Friday, April 29, 2016

Tractors and More . . . .

Yup, it's just a week away. On Saturday, May 7, the members of the Panhandle Antique Tractor and Engine Club will create some nostalgia and transform a a farm field.

They're also hoping to raise more funds for their equipment display building, set to be constructed in Kootenai. 

This year, the group will till up a field in Algoma, one-half mile down the Algoma Spur Road off HWY 95 in Sagle. 

While visitors stroll around amiring the ever-growing fleet of beautifully preserved vintage tractors, others will be hooking up their plows or disks to those tractors and taking their turns prepping a 30-acre field for seeding. 

Throughout the day, burgers, hotdogs and drinks will be available at a concession stand operated by volunteers from the Bonner County Heritage Museum.  Donations will also be accepted.  All profits will go toward the equipment display building. 

Over the past several years, I've attended a few of these events and can enthusiastically report that they are fun experiences.  

There's a great atmosphere of nostalgia, there's good down-home visiting of a rural nature and there is definitely a vast display of pride in workmanship, not only with the tractors themselves but also with the work performed by their drivers in the field. 

Plus, there's a never-ending flow of historical tales to be told. 

I've never seen a tractor owner yet who wasn't more than happy to show off his pride and joy on four wheels. 

So, mark the date on your calendar---Saturday, May 7, beginning at 9 a.m. out south of town off from HWY 95. Watch for signs along the highway and come join the fun.

For more specific information, call Lee at 610-5871 or Jim at 597-4335. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

I Can See Clearly Now: Gratitude

I'll probably never know if it was the blow to the eye from a segment of woven wire that hit me in the face when I pulled it from its post or the limb that, two hours later, brushed over my left eye or even the throwing my hands over my eyes in horror two days later when our pup Liam ran into the barnyard dangerously close to the hooves of bucking and kicking horses OR if it happened simply because I'm old. 

Over the past 2.5 weeks, I've learned about floaters. They're those wiggly, wormlike things or black spots that suddenly show up in one's vision, especially prominent when looking at sky or white walls.  I may have had floaters before but nothing like the one that suddenly got my attention just moments after Liam escaped the barnyard and lived to dig holes another day. 

Since that day, I've worried myself sick. I've tried to WISH the irritation in my left eye away. When the latter did not happen in spite of the strong desires of this tough ol' farmgirl, I finally did the unspeakable---for me anyway. 

I bit the bullet, made an appointment, saw an eye specialist and overcame a second challenge this year related to deep-seeded personal fears.  The first involved taking a hot-air balloon flight over the Arizona desert in February, which happened only after a lot of coaxing from my sisters and the balloon pilot. 

Besides heights, I fear doctors.  Not that the doctors do anything wrong; I simply don't want to learn that anything is wrong.  

Stupid? Yes, but I must say that in the journey I've taken over the past couple of weeks, not one professional has chastised me because of my fears.  Instead, they have exhibited understanding, compassion, encouragement and great skill. 

My first appointment with "fear" occurred earlier this week with our local ophthalmologist Dr. Charles George.  The good doctor had a little advance help from his friend and staff member Linda Neely Chapin who gently encouraged me behind the scenes.  When the courage finally came for me to make the appointment, I asked Linda, a former student and friend, if she could let them know about my doctor anxiety. 

I don't know if she said anything, but the minute I walked into the clinic, familiar and friendly faces greeted me and, each in their own way, calmed me down, including Rosalee whose friendship dates back to when, as a student in my English class, she thoughtfully brought me some baby booties crafted by her mother when Willie was born.

Rosalee and I enjoyed a wonderful visit about our families until Steve, the assistant, called out my name.  He ran me through a battery of tests, provided some wonderful explanations about eye floaters, dribbled some drops in my eyes and went on to the next patient.  

When Dr. George came into the exam room, he greeted me as if we were old friends.  I'd come to his office decades ago when he had examined my eyes and told me it would be a while before I needed glasses. 

On Monday, we talked about eyes and age, and that's when I learned that he was examining me on his 68th birthday, which gave us something in common, since I'll still be 68 for several weeks. 

It was beginning to look as if I might walk out of that exam room a free woman with peace of mind that those floaters were just floaters and no need for concern.  

At the last possible second, however, Dr. George quietly announced that I had a retinal tear.  It has been hard for him to see, but he finally spotted it. 

"What happens now?" I asked.  

We'll get you to a laser specialist, he said, adding that it would mean a trip to Spokane, maybe even tomorrow. 


Yup, those words accentuated any fears I'd had up to this point.  

"Those guys do this every day," he told me.  "You'll be fine." 

Well, the gulps continued as I drove myself home, instantly realizing that car headlights behind me sure do have a stunning neon effect when you're looking at the rear view mirror through eye drops.

Bill had gone fishing for the afternoon at his favorite spot.  I called him and gave him the news.  

"Do you want me to come home?" he asked. 

Nope, I said, there's nothing you can do.  Enjoy your fishing.  I knew Bill would be giving up some time for me in the next few days, so I wanted him to enjoy himself that evening.

For once, I did NOT consult "Dr. Internet" too much on what happens with laser surgery on retinas.  My friend Susie had recently gone through a hip replacement, and she told me she wanted to know as little as possible about what happened in surgery.   

Good idea, I thought, even though I did read one Internet segment outlining the general procedure.

Turned out yesterday was the big day.  We had already spent most of Tuesday driving back and forth to Spokane to pick up Lily who had been at a stable for two weeks.  We realized later that we had driven almost past the eye clinic in North Spokane on that day. 

So, we took the same route.  

As an aside, I must tell a "Nervous Nellie, who searches out every bathroom available when she's nervous" anecdote.  

"Let's stop one more time before we go to the clinic," I suggested to Bill. Soon, he pulled into a Chevron convenience store.  

"We don't have restrooms," the clerk announced.  

We drove on.  Bill said there was a restaurant up the road where we could stop.  We pulled in, parked, and, again, I walked inside to be greeted by a sign on the Women's room (which had a key code for a lock) announcing to use the number on your receipt to unlock the door.  The sign also said to knock before entering. 

A first for me, the bathroom aficionado who's seen virtually all levels of restrooms!

Since when do you have to buy your bacon cheeseburger BEFORE you're allowed to go to the bathroom????

And, do those burger-joint receipts all have the same code number, obviously leading to the distinct possibility that the poor, unsuspecting person inside the restroom could be in for a surprise if you forgot to knock first. 

Incredible!  That's all I've got to say, coming from a town which understands citizens' bathroom needs and found a way through its "2 Reasons" fundraiser years ago to construct a community restroom in the center of town. 

Well, we drove on, and thank God for Arbys (Denise, you'll appreciate this since you were an active 2 Reasons proponent.  Arby's in North Spokane lets people use the restroom without a receipt for their Arby's Patty Melt). 

Probably as a gesture of appreciation, Bill bought a milk shake. 

Then, time came for the appointment.  I walked in with purse in hand, ready to dole out the Medicare and supplemental insurance card.  

A very nice lady named Dawn greeted me and told me how much she liked my bright, spring colors.  Later, she told me I was beautiful.  I told her I'd have to mark that on the calendar cuz I don't think anyone has ever complimented me like that. 

Dawn has a soft place in my heart because of her warmth and kindness.  Same is true for several people I met yesterday, unfortunately not learning all their names, except for the other "Maryanne," my nurse at the surgery center.

Bill and I sat in the waiting room at the North Spokane Eye Clinic for just a few minutes, but still long enough for my courage to be happily heightened by a lady from Sandpoint, Carleen Mikesell Wallace (SHS Class of 1961).  

"Laser surgery, you'll enjoy it," she said, adding that she had gone under the scalpel with her eyes a time or two.  Carleen's reassurance was music to my ears.  

After a preliminary check-up and eye-drop procedure, I met my doctor, Jason Jones who knew my former student Matt Jones from Sandpoint, also an eye physician in Spokane.   Jason came to Spokane several years ago from Ohio State University where he graduated top of his class. 

He wasted no time examining my eyes, and I loved it when he kept saying that certain conditions inside those eyes that could be bad for my age looked good. 

Then, he went searching for the tear that Dr. George had found.  At first, he found only a tuft and suggested that maybe I would not need surgery, but then he called Dr. George for further reference.  When he came back and searched again, he found the tear to go along with the tuft. 

Soon, Bill and I were driving downtown to the surgery center, just off I-90.  The efficiency in that place is amazing.  I checked in, sat for a while, visited with some folks from Cheney and soon heard my name called. 

The surgery center is definitely an assembly-line production, but the care by nurses is fabulous.  When I learned that they'd have to stick a needle in my arm for the surgery "happy juice," and when they brought out the blood pressure machine (which I flunked the first time), I'm sure my blood pressure rose considerably. 

Turns out when Maryanne, the nurse from Tonasket, took the pressure the old-fashioned way, the count was not all that bad for this Nervous Nellie.  Maryanne also assured me that she had inserted a needle a time or two and that it was perfectly okay to look away. 

Then came the nurse with the happy juice.  All was great from then on.  I may have nodded off because it sure seemed like the doctor showed up from the North Spokane clinic quickly. 


"You're done," Dr. Jones said. Someone put a bandage on my eye, telling me to leave it there for at least four hours.  Staff gathered up my stuff and Bill, removed the IV, gave me some guidelines, and off we went to none other than DICKS Hamburgers for a chocolate shake, Whammy and fries.  

Twas a good way to celebrate the relief after two weeks of worry and fear.  And, speaking of relief---though I did not need to use it---I'm sure Dick's restroom does not have a code nor a need for a receipt before relieving oneself. 

When I removed my bandage last night, I learned firsthand just how weird double vision is. So, I put the bandage back on the eye and went to bed.  This morning, the double vision is gone, and all is well. 

More than anything, I appreciate all those people, including my patient and caring husband, who have helped me through this personal ordeal.  

The world outside my window is looking pretty good this morning, and I'm looking forward to appreciating the beauty that exists there for a long, long time-----thanks to all these good people. 

Happy Thursday. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Faces and Frolic in Spring Splendor

After posting these photos this morning, I realized that I had managed to get all the long-term beloveds here at the Lovestead:  Bill, Festus, Lily, Kiwi, Lefty, Foster and Liam.  

We do have a lot more unnamed souls in the menagerie, like the robin which is always looking for worms in the northeast section of the main front lawn or the resident crows who flit and squawk about all over the place and, of course, the town squirrel and the chickadees and finches. 

I'm sure there are more, but these are the principal characters in a usual day around the place. 

Of late, the pansies have come to full life, a few new blooms every day, and I do believe pansies have expressions.  Take the photo of the purple (should I say 'Prince') pansy, which seems to say I'm first while its yellow counterpart in the back looks a bit forlorn about its lot in life. 

Granted, tulips don't really have faces, but when we take an upfront and personal look, we can reach right into their souls and see their innermost dimensions.  Happily this year other faces with four legs have not come to the Lovestead to look deep into any of my tulips' souls and then take a chomp.  

Knock on wood.  It's been nice to enjoy these vibrant spring flowers for a change.

I'm loving the ever-increasing color around the place, and I always love the first day when the horses get to go to the front pasture with brilliant, lush and fast-growing green grass contrasting with their colors.  

They don't stay long in the pasture this time of year because that grass can be too lush for their tummies; Lily never seems to understand that concept because once she's tasted grass, she'd settle for grazing the whole day. 

I've noticed lately that fat Festus (termed obese by some) has been wandering away from his deck chairs and actually walking to the barn.  Fortunately for me but not for Festus, the mouse population out there has been minimal to zip for several months.  Hope it stays that way, and, with Festus' plump barrel, he'll do okay without adding mice to his diet. 

And, of course, this is the peak of esthetic joy when the Border Collie Nation Plus One go to the hayfield.  Their trips will soon be limited as the grass turns into full-fledged hay. 

Last night's session in the field with the dogs and Bill was not quite as joyous as it appears.  All went well until Liam chewed his leash into two pieces, even while being free. 

That meant an increased challenge in catching free Liam. When we managed that, I tied the leash back together.  One run across the field and my knot came undone.  

During all this leash repair, Liam was getting ideas about his freedom.  He soon put them into action crawling through the fence into Meserve's field.  

Do you think Liam was gonna let us catch him?  Oh, he would let Bill get to within three or four feet and then trot off to go sniff another part of the field. 

It became frantic, but finally he decided he had had enough fun and came back through the fence on his own. 

"Free Liam" has gone back to being a concept, and I think I'll need to search for a newer, better, chew-free leash. 

In spite of the frenzy, we did enjoy some play time with the dogs in a gorgeous setting, and that does overshadow the occasional bouts of human apoplexy over canine danger-filled misconduct. 

It continues to be beautiful around here, and all the inhabitants are loving it.

Happy Wednesday. 


I love you, Foster! 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday Twitterdeedum

Just another stunning morning in Selle.  Tough life but someone's gotta enjoy it!

Another election day ahead.  Yippee!  How many of these have we endured since all those people decided to run for President?  How many more?

It's reached the stage where even the drama tidbits conjured up on a daily basis to keep the "news" cycle going all kinda run together. 

At least, Prince's untimely and mysterious death gave some of it a rest.  Now, I'm wondering when they're going to let Prince rest and get back to 100 percent Presidential politics.  

After all, from watching the 24-hour news stations, we can be assured that there's no other news happening in the world. 

On the Prince topic, I'm one of those few, it seems, who did not really follow Prince closely enough to know much about his music.  Since learning more about him after his death, I feel a sense of regret.  

From what I've read and heard in the past several days, this artist was truly a good guy, not only in talent but in heart, courage and generosity.  

I wish now I would have taken out time to appreciate him while he was alive, and I can easily see why so many of his fans were deeply affected by his sudden loss. 

Now, back to the "news." I watched CNN a couple of times last night for brief interludes and wondered if I had missed something.  

Wasn't there supposed to be a new version of "the Donald" showing up at all those rallies-----a kinder, gentler, "more Presidential" persona.  

Maybe I should have watched longer because I did not see any of the above.  I saw a person gleefully making fun of how another candidate (a pretty decent one, in fact) eats his food on the campaign trail and I heard what seemed to be a whole lot more name calling than usual.

Flip back to the endless Prince coverage, please!  

It's now evident that he offered his fans and his community much, much more than some of our folks running for the highest office in the land seem to be doing. 

Since Prince seemed to have gone off the docket for the primetime Cable coverage, I kept switching back to the Mariners-Astros game, where the Seattle sluggers were hitting baseballs out of the park. 

That was a bit more satisfying, especially because Seattle is looking like a stronger contender this year, leading their division after last night's win. 

That has been said before many times, but it's still April, and maybe this year their season will last well into the Presidential election season. 

If the Mariners continue to do well, maybe we can be spared of what's to come in the election season. 

On another front, my front lawn looks so much better, thanks to the new Sears Craftsman riding mower that arrived yesterday morning.  It took 15 minutes to remow the area that took me almost three hours with the $50 lawnmower the other day. 

My mood about Lovestead yard work has improved considerably.  When I told Bill the other day that Duane Ward keeps six lawnmowers for his summer mowing business, Bill said, based on that news, his goal is for the Love's to have three.

Lawnmowers have always played a bittersweet role in my life, so much so that I wrote a story in my second book called "Lawnmowers R Us."  Seems like some stuff never changes because that was written 20 years ago. 

Well, the birds are singing and the fog is rising.  Another interesting day awaits.  So, happy Tuesday.  If you get tired of watching today's election regurgitation ad nauseum, tune in to the Mariners on Channel 687.  

It's a lot more fun.  Happy Tuesday. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Just Plain Country Purty . . . !

We had a late afternoon rainstorm yesterday. Twas intense but did not last long, and as it moved through, we enjoyed some phenomenal sidelights to the main act.  

Anyone who stepped outside during that time reaped some extra benefits from Mother Nature to add to those we've experienced throughout this delightful spring. 

Hard to find ugly much of any place ('cept maybe dandelions, and even I think they're pretty just like deer when putting the obnoxious factor aside).

During the storm, my camera lens got a little wet, but that just added to the fun.  

Some of the photos below represent places in the Selle Valley where I happened to be at different times over the weekend.  Others are simply lovely sights around the yard. 

Hope you enjoy. 


We've already enjoyed a few spears of fresh asparagus, and we won't even have to wash the next batch, which received a thorough bathing from yesterday's rain. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Damndylions and Such

Twas Thursday.  I had started my massacre mission, gradually building up my offensive toward the area of heaviest assault. Forward progress was going along just great when suddenly my equipment for mass decapitation malfunctioned. 

Disengaged.  That's what it did.  Head slicing ceased.

Yup, my main mower went down.  At first, I thought it was just a weird coincidence that the blade shut down when the gas tank hit empty.  Filling the tank, I climbed back onto the machine and tried to engage the blade. 

No luck. 

Further inspection led me to learn that the belt had gone bad.  Oh well, I thought, I'll get the back-up mower.  

So, I filled its tank, cranked it up and learned that its transmission had disengaged.  No forward.  No reverse. 

Rotten timing, considering that three quarters of the lawn and the segments most inundated with dandelions still needed mowing. 

I did what I always do when equipment goes down.  I called Tony who has repaired our yard fleet for the past decade.  

He said he might be able to make it out the next day.  He asked for the model number for the backup mower cuz at that time we both thought maybe it needed a belt too. 

While I worked on patience, dandelions continued to grow and spread profusely throughout that unmowed yard, gloating with the knowledge that they had pulled a good one on me.  I'm sure the dandelions met the night before and saboutaged my mowers.

The next day Tony came, announcing that he would have to order a belt for Mower No. 1 and later discovering that the broken frame on Mower No. 2 had led to its demise.

He left, saying he would look around town for a temporary fix.  He never found one. 

Dandelion Heaven was flourishing at the Lovestead, especially knowing that it might be five or six days before SHE embarked on another massacre. 

Over dinner, I asked Willie if his buddy Duane Ward had started his mowing season.  Willie called and learned that Duane would be available to mow the Lovestead lawn on Monday afternoon.

Well, that was okay, but when I arose yesterday morning I could almost detect great big grins on those dandelions' faces.  

There's always the $50 mower, I thought.  Tony sold me the $50 green pushmower a few years ago for edging.  Nothing wrong with it except for a little oil smoke now and then. 

I searched around the place and found the mower in one of the sheds down the lane. After pushing it up to the shop, I filled the gas tank and checked the oil.  Then, I tried to start it.  

No dice. 

Bill walked out about then, so I asked him if he would try to start it.  When he managed to get it going on the second pull, I felt a minor surge of excitement.  

We adjusted the wheels so it would decapitate most dandelions in its path, and I went to work, figuring walking around about 1.5 acres of lawn mowing a 1-foot swath would surely get me into shape so that I could at least comprehend my daughter's upcoming 500-mile walk across Spain. 

Maybe Annie needs to do this for training, I thought several times as I rounded the north lawn, only to see each time that a whole lot of that north lawn remained yellow. 

I worked for nearly three hours pushing that machine and semi-obliterating about 100, 000 dandelions.  The lawnmower has a bag, which needs emptying.

When it needs emptying, the lawnmower must be shut down.  When the lawnmower needs to be started up again, it's not nearly as cooperative with me as it was with Bill. 

About 12 pulls on the cord, along with several squeeze of that primer button in between---that was all I needed to do to get the thing fired up again.  

At one point, when it wasn't cooperating, I said some bad words, looked up and saw one of my neighbors out for her morning walk.   I know she heard me because she was looking back at me.  

"Hi, Joan," I said. "Please don't listen to my cussing." 

"Okay," she said and walked on. 

Well, during those three hours, I did cuss some more but tried to keep it under my breath as I went round and round and round that patch of yard, killing dandelions and my body. 

Finally, I reasoned that to get this patch of yard mowed was gonna take another two hours at best, and the south front lawn still remained.  It's twice as big as the north lawn. 

I shut off the mower, drove it to the house, went inside, removed all clothing, took a bath and washed my hair------that's all to avoid THE ITCH. 

When Bill returned home from a trip to town, my face was still beet red from the intense mowing operation, and, as I told Duane Ward later on the phone, I imploded. 

Post implosion, Bill went back to town, purchased a new riding mower which will be here tomorrow morning.  When Tony comes later this week to replace the belt on Mower No. 1, Mower No. 2 will go with Tony to his shop for parts and the new mower will assume the name Mower No. 2. 

The $50 model will probably hang out at the shop and come out for those occasional trim jobs in tight spots. 

And, with luck, 500,000 more dandelions will die here in the Lovestead lawn this week.  

Though this spring has been glorious by all of my recent posts, it's important to note that reasons do exist that make some moments better than others----and often there's yard equipment that helps define this differentiation. 

Anyway, while waiting for the new version of Lawnmower No. 2 to arrive tomorrow, I'll take advantage of my situation, spend some time in my unmowed yard and try to make some dandies out of dandelions by engaging in each of the following dandelion myths/truths?

Many beliefs involve blowing on the seed head to tell us something we want to know, and these uses are listed below.

- If you blow hard on a dandelion seed head and all the seeds blow off, a wish will come true.

- If a woman blows hard on a seed head and all the seeds blow off, her lover loves only her.  If seeds remain, he is not loyal. 

- Blow hard on a seed head and the number of seeds left will tell you how many children you will have.

- Blow on a seed head and the number of seeds left will tell you how many years you have left. 

- Blow on a seed head until all the seeds are gone.  The number of puffs it took will tell you what time it is.  Alternatively, blow three times on the seed head and the number of seeds left will tell the time. 

- Blow on a seed head and your wish will be carried to your lover. 

- If you see seeds falling off the seed head when there is no wind, rain is on the way.

Dandelion flowers also have a deep folkloric history, and beliefs include the following:

- If a child picks a dandelion flower off the plant, he will wet the bed that night.

- To find out if you will be rich, put a dandelion flower under your chin, and the degree of the glow on your chin will be the degree of your financial success. 

- If you rub yourself all over with dandelion flowers, you will be welcome everywhere you go and your wishes will be granted.          

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Saturday Slightly Shakespeare

from Sonnet XCVIII

. . . When proud pied April, dressed in all his trim,

Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,

That heavy Saturn laughed and leapt with him.

Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell

Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew: 
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight . . . . 

---William Shakespeare

Today marks the 400th anniversary since Shakespeare's death.  Historical accounts apparently disagree on the actual date of the English playwright/poet's birth, but April 23 gets the nod most of the time. 

Whatever the case, I always remember Shakespeare on this calendar date.  

It was usually during this month, over my many years of teaching sophomore English that we would begin to study Shakespeare and his historical tragedy Julius Caesar. 

Although the play was considered a tragedy, my students seldom experienced tragic results from studying it. 

   Instead, if they never learned anything else in English class, for most, until their dying day, they'll remember the great fun we had each spring when they created their often hilarious parodies of the famed "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech. 

Even my "class from Hell," which I taught out in the SHS portables probably holds fond memories of William, even though most of them memorized only a couple of lines from that speech:  heck, they got donuts!

And, of course, my classes were hardly unique in coming up with their creative Shakespearean endeavors. 

Throughout the world, wherever Shakespeare is taught, his works can serve as unifiers to all who, as adolescents, remember their individual experiences while studying the bard. 

Shakespeare created and ensured his own legacy while posing question from Julius Caesar:

  How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown!

I'd say his works are still alive and kicking 400 years after his death. 

Shakespeare lives on!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Owed to Earth

We owe and owe and owe this earth.  

We'll never ever pay in full.

Still, we'll always receive both beauty and the bounty. 

No questions asked.  No payments due. 

Though we may never quite equal what the earth gives to us, we can still strive to do our best to reciprocate. 

Happy Earth Day. 

Go plant a radish.  

Pick up a beer can. 

Sit or stand in awe. 


Celebrate our greatest gift, 

Truly the one that keeps on giving!

Mother Earth will smile!