Don’t Judge Me

It has been a year since I retired and I wrote – what? Three posts is 2019? I have no idea. It doesn’t matter. I was in the business of decompressing and finding the things I love to do. I took a very long break.

Now it is 2020 and I have no resolutions to post. I did find a word for 2020: “discover”: uncover,reveal,disclose,manifest; find, espy, descry; detect, unearth; realize. See: DISCLOSURE, VISION, KNOWLEDGE, LEARNING.

2019 was not a bad year. I raised crows. Well, OK, I didn’t raise them, but I befriended the newest clutch and I think they have started to trust me. Sadly,  had to quit feeding them for a time because the Avian Pox made a run through the colony and I didn’t want to spread it to other birds.


Avian pox is that ugly growth around the eye and beak and that black thread-like thing coming out of the crow’s mouth. This bird is most certainly dead now.

We remodeled our 1930 Cape Cod bungalow: windows, doors, siding. It looks wonderful.


The best part of last year was getting my husband to travel – by air. He has a hard enough time traveling by car or rail, but this year he was forced to fly. Twice. Or is that four times (to and fro, to and fro?). He’s only flown once before and that was pre-9/11. Luckily for us, we got random TSA Prechecks on three of those flights, so he only had to endure the TSA lines, scans, and shoe removal once. Yay for TSA precheck (and, no, I do not pay for it. If I flew more, maybe. It’s not worth the cost for as much as I fly).

We flew to Pensacola, Florida, in November. Our son & his family live nearby and my husband has never met two of those grandchildren. The highlight of that trip was the combined birthday gift we prepared for the two kids who had birthdays on either side of our visit: a camel ride at Emerald Coast Zoo ( a must see if you are ever in the area – it is actually an animal rescue).


“Best present” said the nine year old.

We also spent a week in Phoenix with our daughter at Christmas. Lots of hiking and a ride on the Maricopa Live Steamers model train and Christmas light show. Get there an hour before they open if you want to do this – it was crowded!


The sum of this all is this: I didn’t blog (much) in 2019. I was busy. I was decompressing. I didn’t feel like my words matter.

I will try to do better in 2020.

Dear Brian

I am listening to Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton collaborate on “Coat of many Colors” as i write this. Recently, I read an article about how our dental health is determined by our poverty. I feel compelled to write you (even though I know you will never read this) about that very subject. In our last communique, you wrote that my daughter/niece had “dental issues that could have been easily fixed” in her youth. Then you closed the door to further communication as if this very subject ruined her life.

You have not raised children.

You have not studied genetics.

You are a self-made highway engineer and you not only make good money but you have good insurance. You have forgotten your own parent’s struggle to make sense of this world. You think because you know us now in our comfortable middle age that we are – or were – well to do, or at least have/had great dental insurance.

I get your misunderstanding of the situation. The media paints it that way. But bear with me.

I was not born into poverty. My parents were lower middle class. We had government insurance but that insurance did not cover vision or dental so well. And my siblings and I had dental issues. We inherited them from my mother’s side of the family, not from my father. No amount of flouride would change the outcome, but let us make this clear at the beginning: there was no flouride in the water of Winnemucca, Nevada, in the 1960s. We kids were on our own. We had a good family dentist – my best friend’s father. Thirty years later, I would have dentists look into my mouth only to declare what an artisan had filled my teeth in my childhood. Doc did the best with the technology available. I was one of his exemplary students. If he said “Floss”, I flossed.

My sister never did take care of her teeth. She lost them all in her mid-twenties. Her children developed problems early on, most commonly “bottle teeth” . You should read that.

Chrystal came to us with a mouth of decay. I was in my late thirties, early forties. I was dealing with the decay of my own teeth brought about by generations of poor dental insurance. I had good dental hygiene by then, but the genetics that formed this family were in full force. And I had Chrystal. I took her to dentists and paid as much as I could per annual deductibles. I stood between her and dentists she didn’t like. I held her hand through extractions that put her under. I watched my own dentist wince as she jerked in pain from procedures. I scheduled appointments with different clinics, hoping one would connect with her and her pain – and work with us financially. In the end, it was Chrystal who decided she wanted nothing more to do with the dentists we sent her to.

She chose decay and pain over what we could offer. We could only offer what we could afford. American insurance doesn’t recognize dental health as integral to overall health despite the studies.

I am 63 years old. I have my Wisdom teeth but I am missing ten molars from my jaw. I have spent countless hours in a dentist’s chair- of my own accord – having my teeth fixed. I did this mostly on my own, after I left my parents’ insurance. They could not pay for the work I needed. It’s merely a fact of life. You think that Chrystal’s dental issues could have been “easily taken care of”. I know you to be someone who has never been a parent or lived blow the poverty line. Ask my other children. I only hope they inherited their father’s teeth = not mine.

We have been “suffering” a May heat wave here in the northern Willamette Valley. It’s been dry, sunny, and warming up into the upper seventies (Farenheit) – and even close to that lovely 90° mark. The heat doesn’t bother me, but this early in the season, it brings out the worst allergens (Aah-CHOO!). So it is with welcoming arms I greet the upcoming cooler, rainy days.


The flowers are blooming steadily now. I planted two roses, a hops rhizome, and sowed seeds of naturalized wildflower mixes (Renee’s Garden seeds). Oh, and lots of nasturtiums. My husband put in the vegetable garden for the first time in three years, and I can’t wait to make home-made catsup with those plump Roma-style tomatoes in the Autumn.


I have been tinkering at yard art. This is a beer bottle stuffed into one of those corn cob holders for feeding squirrels (they don’t work, or I have picky squirrels who prefer the easier pickings of the bird feeder).

Speaking of the bird feeder, I changed things up a bit with bird baths and feeders. We now have two small platform feeders in the backyard, plus the two regular feeders in front. We feed black oil sunflower seeds, suet+mealworms, and mealworms with sunflower seeds in the back. In addition, there are five hummingbird feeders and now, five bird baths of varying size. There’s so much I could write about the birds that come to our little haven to drink, bathe, eat, and find nesting material. We have juncos, song sparrows, spotted towhees, house finches, bushtits, cinnamon-backed chickadees, black-capped chickadees, downy woodpeckers, scrub jays, and robins. We also get Eastern fox squirrels and Eastern greys.

But let me tell you about our friend, Corvie, so named because he belongs to the family Corvidae. I moved the bird baths to the back yard to discourage his antics, but he has learned that we no longer have big dogs loose in the yard, and his antics have spread to all five bird baths. Usually, he sticks to the one out front, which is nice because today I found a dead mouse soaking in the water and I was able to merely hose it off into the daylilies.


This was the mess left after he “washed” a hamburger bun in the water. he washes all of his food, much like a raccoon. The dead mouse asn’t the worst: I’ve found dead chicks of other bird species soaking in the water. Currently, he’s finding peanuts somewhere and we have peanut shells floating in some of the bird baths. I change the water daily so the other birds can have a go at it.

wilcox 002

I was recently contacted by a cousin in Florida, who is helping out a distant relative in Maryland. We all tie into my great-great-great-great grandfather, Thomas Force Palmer. The cousin who called me is descended from my great-great-great grandfather, Joseph Snow Palmer. This has opened a whole new resource of family history. I am so excited to learn more about my family’s heritage.


For Mother’s Day, we hiked a short section of the Salmon River Trail out of Zigzag, Oregon. The couple we hiked with have health issues, so it was a very leisurely walk amongst the old growth fir, cedar, and hemlocks. The trail is heavily used, which is not the kind of trail my husband and I usually hike (we go out there with the wild animals and no people). Lots of dogs on the trail – but we did not meet a single dog owner who was disrespectful of other people.

Left to right each row: false Solomon’s Seal, Hooker’s Fairybells, Indian plum (faded), Oregon oxalis, salmon berry (edible but not tasty), Scouler’s corydalis, yellow violet, and one giant trillium (I put my boot into the photo for comparison).

In addition to the wildflowers, it is a wonderful fairy world of roots, ferns, mosses, lichens, stumps, and eco-systems growing on the surface of dying ecosystems: downed trees providing the nutrients for more trees growing out of the timber.

We stopped in Sandy, Oregon, for a brew.


If you know me, you know I like my beer. Boring Brewing Co. used to be located in Boring, Oregon (sister city to Dull, Scotland). They lost their lease and had to start over in a new location. Same great beer (their hot Scotch ale – pictured – is wonderful).

Tomorrow, the rains return and weather will become normal: cool, cloudy, wet. That gives me a little reprieve from the hay fever (until the next heat wave). It also means that my peonies won’t simply all bloom at the same time and fade quickly, but they will bloom slowly and linger. I love peony season.

I Fell In Love Today

Back story: we stopped at a little brewery out in the country after we cut our Christmas tree last December. While we were there, three lovely women in jodhpurs came in to sit by the fire with us and chill. What are jodhpurs? Only the kind of pants one wears when riding “English” or huntseat on a horse. Their very presence said “horses nearby”. I happen to be incredibly horse crazy although I’ve only ridden western and I haven’t owned a horse for 18 years.

Flash forward to about a month ago, same place, but we were sitting with friends. “K” was lamenting how she wished she could smell horses in a barn again and how she’d passed a lovely looking barn/arena on the way to the brewery. And – serendipitously – two of the same women came wandering in to chill, wearing their riding clothes. I made the bold move of edging in on their table and introducing my friend. We had a great conversation about horse rescue, volunteer opportunities, and “just come to the barn to see the horses”. My friend has an autoimmune disease and I hoped this would be a great low-impact opportunity for her.

Sadly, she never followed through. On the other hand, I started following the rescue on Facebook: Arabian Horse Rescue & Education. I kept forgetting to call to see if I could come to take photos to use for artwork, but still – I was following them. The other day, they posted a shout out for volunteers to help bathe the horses and my husband suggested I follow up on it. I messaged the rescue to see if I could come in at the same time and take photos and the answer was “YES!”

I was there by 8:30 this morning, camera in hand. Most of my photos are sketch quality only – just general outlines of horses & horse heads.

Arabs are so inquisitive and have such unique faces that it is hard to not fall in love with their profiles. I tend to like other breeds more, but even I fall for these gorgeous dish-shaped heads and pointed ears. They’re around 14-15 hands, which is not a large animal in the horse world. Intelligent, loyal, and sometimes a bundle of nerves, these particular animals have come out of abusive situations and auction houses (where the other bidders are from the meat industry – in short, they were animals headed to slaughter for no more reason than someone decided they couldn’t keep the horse any longer or they never learned how to handle it in the first place.

I haven’t got to the best part – her name is Amirah and she has the same calm persona my horse did. I had a little Arab/Appy that we passed on to a friend when we moved into town with the understanding that I could come visit Whisper when I wanted to. They kept her a couple of years before giving her away to an unknown party and I have no idea what her fate was. It kills me.

Amirah is thirty-ish, the same age Whisper would be if she is still alive somewhere.


This is how I met her. That battered old face hanging over the stall wall, just asking to have her ears scratched. She was waiting her turn to be groomed and bathed, calm, serene, and an absolute love.

She looks pretty amazing for an old girl, and a lot better than she looked when AHRE saved her.

I am fully, completely, irreversibly, in love. Best of all – she is so photographic!

I left after an hour, my hands smelling like horse (best smell in the world) and my heart full. I’ll go back. I’ll be donating to the upcoming gala to help fund the rescue. I am not in a position to own a horse right now, but I can foster one of these babies (or help foster). I feel like God opened the door for me to begin to understand what my mission here is truly about – at least partially.

I’m also very grateful to a husband who suggested I step out of my comfort zone, get up early, and just go.

It’s cool and getting ready to rain right now, but for the past three days I have taken my coffee outside to sip while I watch the world around me grow. Some mornings were a tad chilly, but a towel on my bench and a blanket over my knees, hot coffee in hand – who cares as long as the sun peeps out from behind clouds?

The birdsong this morning drowned out the ambient sounds of the city (the distant freeway, traffic on the street beyond our fence, the drone of airplanes): “Cheery Up! Cheery Up!” sang robins delineating their territories and calling their mates. The familiar “Brr-Whirr” of the Spotted Towhee told me that they are nesting nearby.

The past few days, a male Anna’s hummingbird has been doing it’s dangerous aerobatics over our heads: it flies thirty feet up into the air, hovers, then makes an arcing dive. Ten feet above the ground, it abruptly changes directions back toward the heavenlies and the wind through its wing feathers creates a loud “CHIRP!” overhead. He’s courting a mate, but often she’s nowhere in sight. (It is a startling sound if you don’t know it is coming and he lets loose his miniature version of a sonic boom just over your head.)

My computer is being crazy slow today and my photos are not loading properly.

IMG_5745I’d love to show off the new flower bed I created in front of the house, where I have planted my rose (which is showing no signs of life!), a Rose of Sharon, and left room for many more perrennials while cutting down the need for lawn mowing. Purple anemones, Vinca Minor, hens-and-chicks, above the wall, Lady’s Mantle and orange daylilies below, on the city right-of-way.

Along the back fence, I pulled and cut and swore at English Ivy that has entrenched itself over the past 15 years (the last wild spot in our yard). I’ve weeded and planted – no more than three hours per day (my mind wants to keep doing but my hands and back rebel – especially my hands! – and I have to give the work up. Still, I have accomplished more in April of this year than any single year in the past – yay for retirement and the freedom to be out there when the air is clear and the day is still cool enough to work!


The crazy Camellia is over-laden with blooms, a cacophony of pretty pink-and-yellow flowers, new green leaves, dying yellow leaves, and messy wet fallen blooms. I hate it when it looks like this, the limbs drooping low with all the weight and the slippery mess underneath.


My husband broke my garden bench (it was rotting through). I’m excited about this corner because I have Comfrey that will try to push past its boundary of weird metal grating – a perfect bee flower I have to gold in check because it *is* invasive and it can cause caustic reaction to skin. I planted a blue elderberry to the right of the comfrey (behind the yew), a blue huckleberry just to the left of the white grate and a red flowering currant behind the bench. COLOR! (The black plastic is killing the nasty Oregon Grape). I plan to encourage the forget-me-nots to fill in a neglected space – but I also love them right where they are in this photo, blooming bright blue and covered in mason bees.


It looks sweet and tiny here, inside its cage, but that broad-leafed plant will be six feet tall by mid summer: Comfrey.

I love this time of year, my hands in the dirt, the small insects and invertebrates (except the slugs!), and the myriad of birds who come to visit. Mesmerized by diamond-dew drops in the early morning, I sip my coffee and know I will not get anything done inside the house on such a day.

Rainy April Update

April rains have imprisoned me inside the house. Outside, the flower beds sprout more and new flowers open up. I long to be outside, to wear messy buns under my garden hat and flip-flops on my feet.

Inside, I have been working on a venue for selling my artwork, and I believe I have found it: Zazzle! I’ve added nearly 20 products so far, but will add more every day.


However, I have done this whilst ignoring everything else I have down on my to-do list, which includes digging out some old family portraits for a distant cousin on my father’s side so he might finish up his family genealogy (and share his wealth of knowledge with me).

I have four books to read, including a little heirloom my Uncle Mike gifted me very recently:


I am also reading (on Kindle):

Gift of the Shaper by D.L. Jennings (fantasy)

Cold Waters by Debbie Herbert (thriller, suspense)

River Bodies by Karen Katchur (thriller)

I have two paintings in the works and numerous unfinished crafts, but this is an ongoing state of life for me.

Two novels I am cleaning up (but I am procrastinating by writing this post).

Garden Fever

Thank God it is raining! I would never get anything done inside the house if not for the rain – and I have so much to do inside the house. Rain has forced me to:

1. file Federal and State Taxes.

2. Work on my novel (I’m at a hard part, deciding what stays and what goes).

3. Work on my plan for my art (which is a much longer post and therefore that’s all you get to know about that.


Just a doodle, really. By working on art, I don’t mean actually creating. I need to work on my website and a shop where I can sell my images.

The nicer weather pulls me outside. I have weeded almost all of the flower beds, pulled up sod out of the front (and newest) flower bed, raked off the leaves from under the rhododendrons, cut back the black-cap raspberry bush (old canes, a job which requires leather gloves and long sleeves), sorted all the garden fencing & peony support rings, dead-headed everything left over from last autumn, and… you get the picture.

I’m a woman obsessed when the weather warms up and I can be OUTSIDE. I ordered two roses from Jackson Perkins: one arrived and I have planted it, but it has yet to show signs of life (but neither has my grape vine and it always surprises me late in May with sudden buds). I ordered a hops plant, but it has yet to be shipped. Rose #2 should be arriving this month as well, according to the JP website. I put my Rose of Sharon in the ground (I love these beautiful shrubs! The flowers look a bit like hollyhocks. I picked this baby up at a yard sale and she’s got pink-purple double blooms).

Monday, I asked my husband if he’d like to go to a local nursery. I thought I knew right where it was, but it wasn’t there. It’s about five miles from home, along a little frontage road that takes one into the village of Willamette (will.AM.ette), which is actually part of West Linn to the west of home. Willamette has a 20MPH speed limit through town, lots of cutesy shops, crosswalks, and a 30MPH speed limit to the very limits of the village (where the Tualatin River passes under a bridge. Tualatin is pronounced pretty much as it is written.

That’s where I thought the nursery was. Nope. We drove on out the frontage road and passed a commercial nursery (we’ve shopped there before – yawn) and no sign of the one we were seeking. We back-tracked and took a side road. Crossed the freeway and came back to the frontage road. We even tried driving into West Linn to see if maybe we had faulty memories: nope.

Two things: 1) we mis-remembered having ever been to this nursery before and 2) I didn’t have my phone with me out of deference to my husband who hates smart phones – but he asked me why we couldn’t just look it up on my phone and follow the directions.

We tried again after lunch and after my husband googled the address of the place. We’d never been there before. Go figure.

The road it is on does NOT have a road sign on the main road – we went with “the second left turn after crossing the Tualatin River” . We turned, we drove up, we parked.

Bosky Dell Nursery.

It’s freaking awesome. Native plants. As in: acclimatized to the wet Willamette Valley and shade to part-shade gardens. Great prices. We spent more than an hour there, wandering and drooling.


I wanted an evergreen huckleberry bush to fit into an impossible little spot in my garden. Blue huckleberry, not red. $30. It’s already in a nice shape and about 18″ tall. Lots of blossoms. Loves shade/partial shade.

Don decided he wanted a red-flowering currant. I killed the last one he dug up in the woods for me, and I have no idea how. I had one at our previous home and you couldn’t kill it. They’re very pretty, very native, and grow a lot in the right conditions. Found one in a $20 pot, but they charged us $10 because the one we picked had died back so much. I have a perfect shade/part shade spot for it.

Then we stumbled onto a blue elderberry. I LOVE elderberries. Growing up, they were a high altitude plant that bore berries late (October). The best use of elderberry is syrup, which is jelly that doesn’t quire gel. Those of you who have grown up with wild elderberry know how that goes – the berry is touchy about gelling. I had a secret patch near where we lived before we moved here. They like sun and drought. I have a place for that, too.


They’re sitting in a wagon, waiting for the rains to ease up a bit to be planted.

Total cost: $50.

I’m dying to go out and plant them.