Saturday, May 30, 2009

Memorial Weekend 2009

The sun has been shining all day, and I have been inside almost all day, ignoring my lawn, now badly in need of its third cutting. For anyone interested in the saga of Lawn Mowing 2009, read * below; otherwise, it's fine to skip it.

The almost annual Memorial Day Ranch Meeting Gathering at the Blanchet Ranch last weekend was full of chaos, drama, fun and family, with kids running around, the lawns turned into tent cities, the ATV in high demand and cameras heating up from overuse. I personally (with the help of two nieces, Susannah and Clementina, and 4-year-old apprentice granddaughter Lily) logged about 600 photos over the weekend.

There were several babies in various stages of growth, the youngest being seven-month-old Elyssa, who was the same age as Lily at her first ranch meeting, as well as growing kids at every stage. Little Addie, who's creeping up on age 2, weighs about the same as Elyssa, Marley (almost a year) and Colton (just over a year) do now. Lily and Addie seemed to love their time camping out on the lawn with their folks and running around at the ranch.

I trimmed my hundreds of photos down to about 100 for the Best of Ranch 2009 to share on Snapfish.
There's a some really good ones, but most are just a snapshot of time, the Blanchet Ranch family getting together for fun, food and business. Yes, the Blanchet Ranch meeting LLC took place Sunday afternoon and lasted over two hours; none of us are great at Parliamentary Procedure and getting to the point in a hurry.

This year's Blanchet Ranch auction had lots of stuff – kids books, photo collages, candles, a homemade sox monkey (which I bought for my monkey-loving granddaughter), handmade leather books, an antique cheese grater and egg beater, and on and on. It brought in around $220, which we voted at the meeting to have old movies my dad took when we were kids onto DVDs.

I won't even talk about all the food, though thanks to niece Rose's husband Rod I ate salmon instead of hamburger at the barbecue; however, it was hard to resist Marianne's homemade pies and all the other goodies I've been avoiding to the first of the year.
During the whole month of May I've lost .04 lbs. -- not very impressive, but not bad considering Memorial Day weekend. I was afraid to get on the scales for several days.
Drama included a one-car rollover a few miles away on the neighbor's ranch; luckily Mike (Elyssa's dad) was not seriously injured, but the poor old car of which he was so proud (it used to be his grandma's) didn't look so good when it hobbled by.

Though I pitched my tent, I ended up taking advantage of the surprising opportunity of a real bed in the house ... Since there was no rain this year, everyone else was camping out instead of packing the house. I was the last one to disperse early Monday afternoon, and brother Larry and I took a tour of the wheat fields. Except for some extra rye, they didn't look bad, but already we need rain; fantasies of a bumper crop fade away quickly in Coombs Canyon.
In addition to the photos I took, trying to capture everyone on one weekend in time, mental images of sun, kids, siblings, nieces and nephews also remain.
My next family gathering will be much smaller – with Jenny, Lawrence, Lily and Addie in Tigard for a week's vacation (one night at the beach), starting in just over a week. Next Sunday I get to go see the Lipizzaner Stallions in Portland with my sister Caroline!

(* The first one I did get done on Mother's Day weekend, though my lawn mower – which I did get started with the help of the lawn cutting man, Jerry, who was working across the street – only lasted part of one day.
Then I made the mistake of thinking I'd finish on Mother's Day. Couldn't get it started again (the rubber primer is now good); neighbor Paul got it going for a little while, then I ended up borrowing his to finish the rest. I mowed the front again the Wednesday before Memorial Day, once again borrowing Paul's mower. Jerry is planning to fix mine (he ordered a new rubber primer), but it's still broken, and my grass is growing like crazy.)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Sun finally shining again

May 9, 2009

The sun is finally shining again, and I'll be going out in awhile to do my first yard work of the year, which involves going to the gas station, getting new gas and hoping against hope that my lawn mower will start.
It usually doesn't at the beginning of every lawn-mowing season, and I end up paying a yard care guy I know a bunch of money to mow my by-now overgrown grass, and also to fix my lawn mower so I can try to try to keep up with it during the late spring/summer.
Right now my grass is just middling long, and will be easy enough to mow if the mower starts. A couple of years ago I wrote a“It's All Relative” column about the trials and tribulations surrounding mowing lawns I may pull out and publish here.

Why am I writing my first blog in a month and a half while the sun is shining?
Call it inertia or writers block or putting off dealing with the lawn for just a little while longer.
I mentioned coming out of hibernation on March 23, but I went back in, as best I could with life happening around me. Well we were still getting sticking snow as late as last week, and this week was crazy, with a combination of blowing (not sticking) snow, rain, wind, cold, and finally today a warm day with sunshine (though I see clouds creeping in).

We lost another editor at work again, he left immediately after the paper was done last week, moving back down to the southern Oregon coast to be close to his 5-year-old daughter who lives in Eureka, Calif. He drove 600 miles all winter every couple of weekends to see her ... I think originally he thought she'd be able to live with him up here at least part of the time. Anyway, Andy is going to go back to being a free lance outdoors writer ... The fishing scene in Wallowa County never had such good coverage as when Andy was here, a much too-short five months.
Anyway, so now we're short-handed again, with Kathleen and Hector and I laying out the paper by ourselves Monday and Tuesday (I also came in for a few hours Sunday). The hardest part was that I was sick with a bad cold; took Wednesday off (except for an interview I almost forgot about at Vali's at Wallowa Lake for a story about their 35th anniversary), and by today am almost well, though I still look like Rudolph.
Ironically, the cold started coming on with a sore throat last Friday, the day they announced on Channel 8 news from Portland that of five “probable” cases of swine flu in Oregon, one was in Wallowa County. And I'd been scoffing at the international swine flue hysteria! Anyway, I didn't really think I had it, but it was a miserable cold with a fever at least one day, and I immediately started feeling better – mentally at least – when I found that probable case turned out to be negative.

The high point of spring so far was definitely the Easter visit of the Herman family, and especially time spent with my granddaughters. I scrapbooked with Lily, read books, cuddled Addie after her nap, played barn, went to their first Easter Egg hunt (Addie was in the Chieftain – Kathleen picked out the photo as one of the cutest, no even knowing it was my granddaughter), etc etc.
I'm really looking forward to a June vacation with them (though I'm still not sure how the Chieftain will get by without me; our interim general manager from John Day, who could conceivably fill in the lay out part, is expecting her third child in June, and child birth -- or at least imminent child birth -- may slow her down a bit).
Anyway, Jenny will be between nannies and it's a very busy time at work for her and I already planned a vacation the second week in June before Andy said he was leaving.
Jenny and the girls may be able go to the coast for two nights with me; that would be really fun, if it works out, but in any case I'm expecting a week of quality Grandma Time.

The Next big event will be the annual Blanchet Ranch LLC meeting (and mini-reunion of all my siblings and as many of our kids and grandkids that show up) over Memorial Day weekend. Lawrence and Jenny are coming with the girls, and it'll be Addie's first time on the ranch; Lily loved it, but it's been a couple of years, so she probably doesn't even remember.
Hope the weather's decent since they are planning to pitch their tent, as am I (despite wet feet the last time I tried it). Looking forward to seeing everyone. My sister Laurie estimated at least 30 there at one time or another during the weekend.
I've almost – but not quite -- mastered the collage feature on newly installed picasa.
Other news: Matt's in school at Lane Community in Eugene again, and will be off for two-weeks worth of National Guard sergeants school in June. I'm down 15 lbs., give or take a pound depending on the day of the week, since the first of the year; I'm still working at it; it's an awful slow-paced battle.

Enuff for now, after bloggering on and on and on and on ....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Coming out of hibernation

Spring arrived two days ago in Wallowa County with warm temperatures (in the 50s), partly sunny skies and a gentle breeze until late afternoon when its started looking stormy and raining a little.
This morning it was trying to snow, just a little, without success, and the cold edge to the air is definitely gone, for now anyway. Winter never leaves the Wallowas without a fight, and I'm sure 2009 will be no different.
Wallowa Lake still has a skiff of snow on it, but I know the frozen water will melt a lot sooner than last year, when there was still ice on the lake into May.
I love seeing the brown, yellow and white landscape gradually change to green this time of year, but the lazy me hates to see the end of hibernation season, when the lawn doesn't need mowing, the big-event-every-weekend season hasn't started and the tourists haven't started arriving in droves.

At least everyone is hoping the tourists will arrive in droves again this summer.
The economy is bad here, as elsewhere, with unemployment up to over 15 percent in February, the highest since March 2001; it's hard to believe we had a record low unemployment in just 2007.
Businesses that closed last year and in the past few months were: D & B Auto (a big multi-county bankruptcy), Radio Shack/Dollar Stretcher (bankruptcy) and OK Theatre (a family situation) in Enterprise; and Shell Mercantile in Wallowa. The Joseph Little Store just announced it is closing, but apparently when the word went on the street, the owners got word from real estate folks that there are people looking for just such a business in Joseph. So we'll see.
In the meantime, Joseph's main grocery store is expanding its shelf space just a little and installing new check stands and scanners, and word is that things are better than last year in some businesses, such as the quilt shop. Maybe people are staying home and spending $$ here more. At least one of the art foundries has hired back workers it laid off.
Real estate isn't moving well, but prices aren't coming down much yet, either. There's a wait and see attitude about the summer. Last year, in spite of record high gas prices, the motels/hotels seemed to have a decent year, but visitors didn't spend as much in stores.

Anyway, I guess we're like every small tourist town in the country. Times are hard here, but people are used to hunkering down when they have to. All the mills are already closed, so at least that axe isn't hanging over every one's head.

When I decided to get going and write here again, I didn't know I was going to write about the stupid economy!!! I guess because of work, and the fact I'm writing about Family Foods expansion and Joseph Little Store closure, it was at the top of my head.
As I said, after semi-hibernating this winter (even work hasn't seemed as stressful as usual most of the time), it will be hard to kick back into a higher gear.

Sucking up part of my winter time was a welcome February vacation, with quality grandma time, plus a few days in Las Vegas, baby!
Also there has been Facebook, which I joined at Thanksgiving at Jenny and Lawrence's house so I could play word games with them. I just recently started back on in earnest, because my sister Laurie started playing Scramble and Word Twist with me, and I've also started putting together Facebook photo albums (the Wilke family, Little Jenny, Cousins etc) of old and more recent photos. The photo above is one of my kids when they were little in a traditional "cousins" photo, taken most times the Blanchet clan gathered.
I've also embarked on losing weight, as I reported in my New Year's Resolution post. I'm happy to report I am down almost exactly 10 lbs. since the first of the year. I wish it was more, but little by little ...
I'm looking forward to a possible Easter weekend trip by the Herman clan to Joseph, and if that doesn't work out I'll make another grandma trip to Tigard this spring.

Anyway, I'm back, and I plan on writing more frequently, now that I'm coming out of hibernation.
Time to get back to spring cleaning!

Friday, January 23, 2009

View from my house

It’s winter here in Wallowa County, but not much snow on the ground, at least in my yard, though there’s still plenty in the mountains.
It melted a little over a week ago when temperatures went into the 40s! just as all the mushers were coming to town for the Eagle Cap sled dog race. Luckily it stayed cold at night and the 200-mile trail to Halfway and back was icy rather than mushy --and fast!
The last week has been frosty fog and cold and beautiful.
Most every place in Joseph has a view of the mountains, and though mine isn’t as great as, say, Barton Heights where the Wallowas loom up in its backyard, it’s good enough that I’m always taking photos from my porch (usually of my car when it’s buried in snow).
My favorite tree is a mountain ash that produces lovely red berries each fall that the birds love to eat. This year, for some reason, the feathered diners failed to arrive in the autumn and instead showed up just last Saturday morning, when I woke up to their chatter. I took some great photos of them through the front room door window (when I opened the door they took off.) They were cedar waxwings, who tend to hang out in big flocks, though at first I thought they were robins, because of the bright orange breasts.
The red berries are all gone now, except for on another mountain ash, which has grown more like a bush than a tree, on my lot, which still has plenty of berries. I guess the waxwings are saving them for the next time they get hungry.
My kids used to love to climb that tree, and one limb is missing from over use. Last year granddaughter Lily was introduced to the ash, though she's so far too scared to climb it. She was only 3 at the time, so give her time.

Every winter, this time of year, I feel like hibernating, but luckily have to work, so that keeps me able to fight my inclination to become total couch potato or computer artichoke (I just made that up).

This year my newspaper is doing a “Biggest Loser” weight loss challenge to the community, and so I’m -- one more time -- on the downward path as far as my weight. I know I can do it, but whenever I give up the fight, the pounds just rush back. It’s a constant battle, but at least I’m back in the fray. Down 4 lbs. as of Tuesday.
I guess I’m not the only one fighting (or sometimes not fighting) the good fight. About 195 people have signed up on teams for the Chieftain’s challenge.

Wallowa County will be featured on two TV things coming up: “Man vs. World,” Jan. 26 (10 p.m.) and Jan. 27 (2 a.m.), Discovery channel, filmed this fall in Wallowa County; and “The Logger’s Daughter,” about Gwen Trice, the daughter of a black logger who came from the South to a segregated logging camp town, Maxville, in the 1920s, and her research and documentation of her roots and Maxville’s history. It is supposed to air on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Oregon Experience” on Feb. 9. I plan to go to an early screening in Wallowa Feb. 5