Moving in the Time of COVID-19

12 Dec

One of these things is not like the other.

Chatsworth Circle

Francis Circle

Fir Ridge Road

Da Vinci Street

Kennedy Court

Via di Villa Emiliani

Via Ruggero Farro

Cascara Court

35th Avenue

Did you guess? 35th Avenue is our new, and rather boring-sounding, address. We have always lived on named streets, some rather colorful. How can you beat “Via di Villa Emiliani?” Yet here we are. You can choose a house but not your street name.

Despite the urban-esque sound, we reach our new digs by traveling through placid farms with the Coast Range looming in the near distance. Vast fields lay only a few meters from our house, no doubt to be filled with housing before another decade passes. We are at the western edge of the Portland Metroplex, up against wine country, barely an hour from the ocean and only 25 minutes from Derek. Yet our street is typical of an American suburb, perhaps one of the most classic suburban street scenes in which we have dwelled since we left Omaha in 1987.

I do love this tree in a park near our home.

Three of the old addresses were in condo-land and two were apartments – ruled by condo boards – in Italy. Now we are embracing a sweet Craftsman-style house on a small lot with a very private back garden that I intend to transform come springtime.

The workmanship is incredible. Reminiscent of a 1940s bungalow but with an open plan and the features desired in 21st Century living. Here is the jaw-dropping coda to this tale: it was built by high school students! Forest Grove H.S. has run the Viking Homes Program since 1975. (Ours is the 2010 home.)

Buying and selling in 2020 are like walking a highwire with people shooting at you. Houses in the Portland area practically sell before they are listed. (See Cambiamo Case. )

COVID-19 only adds another 1000 degrees of complexity. Spending on home-improvements makes the proverbial drunken-sailor (as in “spend like a”) look like Scrooge. Refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, ranges, and ovens are back-ordered for months. We used to waltz into Sears (R.I.P.) or Home Depot, order an appliance, and have it appear in a matter of 72 hours. We are back-ordered until January 13 for a washer/dryer. Six weeks of laundromat stretch before me like an endless wasteland.

Scheduling movers, handymen, or anything else has to be juggled against an out-of-control mortgage and title market. Title companies are overwhelmed as mortgage lenders feed them 4 times the cases they are expected to handle. (One agent told us an escrow officer usually gets 10 cases a day and now they each get 40!) Assessors in Lincoln County are so backed-up that lenders have to hire them from Portland to make the four-hour round-trip. Without going into an agonizing litany of all the delays, I’ll simply say it was a stressful period getting from the fast-sale in Lincoln City to occupancy of the new house in Forest Grove.

It was very unsettling having strangers in our home for packing. One mask-hole from the moving company required constant reminders to stay masked and was reported to the company as not welcome to handle the move-in end of the project. Ric and I had good KN-95 masks to help protect us. Doors and windows were wide open letting the house temp plummet into the mid-50s so fresh air circulated. We moved into a hotel to make the whole experience less stressful and provide us a place of refuge. Since we are now almost 3 weeks past packing day, we are breathing a sigh of relief as all other workers have only been in the house briefly.

The furniture arrived on December 4, preceded by two days of painting (not by us, by professionals) and having some handyman services performed. By the following Monday, we were largely settled and had a tower of recycling ready for the local waste management company. They’ll get another tower in two days as we have finished unpacking (mostly). As of our one-week-in-the-house benchmark, there is art on the walls and I know where almost everything has been stowed. We can find our way to the major services in Forest Grove without the satnav.

Moving is not for wimps. Moving in the Time of COVID is insane.

We are not quite done, but here is a first look.

Several readers have asked how the cats are doing. I am sad to tell you that Frankie & Esther had to go back to the shelter. When we evacuated for the fire, we could not lay our hands on the cats to secure them for evacuation, forcing us to leave them in the house alone for the time we were gone. That was frightening. If we could not evacuate them for their safety, how would we deal with taking them to the veterinarian? They were a year overdue on vaccinations as it was. We consulted with our vet, who advised these were not likely to become socialized cats. She encouraged us to return to sender, which required a tranquilizer, a difficult capture involving a pillowcase, and a 3-hour round trip to Florence. We will adopt again when the right cats are ready for us.

Cambiamo Case (Changing Houses)

20 Oct

20 October 2020.

Perhaps we are nomads after all. Our ten-year plan set in 2016 has been shortened by six years: we are leaving Lincoln City and returning to the greater Portland Metropolitan Area. Specifically, we just bought a house in Forest Grove, previously a small town on the edge of wine country and now the Western edge of the SMA.

Why?” you might ask. We do love the clean air, mild summer temps, and the low traffic of the coast (except for when the tourists flock in July and August and holiday weekends), but the pandemic and forest fire season gave us cause to reconsider where we live, the type of home we have, and what we do with our time. The evacuation during the Echo Mountain Fire was a bit unnerving.

Cascara Court (our current home) this spring. This is the front yard/garden. I’ve done what I can with it and it is quite nice.

Living two hours from our son and friends we have known for decades weighed heavily in the decision. We missed a summer of responsible socializing with Derek and said friends. There is little outdoor dining on the coast as it just is not warm enough for evening outdoor socializing. We had ONE NIGHT this summer where you could be outside without a jacket past 7:00 PM. ONE NIGHT and that was in September. 70 degree highs are great for hiking and gardening but do not lead to soft summer nights of barbecuing and lounging on the patio. We saw our son exactly once from mid-March to early September. Living closer gives us more opportunity to enjoy each other’s company.

Our time in Lincoln City caused me to rediscover my love of gardening. Not vegetables, mind you, but ornamentals, especially perennials. We reworked much of the landscaping on Cascara Court but as we are in a townhome with a small lot and a half-dozen 100-foot conifers providing dry shade, there was only so much to be done. I wanted a new space for my puttering.

Having sold Cascara Court in 13 days, we came to Portland to start house hunting yesterday. The market is moving so fast in the Metro area the houses are barely listed before they are gone. Last week I had 34 homes “favorited” on Redfin. By the time we met our realtor on Monday morning, many had already sold or had to be eliminated for a major flaw (no A/C, near a major highway, overlooking the MAX line) there were FIVE houses left to be toured. FIVE out of 34!

Long story short, we toured four houses, loved two, and made offers on those two. By 12:30 today, one offer had been accepted. Positive thoughts to the Universe, we will move in shortly after Thanksgiving. We are inheriting a lovely back garden with a fountain and space to entertain outdoors. The house is a Craftsman bungalow with impeccable attention to detail. When I have it all dolled up, you’ll see pictures. Below, two glimpses of where we are headed.

No grass grows under Barton feet.

Freestanding fireplace
Back garden with fountain

A new adventure

31 Aug

31 August 2020.

When the pandemic began, we immediately thought – as many people did – of adding a new pet to our family. It had been nearly two years since Janie passed and perhaps now was the time. However, we held out hope that our annual fall trip to Europe would go forth as planned. After all, in March, April, and even in May, we thought we could put COVID-19 behind us as a country.

In fact, today is the day we should be winging our way to Germany to start our two-month trip. <Sigh.>

In July, we pulled the plug on everything we could cancel and decided the next adventure would be bonding with new kitties. Having only adopted kittens in the past, we set our sights on a pair of adult cats, bonded to one another, and started the online search of local humane societies.

two cats in a bed

Frankie and Esther cuddled up in their bed-under-the-bed,

The Oregon Coast Humane Society in Florence had a match for us: Esther and Frankie. A middle-aged pair at 7 years, they came into our lives on August 21. They are not sure about us nor are we sure about exactly what our relationship will be with them. What is clear: they are deeply bonded. Esther is particularly skittish, and only last night did she present herself for a drive-by petting. Mostly she runs to shelter when she sees us coming. Frankie has been allowing some petting and does vocalize a bit. They play with toys but not interactively with us. They love their cozy beds and wet cat food is relished. No one is losing any weight. They are sizable.

Living outside of the cat condo at the shelter seems to agree with them.

cat on a shelf

When we came to fetch them, in Florence, OR, at the Humane Society, Esther headed to a high shelf and had to be coaxed down.

Perhaps our perspective on cat size is skewed by Janie who weighed a hair over five pounds at her death (age 23!) and never topped more than 11 pounds. These two are solid.

This is a duo that has never had a forever home. Esther was once feral and both have been strays that only had one known permanent home – together –  for two years. Surrendered yet again to the shelter last May, they need stability and patient humans.

gray tabby cat

Frankie’s shelter photo. Handsome boy!

It is going to take time for them to adapt to us and time is something we have plenty of. They are ours.

Cat in a covered bed

Frankie thinks he is hiding in the hooded cat bed.

 

A coastal prairie and a peninsula ramble: Nestucca Bay NWR

12 Aug Deer

12 August 2020. 

A discreet brown and white sign points the way to the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge from Highway 101. Although we have traveled this highway dozens of times in the past three years, we had never noticed the turn-off until clued into this new sanctuary by an article in Oregon Coast magazine.

A pre-hike stop in Pacific City was a bit out of our way but allowed us to fortify ourselves with an Americano and a fine sweet scone from Stimulus Coffee. A few hundred people were already hitting the beach, many carrying surfboards even at 9:15 AM. Not our scene.

Haystack Rock, beach, and ocean

Pacific City’s Haystack Rock, one of many along the Oregon Coast.

We backtracked a few miles to the sanctuary. The first pullout gives a view over grazing lands that provide important habitat where geese gather during migration and also over-winter. We will be back if only for that scene several times this fall. Moving on to the trailhead, we found a genuinely nice parking lot, newly paved and striped, with a convenient – and clean! – chemical toilet. The solitary car there at our 10:00 AM arrival was just departing.

One feels rather far from the ocean but even from the parking lot, the sound of the surf crashing is unmistakable. We made the first leg of our walk the Pacific View Trail, an all-access paved path that leads to a large deck with a magnificent view to the West encompassing the ocean, a haystack rock, and even distant Pacific City.

Haystack rock and ocean

Haystack Rock at Pacific City is viewed from afar at the NWR.

The Pacific View Trail traverses a rare coastal prairie, alive at this time of year with many flowering plants. Prairie habitat was once extensive along our coastline, but development has brought a loss of habitat and with it the decline of species such as the Oregon silverspot butterfly. Approximately 21 of the 35 acres of prairie habitat have been reestablished with native species and restoration work is ongoing.

Meadow and ocean

The Pacific Ocean viewed across the coastal prairie.

Birds Only sign

Stay on the path and no dogs allowed!

Sign

There is a fair amount of interpretive signage in the refuge.

The refuge is a study in contrasts. After the .63 mile out-and-back on the Pacific View Trail, we took the highly forested Two Rivers Trail to the confluence of the Nestucca River and the Little Nestucca River. The trail has modest elevation change and varies from gravel to dirt to grass. The only sound we heard was birdsong. One doe silently sought out tender shoots in an open spot. The trail ends with a view of the estuary where we found many waterfowl lounging on the spit and several splashing in the water.

Click on any picture for a better view.

We encountered no one until we were within sight of the parking lot after 11:30 AM. Apparently, most people start later than we do!

Having amortized the morning scones, we headed to The Riverhouse Nestucca, arriving just as they opened their doors at noon. It had been almost six months since we last visited thanks to COVID closures and restrictions. This day, we were the only indoor lunch customers (they have picnic tables in full sun) and we relished those Howard burgers and rosemary fries.

man and hamburger

Ric is ready to dive in to his burger.

hAMBURGER AND FRENCH FRIES

The Howard Burger at the Riverhouse Nestucca. Best burger within driving distance of our house.

My Fitbit clocked in at just under four miles and 90 minutes for both trails and a side trip to the picnic spot. This is a hike we will take again and again, especially with a favorite restaurant nearby. Sadly, no dogs allowed.

Woman and flowers

Laurel with the late summer daisies near the picnic area.

 

Escape to the Abbey

30 Jul

30 July 2020.

Summer in Oregon begins on the 5th of July is a trope oft-quoted in the Western part of the state. Following a “June-u-ary,” (not uncommon) even American Independence Day can be chilly. But soon the Willamette Valley (referred to locally as simply The Valley) gets its heat on.

Here on the Oregon Coast, our idea of summer is anything over 60 degrees Fahrenheit and when it on rare occasion reaches 72 we think we are going to die. It’s the number one reason Ric and I chose to live here; it does not get hot in the summer. We hesitate to journey into The Valley in July and August.

Last Friday we were looking for a day trip so we could vacate the house while our housekeeper came. The irony of needing to leave home for four hours so someone else can clean it is not lost on us; however, we choose locations where we can be physically distant from others. A hike is always a good plan and if we can follow a hike with a meal anywhere but at home, so much the better. It was cool in The Valley on July 24th so we dared to venture to the Trappist Abbey and explore the peaceful forest.

The Abbey advertises the Guadalupe Loop at 3.5 miles. Our Fitbits clocked in at almost 5 miles, accounting for a couple of spurs we took and the distance to-and-from parking. A good workout of 2 hours. While not a difficult hike, it isn’t “easy” in the Easy-Hiker sense. My knees wished I had taken my trekking sticks for the downhill portion and there were also some rugged sections on the backside of the hike where I was happy to be wearing hiking shoes.

This day was overcast and pleasant. We only encountered 15 people in two hours. Not sure I would venture here on a weekend or when it is hot or wet.

I’ll let our pictures do the talking but a few points of advice from our trek:

    • Take the loop in a clockwise fashion as we did.
    • In the rainy season, go back the way you came from the viewpoint. The section from the shrine and along the southern part of the trail would be very muddy when it has rained.
    • Trail junctions are marked counter-intuitively. Keep left except for the viewpoint, unless you want to take one of the “passes.”
    • The viewpoint is not well-marked. After making the left turn at an obvious point, make the first right you come to.
    • Take your hiking sticks if you have bad knees.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Abbey’s peaceful courtyard.

 

Signage and map with history and rules. Put your cellphone on airplane mode.

 

The trail varies from wide “highways” to narrow, rocky, packed clay.

 

A family group was among the few people we saw. They pushed a stroller up 800 feet!

 

“The woods are lovely dark and deep…”

 

The view from the top is of Oregon vineyards.

 

Reflection in the pond.

 

Still smiling after an 800-foot climb.

Some of you sharp-eyed readers will notice a new link in the navigation bar, Masks to Benefit Food Pantry. I am making lovely, effective masks and selling them as a fund-raiser. I like to sew and after outfitting family and friends and still having a vast supply of nice fabrics,  I thought perhaps I could do some good by supporting our local food pantry while keeping myself occupied. LMK if you see anything you like and I’ll figure out shipping. 

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