Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One Hardy Dude

One of the most beautiful and prolific flowers in our garden each summer is the Shasta Daisy. They begin to bloom in early July and continue into late fall. Frequently in October when I clean out the garden, there will still be a couple of small blooms surviving.

This hardy guy actually saw service as the “Christmas flower” until finally covered by the multiple snows we received the week before Christmas.

Alas, even this hardy individual finally succumbed to the harsh winds and the crush of the pressing snow and ice.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Gifts From Long Ago

Christmas Day circa 1955 and my first bike

Christmas Day circa 1956.

That was the year both my brother and I received gray-plastic robots, batteries not included. They actually walked, well sort of, the eyes flashed, and they made a grinding sound. Oh how I wish I still had that robot, it might fetch a bundle on eBay!

This year for Christmas, I presented my lovely wife with a LED headlamp. Now before you say that I am whacked, understand that the office in which she works has no windows so when the power goes off, it gets pretty dark. Our wedding anniversary is also a few days before Christmas and I always give her roses; so hopefully that shows that I have some understanding of the concept of gift giving.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Calling All Delawareans

Shortly after beginning my volunteer experiences at the maritime museum and as a cruise host, it occurred to me that I might meet someone from each of the fifty states during the coming year. As the year’s end quickly approaches, my goal is nearly complete except for meeting someone from the great state of Delaware. With only one Saturday left in the month, what are my chances?

Today’s shift hosting on the museum’s Lightship was foiled by near blizzard conditions. The museum’s staff wisely decided to keep the ship closed as the gangplank and deck are covered with snow and ice. Now certainly, snow is not unheard of in Astoria, in fact in my thirty-one years as a resident, my snow shovel has received plenty of use. How today differs is that it began snowing at about 8:30 AM and it still continues to fall nearly eight hours later. If the forecast is correct, it will continue until late this evening before turning to freezing rain. Oh, I can hardly wait!

At any rate, if you are from Delaware or have even lived there, why not plan a visit to the museum on Saturday the 27th between 12 and 2 PM and stop by the Lightship and say hello. Not only will you enjoy your tour, you will leave knowing that you completed my goal for 2008!

The dock with nearly four inches of fresh snow

The ship's stern

The ship's snow covered bow

The snow covered gangplank

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Perfect Tree?

Early last week, I mentioned to my lovely wife that it was just about that time of the year to go in search of the perfect tree for Christmas. Since my time is more flexible these days, I offered to do the tree shopping myself before the weekend, that way I could have it set up and ready for decorating on the Sunday. The lovely wife responded that she really wanted to come along and help; yes I realize that my definition of the perfect differs from hers! So it was thus established that on Sunday afternoon following church, we would venture out in search of a tree.

On Thursday evening, the lovely wife informs me that perhaps her Sunday afternoon would be better spent writing Christmas letters so perhaps I could get the tree on either Friday or Saturday. I do not think it was the call of the Christmas letters she heard but more likely she saw the weather forecast for Sunday which called for snow and temperatures in the mid-twenties!

So Friday morning after completing my work at the food bank, under threatening skies, I gathered my saw, boots, and rain gear and headed out to a local tree farm that I knew well. Over the years, I have cut many fine trees at this lot and as I had brokered the purchase of seedling for the former owners, I often received a professional discount on my tree. As the tree farm is located about twelve miles out of town I had lots of time to watch the sky grow darker with each passing moment. About half way there, I noticed the wind was rocking the trees on a distant hill and the rain was beginning to pelt the windshield of my truck. It was at this point I remembered how much I hated working outside on days like today but since the forecast called for worse weather, it was now or never!

I arrived at the tree farm and was greeted by the new owner; his first comment was something on the lines of how I should have been here yesterday when the weather was nice. He then goes on to explain how to choose a tree and finally what species were available and how to identify them. My first thought was to tell him that as forester with over thirty years experience I had a good idea what a good tree looks like and further, it was because of my efforts several years ago he now had a crop to harvest. My second thought and the one I went with was to stand there and keep my mouth shut and hope that he would soon have the good sense to get inside out of the rain. Just as he turned to leave, he added that all trees are only $6.50 per foot. If the weather had not been getting worse by the minute, I would left. As I hiked into the field, I began to calculate the cost of the perfect tree; since I was looking for one in the neighborhood of eight feet, I was going to be writing a check for fifty-two bucks. Now I realize that in some places, Christmas trees are extremely expensive, but Astoria is not one of those.

Too many choices on such a nasty day? The white spots are caused by light from the camera's flash reflecting off the rain drops

As I head over the hill, I begin to develop my strategy, find a short tree that’s fat or speaking more politically correct, full at the bottom. Since this tree farm does not culture their trees, they all have a more natural appearance; therefore they often lack that “full figure appearance”. After five minutes I spot the perfect tree but I want to get a picture before putting a saw to its base. I reach into my coat pocket only to realize that the camera is back in truck safe and dry, so it’s back up the hill to fetch it. As I get to the parking lot, the owner is shocked to see me and comments that surely I am not giving up so quickly. I inform him that I have located a candidate but mention nothing about the camera; I do not want him to think that I am a total lunatic.

So with camera safely secured in my coat pocket, I head back down the hill to complete this mission. If you have ever gone to the woods you know where I am going with this story. As I continue down the hill, I can not find my perfect tree or the saw that I had carelessly laid beside it. As the rain continues to pelt, I wander aimlessly between the rows of trees in search of something that looks familiar. Oh yea, at this point I’m having loads of fun. It also hit me why I retired; I wanted to be inside of such miserable days.

2008's perfect tree or at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it

The saw and tree were finally located, cut and the financial obligation settled at the cash register. Over the course of the next year, I will also be searching for a new Christmas tree farm.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Cupboard Was Bare

Like most communities, Astoria has an emergency food pantry which provides supplemental food to those in need. At the urging of a friend, I recently signed on as a volunteer, so once a week I help by restocking the shelves with canned goods prior to the Friday afternoon distribution. While attempting to complete my restocking mission last week, I was reminded of the following nursery rhyme: “Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to fetch her poor dog a bone; but when she came there the cupboard was bare, and so the poor dog had none.” I felt much like Ms. Hubbard because when I went to the storage room to get food, there was none there!

As you might expect, the demand for supplemental food has never been greater. If you are wondering what you could do to help out, consider making a cash donation to you local food pantry. On the other had, if you prefer to give food, peanut butter, tuna fish, or canned fruits are always in demand. It’s never a bad idea to just pick up the phone and call your food pantry and see if they have other specific needs.

This is also a time to give from the heart, so as much as you want to rid your kitchen cupboards of that old jar of sauerkraut, please think again. Now before you say hey, is a Ruben sandwich is complete without sauerkraut? Consider the likelihood of someone who depends upon supplemental food and their ability to obtain corned beef and Swiss cheese. To the other defenders of a sauerkraut donation, yes I am aware that it was consumed by sailors in the 1800s because it is rich in vitamin C and thus prevented scurvy. However, during a recent visit to my doctor, I asked him how often he treats patients with scurvy; to which he responded, never!

Yes, I agree that at times the needs of the many are overwhelming and we can never meet all of them but to just help a few is far better than nothing!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Drizzle, Mizzle, - Whatever!

Yesterday was one of those miserable days on the coast; it drizzled pretty much the entire day. In addition to the extremely low light levels, you got soaked if you ventured outside. How is it possible for such tinny drops of water to get you so wet?

I spent most my day building new a set stairs into the basement; so every time I need to cut a piece of wood, I ventured outside into the drizzle and got soaked. To my amazement, the project was completed in less than one day and only required two trips to the lumber yard. Without a doubt, I set a new personal best for a home repair projects.

Today’s task will be to untangle the ball of wires also known as the Christmas lights. I need to find the bad bulb which has caused half of the string to go dark. Sounds like another fun project right! It’s very likely that by noon I will have retired to the “big box warehouse” and purchased a replacement set.

The photo was taken from my front porch at about three PM, it gives you an idea of what the weather was like all day yesterday.