July marks the beginning of full-on all the way High Summer. Not quite the dog days just yet, as our lovely summer temperatures in the high 80s have held up until this very week.
High summer means much time spent monitoring the drip irrigation system, checking the well cisterns to be sure everything is working correctly, watering dry spots, and watching some plants that are determined to wilt even when the ground seems to be wet enough.
At the beginning of the month, we broke away from all the home chores to escape for a morning kayak. Applegate Lake (actually a reservoir) has had low water for a long time due to the prolonged drought in the west. With all our spring rains, the bathtub ring around the lake was barely visible for the first time in years, with water levels at 97 percent. The skies were blue, and the temperatures were perfect when we loaded up the kayaks and traveled an hour and a half south to Applegate Lake.
We launched at the no-fee Copper boat launch. There is plenty of parking and a long, gentle, sloped cement launch with a nice, easy water spot on the edges perfect for the kayaks.
We knew from our last trip to this lake that under the bridge is access to a lovely side paddle up an unnamed creek. It was much less crowded with our early launch this time, but by the time we returned to the lake, the kayakers were launching in significant numbers. A few first-time kayakers were hogging the ramp, trying to figure out how to launch and get in their boats., and then sitting on the ramp fishing. We waited our turn because neither of us wanted to be observed getting out of our boats. Lucky for me, there were some willows right next to the launch, and instead of rolling into the water, I just pulled myself up and out, holding on to the trees.
It was a lovely paddle, not tricky and not windy. Couldn't ask for better. Wildlife was limited to a few ducks and one lone bald eagle perched on a branch on the east side of the lake.
It was a lovely way to begin the month of July.
It has been more than ten years since we had such a temperate summer. Until recently, our highest daytime temperatures were in the 80s and a rare low 90s. There have been no fires and no smoke, although a few days ago, there was a small fire about ten miles to the west. After a lovely afternoon, I stepped outside, smelled the all too familiar acrid smell of a forest burning, and saw the giant plume rising. It was terrifying to see it so close to Grants Pass, the Applegate Valley, and a good friend's home within spitting distance.
It was started by humans, possibly a homeless camp up a creek drainage. The good thing about it is that there were no other fires, no lightning strikes high in the unreachable mountains. They were on it instantly, with a tanker drop, several helicopters dropping water from buckets pulled from a local pond and the river, and five 20-man crews. By the next day, they contained it at less than 30 acres, and everyone was safe.
Finally the riding mower was repaired and Mo and I got up early in the mornings to work on the rest of the gravel project. With temperature rising to the century mark by early afternoon, we could only do hot work like this for a few hours each morning. In a few days, we had all the gravel down and raked. It felt good to check off on more project completed.
The delicate balance of a low producing well and gardening almost an acre requires some creativity. We have beautiful tiny lawns for a soft green place to walk and gravel cover to reduce water useage, and non-irrigated areas that go completely dormant in summer.
After trying for a few years, we have managed to create a wooly thyme pathway. I have wanted a path like this since I first started studying the English Garden style in the early 80s. Somehow in the various climates I have lived in since then, I have never been successful. Until now. The lush pathway tends to cover the paving stones and still gets a few weeds in the thin parts.
I have to weed it and trim the thyme with scissors around the stones. It is an early morning job on my knees that I absolutely love. The smell of the thyme and its extraordinary lush growth amazes me after so many years of trying to get this to work. Some things on our property grow so well that it is hard to keep it all under control. Especially surprising since we have only been gardening this property for less than five years.
Our string of breakdowns from June continued well into July. A bi-yearly check-up with the dermatologist yielded requirements for a biopsy. No big deal, only on my arm, not my face, and it won't be difficult if it has to get cut out rather than burned. As usual, she found precancerous spots to hit with nitrogen. I sometimes wonder if she does that every time to ensure I am diligent about check-ups.
The next day Mo's computer decided to act up. The weakest link in a laptop computer seems to be the input for the power cord. Sure enough, that little input was wiggled and loose and refused to take a charge. We managed to run it on emergency power long enough to ensure all necessary files were completely backed up.
Mo found a lovely little laptop with everything she needed, and the following day we picked it up at Best Buy in Medford. I spent the next two days setting it up and decided that it was time to put my ten-year-old Dell desktop to bed. I have a laptop I bought almost three years ago waiting in the wings. Moving everything from the desktop to the laptop wasn't difficult, but getting all the photos moved and imported into Lightroom took the most time. The laptop is super fast and has 2 terabytes of storage. I have used it when traveling but had no idea how much quicker it was than my desktop until I started using it as my main computer. Geez, why didn't I do this a lot sooner?!
Toward the end of the month, we began the first real heat wave of the year. Finally, the pasture grass is mostly brown, and I have to watch dry spots in the lawn and hand water early in the morning after the well cistern has filled completely. It is a delicate dance between watering several timed stations that we have set up and how long it takes to replenish the water used for each station.
I barely had the computers up and running when the freezer portion of our LG fridge decided to go on the fritz. Everything was melted, and the ice maker no longer worked. I panicked and called Maryruth, who has a small garage freezer. I emptied everything and stored what I could in our garage fridge freezer, and took the rest to Mayruth's house before I settled in for the expected long phone call to LG.
The photo is a panorama hence the crazy bend, but it shows how tightly the fridge fits in her space. Would be hard to find another one with that exact fit. After a few hours of back and forth, it was determined that I needed a repairman. The associate informed me that there was no authorized LG technician in my area. I would need to find a local service and make an appointment. Then the local company would have to fill out forms and send them to LG to get authorization to fix the fridge. The fridge was purchased five and a half years ago, and my extended warranty expired after five years. I had visions of an expensive repair at the least and maybe another 3000k fridge. Remember when a refrigerator lasted 30 years?
I have no idea what happened, but the next day the freezer was again freezing, and the ice maker was working. Possibly I had piled too much food against the air intakes. Who knows, but for now, all seems OK. Dodged a bullet there.
Three days later, the winding spring for the hour on Mo's beautiful pendulum clock broke. After some searching, we found a local clock repairman and took the clock to his home. He had an interesting workroom with lots of old clocks and clock parts. Initially, he said it would be at least two months before he could complete the repair. Still, when we said he would have to keep the clock until October, he grumbled and said he didn't want it in his space, so he would have it ready for us before our late August departure. $450 bucks! Clock repair definitely isn't cheap.
Mo bought the clock in 1962 for $125 bucks in Porterville, California, so at 60 years old, it qualifies as an antique. I miss the gentle chime on the quarter hours. It has become background music that I sleep through without any effort, but we do turn off the clock when guests are here at night. I will be happy when she is back home.
So far, that seems to be the last of our repair needs. Our fingers are crossed. Although we did have another bit of a kerfuffle when we set up the MoHo at our campsite in Brookings. But that story will be continued later in this post.
The monthly book club meeting was held on a very hot evening at a member’s lovely patio. We had a lively discussion about future book choices. Many of us were not particularly enamored with the current month’s choice, a book by Kristin Hannah. Her previous book that we read last year, “The Four Winds”, was wonderful, but this one read like a very predictable family drama with a predictable ending and cliche characters.
Mid-month, I had a chance to do something I have always wanted to try. Paint and Sip events seem to be quite popular with friends here and there. When an entertaining painting was featured at a local farm, I reached out to see if anyone wanted to go with me.
This is definitely not something that interests Mo in the least. My book club friend Lisa has been looking for one to do on a day she was free, and this one fit the bill. Asked Daughter Deborah if she wanted to go, and she was excited to join us.
It was a lovely but hot day and a great experience. All three of us were a bit stressed. (Isn't this supposed to be a relaxing activity?) For our entry fee, we each received a complimentary glass of wine, a lovely lunch with wood-fired pizza, fresh garden salad, and fresh crusty bread. The only problem was that we were trying to get our paintings completed before the end of the three-hour session and had little time to eat our lunch.
The teacher kept telling us what to do and demonstrating, but it took a lot longer than it would have if we had been a little more experienced. When it was over, she told us, "Well, this was really a more advanced painting and not necessarily a good one to choose for your first time." Ummm…now why wouldn't you put that in the ad? We all had fun, and it was interesting to see the difference in our individual abilities to accept imperfection. Lisa was great, fully embracing her painting. I was less so, feeling I needed to do much more work. Deborah was the least accepting, insisting that she would throw her painting in the trash. Kinda fits our personalities, I think, with my precious daughter being the most likely to be a perfectionist and the least accepting of what she perceives as a failure. I didn't expect this to be a life lesson, but it was. The good thing is that Deborah finally accepted that her painting was perfectly adequate, especially for a first-time painter!
Mo may not be interested in a girly event like painting a picture while drinking and eating with friends, but working with wood is something she has excelled at for years. When she lived in Rocky Point, she saw an example of a huge water wheel in Coarsegold, California. She took photos and then spent a long time building that water wheel on a smaller scale. It was installed out by the small pond and the windmill on the Rocky Point lawn. Neighbors loved it. We loved hearing the falling water and groan of the wheel as we worked outdoors. But we couldn't see it from the house.
Mo brought the water wheel here to Sunset House when we moved in late 2017, and it languished along the back side of the MoHo shed until this summer. Finally, the time had come when all the pressing repair jobs were finished for the moment, and she could begin the giant water wheel project.
After much sanding, caulking, and painting, it was ready for installation. With no pond here, Mo decided on the rustic country look of a galvanized steel tank to provide water for the pump. Placed up against the west side of the MoHo shed, the sound of falling water and the groaning wheel is a delight to hear and watch as we sit on the deck. Her water wheel was a LOT better than my painting.
Around mid-month, Mo suggested we try to go to the coast for our monthly getaway. I had no expectations that I would find an open reservation anywhere. With so many people RVing, most state parks and campgrounds along the coast are booked months ahead for the summer. Lo and behold, I checked with the Harris Beach State Park website and found two and only two nights open for a full hookup site. It was in Loop D, where we have never camped. We usually go in the off-season, and loop D isn't even open then. I didn't hesitate and immediately booked the site for the two nights during the last week of July.
As luck would have it, our trip to Harris Beach was timed perfectly. The cool, fresh summer finally exploded into record heat just a few days before our scheduled departure. I think everyone in the surrounding area was heading for the coast to escape the heat. When we arrived at our campground, it was more packed than we had ever seen, with lots of kids, dogs, and people everywhere we looked.
The park guy at the entrance gate was stunned when I told him I had only found this reservation two weeks ago. He said the park has been booked solid for weeks. Just goes to show that it pays to keep checking back for cancellations, and being willing to be flexible with dates is another plus.
With temperatures in the hundreds from California to Portland in the inland parts of Oregon, the coast was protected by the typical summer marine layer, and the temps never got to 60F during our entire visit. We arrived in a chilly fog and began setting up camp. The site wasn't very level, so we spent a bit of time juggling the rig around to find the best possible spot. Now for what I hope is the last kerfuffle of the season. While Mo hooked up the utilities, I started opening the slide. About 5 inches from full extension, I heard a deafening and terrifying bang/pop/noise. UhOh. What broke?? The springs that open the slide? Something holding it up? Now what?? The slide refused to extend. We could bring it in without any weird noises, but it still seemed odd. Mo hunted on the floor and tried to see what was wrong. We went inside and out checking and found nothing to give us any idea what was wrong.
What made this especially scary was knowing that with only 3 weeks until our planned departure for a long trip, we would have trouble finding an opening for a repair. I shrugged my shoulders and said, "Well, if we have to travel cross country with the slide closed, so be it." A few minutes later, after Mo fiddled with the space between the slide, the wall, and the floor, I saw a small piece of white plastic. We both recognized the piece as part of the tv antenna handle assembly that had broken on our last trip. Sure enough, the entire piece of plastic had fallen on the top of the slide, and the horrible bang was the heavy white plastic exploding as it was crushed by the slide. After finding the culprit, the slide extended and retracted smoothly with no more scary noises.
We settled in for the afternoon. Even with the chilly fog, it was essential to get down to the beach to let Mattie get a run and walk on the sand, listening to the surf. Summer surf is much calmer than winter surf, and even high tide was much lower than the King Tides we experienced last winter. The walk was lovely, and seeing the shifts and changes in the beach landscape over time was fascinating. There was a lake where a stream used to be, and the stream was far removed from where we remembered it to be. We were surprised at the number of people sitting in chairs in a row along the water's edge, wondering if they were waiting for the sunset that was most certainly not going to happen in the fog.
Back home for a beautiful cool evening and a chilly night, using the small electric space heater to keep the rig from getting too chilly. Remember that only two hours away, the temperatures never cooled below 70, even during the night!
The next day brought a visit from our friends, Maryruth and Gerald. They decided a break from the heat was in order and drove the short trip to the coast to escape. We met them outside the park just in time for an early lunch at Catalyst Seafood. Mo and I ate there often in our early days visiting Harris Beach. At that time, it was a small, slightly funky place with three-dollar glasses of wine and fabulous fish and chips for 9.95. How times have changed. It has been remodeled and updated, with a nice bar and outdoor seating. Wine is 8 bucks a glass, and the fish and chips are now 14 bucks, with only fries and no cole slaw. Still, it was a good lunch and excellent fish.
After lunch, the four of us sat by the beach. The picnic table where Judy (the bird lady) used to set up her telescope when she made presentations for the public about Bird/Goat Island was empty and waiting. I saw no volunteers doing anything like what Judy did for the summer she was at Harris Beach. Still, the views were excellent, and we enjoyed sharing one of our favorite beaches with Maryruth and Gerald.
We drove back up to the campground and settled into the long picnic table for a game of dominoes. Our friends left late afternoon to get home to Grants Pass before dark. Mo and I settled in for a quiet evening with leftovers from lunch and some good internet tv, mirrored to our TV from the phone. This is an excellent option if there is a good enough signal from the phones. No data is used to watch movies on the phone for us, and casting it to the TV doesn't cost a thing. The only time this seems to be a problem is when we are in a crowded RV park with lots of rigs close by attempting to do the same thing. Then the phone sees too many TVs and gets confused. Otherwise, this method works almost everywhere when we have decent reception.
We didn't have to check out until 1pm the next day, and with temps at 108 in Grants Pass, we stayed until the very last minute. The long morning gave us another chance to walk the beach with Mattie, this time in full, gorgeous sunshine. There was no jacket required at a sunny 60 degrees and no wind.
We only had a few days in ridiculously hot weather ahead of us when we returned home. Dealing with 114F degrees isn't easy, but it isn't a terrible hardship for us. We garden outside from 7 am until it gets unbearable around 11 or 12 and then escape to the perfect coolness of our air-conditioned home. So far, so good, with no power outages. I struggle to imagine how impossible it would be to deal with that kind of heat without air conditioning. I see homeless people around town with dogs on their shoulders to protect their feet. My heart breaks for them. There are only a few cooling centers where these folks can escape. It is a scary situation, even worse than the cold of winter. I am so incredibly grateful for the safety, comfort, and protection that we have that so many people do not.
We had just one more happy event to enjoy on July 30th. Mo has some friends who are much like an extended family living in Ohio. The three daughters of these friends, Stephanie, Amy, and Susan, have wonderful memories of Mo from their childhood when they lived closer and visited often. We plan to revisit them as we pass through Ohio in late September. However, Amy, Susan, and their husbands were celebrating their 25th anniversary with a trip to Portland, Oregon. The husbands wanted to see the Columbia Gorge and play frisbee golf and do some other guy things. Amy and Susan asked if we could meet in the middle Between Portland and Grants Pass.
Mo and I chose the halfway point near Creswell, Oregon, just south of Eugene, for a meeting spot. I had read about the Creswell Bakery in the past. I was reminded again when we went to the big Cheese Festival last spring that it was a destination we had yet to explore. The bakery is on a lot of "foodie" maps of places not to miss if you are traveling through Oregon.
Lunch was great, but the laughter and conversation between us was stupendous. Lots of stories of their memories of Mo when they were younger. More stories of their current lives in Ohio, their kids, and their dad, who lost his precious wife Millie a bit over a year ago. The girls were incredibly close to their mom, who was one of Mo's dearest friends. Their dad Don is a beloved friend as well. We all had great memories of Millie, and the girls told us about Don's adjustment to life without his wife. It is wonderful that all three girls and their kids are close by, and they spend a lot of time with Don, cooking with him at his home at least three nights a week. Some families have an incredible closeness that is such a treasure.