Sunday, October 15, 2017

SnowBirding 101

A beautiful maple tree in Solmar, near
Wayne's home in Sequim, WA.
The first thing about being a SnowBird (my choice of caps) is that you have to have a very sensitive ear, eye and nose for the weather.

At the first hint of frost, or the real thing, you must be ready to hoist your pack, or pump up the bicycle tires, or fill up the fuel tank for your transport (small van, large RV or boat of any size) and begin deciding what will go with you and what will stay.

Of course the size of the transporting device will determine a lot of the choices... and yet, even with a 40-ft. RV, weight is a constant concern. My Christmas tree is small, white and very light. Wayne's Christmas things are heavier, but it's his RV so he can have more latitude about what he wants to sacrifice.

There could be a reality TV show (there are so many already) about the Freezer Wars. I don't want to give up all the raspberries I harvested from my bushes this year. He doesn't want to sacrifice the cold space to fruit. I think there is merit to having plenty of butter (KerryGold) as he prefers something else to put on his toast. I was harsh about cleaning out the house food storage, noting that anything dating back to '01 really could not be put on board. He was resistant to giving up packages of things he could recall buying on sale back then. But then he was more than ready to give up a couple of pork roasts so I could have a couple of packages of bison meat. It was an interesting process. Finally the inventories complete, the freezer stuffed and assorted materials required for my cooking loaded, we can close out that exercise.
Not likely that the Seahawks 'man cave' will
be discarded, unless they disappoint greatly.

He just came in and announced, "We are going to weigh that motor home on Monday." And I said, "And then bring it back here and empty things out?"

Square dance shirt
under construction
He has all his tools, I have my art supplies. He has all his books and research materials for his ancestry project, I have a sewing machine to make square dance outfits (and some fabric, but for me - very little).

He has a camera, so do I. He has a computer, so do I. And it all adds up... every single ounce. If we were loading a boat I could just look at the waterline. In fact, I remember doing just that several decades ago as I was preparing for the journey that would take us to the Bahamas.

Snowbirds, as a rule, tend to leave their northern abodes and go south, often for months at a time. But their lives, hobbies, interests continue. For some there are groups in each location to facilitate those objectives, other folks simply find the other locations allow more time to follow those projects. But often some things must be brought along to continue, like building a quilt or working on ancestry.

And all those guilty pleasures we are storing and taking along will have a cost in fuel. I know that. Wayne knows that. And in time we may decide to lighten up by leaving more things behind... but probably not this trip.

We laughed at each other last night as we sat and watched a movie, ate some popcorn, because it really is 'home' we are settling into, taking with us. And Snowbirds do have to make a nest, along the way and at the destination(s).

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Becoming a SnowBirder

After three trips (shakedown cruises on the land yacht would be a better description) Wayne and I are ready to launch into the SnowBird migration.
Our home-away-from-home is an Itasca RV.
Our dating life really began with the first trip to the Cranberry Square Dance festival in Greyland, WA, and continued with a second trip to the north eastern part of the state and most recently we visited Chehalis/Centralia to go to the state's square dance officer's meeting and dance.

The Wild Horses monument on a mesa above the Columbia
River was a great place to hike together for the first time.
Each adventure has given us a chance to test our ability to get along, work together, plan together and laugh a lot. He's a born-again Seahawks fan and has a progressive outlook about life that agrees with my own. I like how we traverse life's path together and particularly that he always reaches to hold my hand, even when hiking. He's a solid, man-of-the-earth kind of guy... very special.

So, for those of you who are not yet (or may never be) travelers by season, (or at all) this blog will continue to be what I intended it to be from the beginning, a short travelogue of places seen, impressions gained, and experiences of life for a new perspective, if you want it. For family and friends, it may be a way to keep up with "The Traveling Grandpa" and "Granny A" /aka Sandy Banks.
Accidentally we all chose purple for the color that night...
Les Kilwein, me, Ann Eilwein and Wayne in Centralia.
Wikipedia defines Snowbirds as: "snowbird is a North American term for a person who moves from the higher latitudes and colder climates of the northern United States and Canada and migrates southward in winter to warmer locales such as FloridaCaliforniaArizonaTexas, or elsewhere along the Sun Belt of the southern United States, Mexico, and areas of the Caribbean." 

Snowbirds use a variety of travel devices and I did once live aboard a sailboat for 8 years, mostly in southern climates. So the transition to an RV (big one at 40 feet!) is easy. But the challenge of maintaining my home in Washington (he has one as well), arranging for mail delivery, and various other tasks associated with an extended trip has kept both of us really busy for the past couple of weeks and now it intensifies as we plan to leave about a week earlier than originally intended.
Wayne, Carol and Joe looking at my art show at the bank.
I have made arrangements for these pictures to be collected
while I am away.
But flexibility is the key to survival. And packing to be flexible is an element of that... clothes for cooler weather, clothes for dancing, clothes for warmer weather, hiking, etc. Plus having my camera equipment, my sewing machine (making dance clothes) and my art supplies has me a little stressed. Weight on the RV, just like the boat, affects performance. And while I'm not willing to saw my toothbrush in half like a racing competitor I once knew, I am a lot more conscientious about this issue than Wayne might realize. My nighttime dreams are filled with designing an RV that incorporates some of these devices so that I'm not adding weight by bringing them.

Trying to hide anything on an RV of any size can be challenging, and my sneakiness is only because I want to surprise Wayne down the road with some special snack since he is the driver of the RV. I have to leave off this blog report for now because he wants to inventory the food supply... kinda silly on one hand since we have lots of shopping opportunities along the way, but he likes being able to choose off-grid experiences and having supplies to meet that need. Stay tuned... this is going to be an interesting ride!!

Monday, September 25, 2017

The First Snow Flies

Hurricane Ridge had its first dusting of snow recently, Sept. 17-18. And it feels cooler every night now. Recently there was a notice on FaceBook of a projected winter weather summary that suggests we might have a repeat of last winter in the NW.

With the limited water delivered through the summer, a heavy snow winter will not cure the dry conditions, but create some intense contrast next spring, probably leading to more fires in the forests.

An eagle flies past in a hazy twilight as I try
to get a picture of Mt. St. Helens.
There have been two major hurricanes in the Southeast and two huge earthquakes in Mexico, both of which have caused death and destruction for many. There is no question there are earth changes in progress, and a greater need to stay highly focused on what is good so that one does not become overwhelmed with uncontrollable circumstances.

What is good and getting better in my life is my relationship with a sweet and remarkably interesting man who loves to travel. We have taken three trips with his 40-ft. RV and are now preparing for the Big One, traveling south and east for the winter.

Our last trip took us to Centralia and Chehalis and allowed for a side trip to Olympia where we met some of his friends and one of mine. The RV park where we stayed was so peaceful and delightful; we walked in the woods, enjoying the beginnings of fall with large maple leaves turning colors and being dropped at our feet.

The air was crisp and finally we got some rain... it sounded just as lovely as it used to when it drummed on the cabin top of the sailboat... I lay in bed and listened to it as I watched one solitary yellow leaf dancing with each drop.

View from my window in the RV out to the
wilderness we called home for the weekend.
This was the first time I think I felt truly at ease in the RV, not worrying if I would do something wrong or minorly annoying to my travel companion. I feel as if I am getting back to my 'sailing' mode of using less water, being conscious of balancing the electrical load and planning the use of other resources.

I'm not allowed to drive the RV, but I'm very good at giving directions for Wayne to do the backing into sites. And I'm getting better at assessing if the site is wide enough, flat enough and deep enough for the 40-plus feet required.

The primary purpose for the trip was to go to the State Officers Meeting (and dance) in Centralia at the Oakville Grange and for Wayne to connect with some folks. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and I was surprised at how quickly others had put themselves into the primo spots (those with 50 amp electric and septic access) for the weekend.

I was reminded by the Tour Guide that this is the reason for leaving a site early enough to get to the next one before too late in the day.
Gordon and Sheryl Coleman with Wayne Ratcliff.

Wayne's trees - planted by him 42 years ago.
Friday we toured a lot of the area where Wayne had once been both a logger and firefighter, meeting the Colemans,
and seeing a stand of trees that Wayne had planted 42 years ago!
Wayne Ratcliff with me and Cheryl and Don Pruitt at the
Centralia dance.

Les Kilwein, Ann Kilwein, Wayne Ratliff and me with the
Shillings at the Centralia dance on Friday. 
Janet and Tony Schall with Wayne and me outside the
restaurant in Olympia.

Square Dancing today is a little bit more challenging than what I did with Duke Miller and Ralph Page in the 60's. But I am determined to get as good at it as I am at contra and ballroom. At any rate, it is keeping my brain from stagnating as I try to remember what "tag a line" or "scoot-back" or "split circulate" means. And I'm meeting some wonderful folks who keep encouraging me.

On Sunday we met up with Tony and Janet Schall from Olympia. He is a long-time buddy of Wayne's but we had such a relaxed breakfast, I felt as if I'd known them forever as well. Then we stopped to see the Pypers (Marcie and I met through her brother Stan years ago) and Marcie and Wayne connected through discussions about gardening. What a frabjous day!!
Me with Marcie Galyean Piper at her house near Olympia.
Wayne found a channel with the Seahawks
game being broadcast... they won that one.
And as we returned from our trip, it was a delightful drive back over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (free - no tolls - heading west) with clearer skies and fresher air. The past month has been difficult with so many forest fires causing hazy skies and dreadful breathing conditions for so many.
Tacoma Narrows Bridge heading west.

Recently an enormous black rabbit (No, I'm not Alice in Wonderland in Negative) has started coming into my yard to munch on things. It is eating ALL the dandelions... curiouser and curiouser!
This lovely black rabbit keeps appearing in my yard.

See how its eye sparkles? I don't know where it lives, but
I am enjoying seeing it nibbling in my garden daily.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

No Labor Day

I fully appreciate that Labor Day was started to honor the workers, and in fact there is some slight connection to the workers party back in the days when Russia was a Communist society, but when one is retired, the whole point is to be able to celebrate the holiday without feeling any sense of angst that the following day will cause any pain because it is 'just another day.'

Wayne in the Woodpile 2017
However, there is no law that states a retiree must be working any day of the week and watching someone else work is perfectly allowable. So I did. I watched my companion, Wayne, stacking wood for his daughter and her husband while they were managing the Kittitas Fair, showing swine, eating fair food and riding rides.

Unfortunately, I am not very good at just watching, and for awhile, until I got over the impulse to do more, I actually helped stack wood. Finally, as I honored Labor Day as the time when people who used to work can now sit back and simply relax, I got this photo of Wayne, who is also retired but unwilling to relinquish his hold on activity, finishing up nearly two cords of wood. Great going, Wayne.

We did do a drive later that day up a route called the Canyon Road from Yakima, WA, to Ellensburg, WA. Apparently with all the warm weather the Yakima River is warm enough for folks with inner tubes (and other floating devices) to float down it for miles.

And as we saw a few folks doing this and have heard it's a lot of fun, I think this has to be on my bucket list for next year as a sporting thing to do.

Heading up Canyon Road toward Ellensburg, WA.

The hazy conditions are caused by intense smoke being blown
in the area from Oregon, Washington and Canada.
Are there any tubers to be seen?

Cruisin' down the river on a Monday afternoon...

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Goal Achieved: Solo Show of my Art in Sequim

This piece of art is the most recent one I have completed, and I like it so well that I've created my new business cards using it. It is the focal point of my first show in Sequim, representing fall, and my show will be in the 1st Security Bank, 114 Sequim Ave., Sequim, for the First Friday Art Walk (Sept. 1) from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and hanging there until Nov 30.
I call this one "Autumn Birches" but they could just as well
be poplars, alders or cottonwoods. I was deliberate in
making the design balanced and abstract and am happy with
the result, using some latex paint for resist. It's about
14 by 16 inches on 300 # paper.
I had a goal when I moved here to have a solo show, and now after several group events and a special solo show in Everson this spring (hosted by my very special friend, Carol Joy), the time has come. It's been an expensive proposition to have my art framed, even getting frames from various yard sales and other locations and having them matted by my art teacher has not diffused the costs much. 

The four in my Moonlight Series, done earlier this year, will be featured on one wall. I've had several folks suggest I should do some more of them, and I'm thinking about that. The objective, when I first started them, was to do female night creatures with their young. 

One of my artist friends said they had a sort of mystical quality, and that was certainly my objective. I will wait until after the show to get some feedback about them and perhaps that will influence me to do more. They were fun to do, and that is the criteria for me... it has to be fun -  not work.

I'm also including my sunsets from Massachusetts, Florida, Colombia, and Washington, and a variety of my birds, fish, and scenics. I am also putting up my photographs of certain places in Colombia and Washington. If there's a theme, it's my seeing the world with the sun and the moon, kind of appropriate for my astrological solar return year.

There will be hanging many of the fall pieces done during the latter part of last year as well. It took me most of the morning to get them all hung, labeled and secured so they don't get off-level during these next three months.

My new sweetie, Wayne, was not available to help me as he is wrestling pigs and grandchildren in eastern Washington. But my dear friend Jenna will come tomorrow before the actual reception to make sure I've got everything level, good lighting and help me set up for the food part of this event.

I will be offering up my "Blue Ribbon Plum Syrup" with cream cheese and crackers as the treat, thanks to Wayne for pushing me to be in the Clallam County Fair and winning that accolade. So, for those of you who are too far away to come, perhaps there will be some reception photos I can add in here later... and I will miss having you around!!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Clallam County Fair Week

Years ago... I mean, really YEARS ago, I was a 4-H'er and took part in the county fair where I lived in New Hampshire. So it's been a long time since I entered anything into any kind of judging environment.
Wayne sets up his floral entries in the Dahlia category.
Wayne's Hollyhocks
My new companion, Wayne, has (for all the years I haven't been in fairs) been doing them with his late wife, Barbara. They used to enter flowers, vegetables as well as canning, and before that he was entering livestock as well. So he is very experienced in fair requirements for all categories.
Wayne's Pink Stargazer Lily entry.
This week he was intently focused on getting his entries in place and encouraged me to enter a couple of my canned items as well.

So I entered my raspberry jam, my strawberry jam and the plum syrup (which was supposed to be jelly) that we both made. He said it looks like we have done very well with blue and red ribbons for all the Home Arts entries!! (I will post an update later.)

He entered some salmon he caught and canned, peaches, jam and one of the plum syrups, along with at least 30 or 40 floral entries.

All those blue ribbons for Wayne!!
Wayne's White Stargazer Lily.
On Thursday (Aug. 17) he went to volunteer in whatever locations that he might be needed. I think this is a difficult time for him because it is the first year in two decades that he is not doing it with Barbara and while initially he was not going to do much of anything at all, it appears that my encouragement with the canning was the catalyst for him to step up and out and be at this year's Clallam County Fair.
Wayne was 'in charge' of cupcakes
for the little ones' competition.

Two of Wayne's dahlias were blue ribbon
entries; others got reds.
Sunday, Aug. 20: And his entries have done very well... many blues, some reds and lots of compliments from folks who know him well. Including trying to prevail upon him to do some big work next year.

For me it is a delight to realize that all these years after I watched and learned from my mother about making jams, I learned enough to produce a top quality product, competing with some of the best! And honestly, I want my grandchildren to learn these skills, too, not just for the fair, but for their own fare. I really love my jams on hot toast, with a nut butter or on ice cream... ever tried hot raspberry jam on vanilla ice cream?

Fair days are about over in Clallam County, but there is still a big fair in Ellensburg over Labor Day weekend where Wayne's grandson will be entering a hog for judging, following in his grandpa's footsteps.