could also inflate tires or air mattresses - for a while, but that broke early on so it was put out of sight and therefore out of mind.  Its fourth purpose was to jump-start a dead battery.  I've never tried that part!

Now to find it in our two garages of mostly-unpacked items...

I went out to our large garage and found the orange box, and plugged it in to get back to its full capacity.  One of the first general-garage boxes I looked into had the jumper-clip cable - amazing since that alone could have taken an hour or two!  Then it was time to wait and let it gain strength, as it probably had not been charged in over a year.

My first attempt went poorly, as the cables must be done in proper order along with switches on the power station.  Once I puzzled those steps out the car brightened up, but insufficient power left it dead.  About a half-hour later I tried again, and was successful!!

This was a valuable lesson, and I'm glad it happened in good weather and when all parts fell to hand at the earliest moment.  This could have been so much tougher.  Hopefully I'm surrounded by neighbors who are familiar with such trials and could have fixed me up -- but so nice not to need help for a problem that anyone in the wild lands should be able to fix!

07 June 2015

family of four

Back in November or so I noticed a black cat with an off-center white stripe hanging about.  I later suspected he was under our house for the winter, as I would see him dart around a corner of the house, but when I got there - no cat.  What me worry, we weren't using the area under the house anyway!

Over the last week I began seeing more of him.. well HER in fact.  I learned that when a small mirror-image kitten looked out at me from the corner of the house where a small gap led beneath.  Later two other faces popped in: another white-stripe face and a very dark one.  An occasional view of a black cat in the area causes me to suspect I've met the father!

Since we still had a decent supply of food from Sadie's time with us, I set out a bowl or two and some water.  They clearly weren't going anywhere so why starve them?  My reward has been two mouse bodies in two days, so I guess they weren't exactly starving; mom is clearly quite the hunter!

What's next?  Hmmm we'll see.  We have yet to actually touch one since the kittens have several safe places to hide plus mom as first defense.  Therefore no gender ID - they enjoy solid food though, so they're beyond the nursing stage.  The one white-face (here in the downspout drain) is the most social, the all-black least commonly seen.  All three were having a fine time among the pea-vines this morning though when I came out the door!
A shot of our fuzzy family!
In memory of Pac-Man, here are mama Blinky (eyes often shut in photos),
Clyde (brown spots on nose), Pinky (all-pink nose) and Inky.

30 May 2015

taking on the monster

I finally went at the"third yard" with our mower.  The main yard is lumpy but flat and takes most of an hour to now properly.  The second yard is beyond the driveway; it's a bit smaller than the first but well sloped for entertainment.  It's also a fine spot for stargazing, but a few spots need to be leveled & gravelled first.

Last and most cruel is yard three.  Not a level square foot in sight and equal to the first in size, it should be terraced and filled with flowers grapes and..mulch.    Once the tallest grass reached my knees I accepted the inevitable and pulled out the mower.  Over an hour later and I'm relaxing on the deck.  Not bad I'd say.. if I were done I would definitely say that!  The remaining third will happen tomorrow.  Or maybe in June.

Addendum - over the last two days I mowed 80 percent of Yard Two and half of Yard One in addition to completing the Hardest Yard (Three)!  Quite the workout.  I used my dad's cordless-electric mower on Yard One - light, quiet and generally fun but it ran out of juice twice (it hadn't been charged in about a year, after all!).  And now to rest..

Second Addendum: don't do this again!  The pain was exquisite and prolonged and not worth repeating.

Third addendum?  Apparently we have a Yard Four, just off the map to the right.  The property line ends near a second row of trees (pine) while I have yard Two ending at the first row (fir)!  Oh joy..

Aerial view of the Yards; apparently Google flew past during the former residents' Moving Week!

26 May 2015

early harvest!

I have devoted my limited yard-time to getting plants in the ground rather than vegetables.  Our wood wall now has heather, dianthus, a greber daisy, a couple of planter-pots and a shoot from my parents' City of Auckland rose lined up.  If the deer leave them alone it will be a nice line-up!

In the meantime, the mini-garden planted against the house has sprouted in spite of my negligence.  The spinach is going wild in this spot, and I surprised Lórien with our first pea-pod yesterday!  Several more await our attention.  The strawberries are flowering and no peppers on the pepper-plant, but once the sun returns after our two-week grey spell things will really start up.  Hopefully I can get the raised beds bolted down and filled with soil, a few other vegetables would be nice to add to our small collection.

My father died a month ago today - the transition has been strange but nearly all of us will go through this part of our parents' life.  He was a constant part of my life for over 58 years, which is nothing compared to Mom's 70+ years of marriage; it's still a shock that he won't be chatting on the phone or sitting in his chair.

11 May 2015

cute v. pretty

I recently took the compost out to the future-garden-area, and spooked one of the three DLF (deer little friends) that often come to visit. The other two sauntered into the yard and the third rejoined them pretty soon - and they almost immediately began foraging on the azalea flowers

What does one do when confronted with cute deerlings eating pretty flowers?  Well in my case, I grab a camera :+) the K-r and DA50-200 to be precise.  I was standing about 20 feet away on the deck, and only received an occasional glance as I clicked away --

The flowers will be back next year - who can say about the deer?  Just don't let me catch them in the blueberries, which is where that first one may have been munching!

19 April 2015

almost a guest room

We were able to buy a new bed this past week, and the old bed & new headboard are now in the guest room.  For the first time Ever, a guest room with a bed!  

Let's not get crazy about this, much more needs to happen to this room - but it's a nice start.

That same day we stopped at Greg's Gardens and picked up several seed packets for the new garden.  Yet again we must caution that nothing is nearly garden-like about the piece of land where these seeds will go - but again, it's a start.  The warm week is coming to an end soon, but seasonal temperatures will do just fine for getting a garden in place.