Days One and Two: Twin Falls, Idaho

Our plane left Raleigh Durham airport on a Saturday morning, with Hurricane Florence growing in the Atlantic and no one knowing where it would go. Fortunately, my friend the Fabulous Zha K house-sat for us during this vacation, a saving grace for my anxiety in the coming days! We rented a car in Salt Lake City and immediately set out for Twin Falls, Idaho, where we had rented a great AirBNB room for a very reasonable price. It was very hazy along the way from the wildfires to the west, so we couldn’t see much in Utah other than the desert on the sides of the highway.

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We stopped at Perrine Bridge over the Snake River Canyon, where to our surprise, we saw someone base jump from the other side! Turns out that this is one of two places in the country that allows unrestricted base jumping. Not for me, I can tell ya that. There were musicians playing in the park next to the bridge and people walking and running the trail on the side of the canyon. Other facts I didn’t realize before picking this place – the beauty, the quality of the town, Shoshone Falls, and that Evel Kneivel jumped the canyon here. Where we first stopped, there was obviously a feral cat colony living on the side of the canyon beside the bridge, and signs that they were being fed and taken care of. That immediately turned me on to Twin Falls, Idaho. I could see us living there. That night, we ate at Elevation 486, which served locally sourced food and was very good.

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In the morning, we visited Shoshone Falls before we left the area. I’m very glad that we did. (Somehow, I managed to delete the video from Flickr. Until I get it restored, here are some photos, but the video is pretty awesome and will replace them!)

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We noticed that there were several national sites within driving range. One was not far off our route to Craters of the Moon, so we decided to stop there on our way.

Next: Minidoka National Historic Site and Craters of the Moon National Monument

Saturday Morning Coffee Pot post

Before I start the series of posts about our trip to Idaho and Wyoming, I need to sweep out my brain of the things unrelated to that first. So I made a second pot of coffee.

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Looking at the remnants of Florence from the air.

First off, we were not affected here at my house in Greensboro by Hurricane Florence. There is some flooding in the Greensboro area, but our housesitter kindly put a tarp on our outside basement door and sandbagged it for us, as well as securing the stuff on the front porch and the yard. We have a damp basement but it did not flood, and not even many limbs down since we had the large maple tree taken down a few weeks ago. Good timing that, and one reason I wanted it done before hurricane season began.

Lake Waccamaw is a whole different story. It took a direct hit. We won’t know the full extent of the damage for a while yet because the houses that belong to our family are on Canal Cove Road where the lake has merged with the canal and swamp behind it. Not only does that mean that there is 2-4 feet of water inside those houses, but that there are trees down under the water and alligators and cottonmouths and mats of fire ants enjoying a new range. My sister and brother-in-law prepped as best they could for several days and evacuated to Chapel Hill, where fortunately they had not sold their house yet. They know that the pier may be wiped out and the pontoon boat came loose and has been floating around bashing into stuff. Her furniture including antiques from my mother’s house are almost certainly ruined. The pier is not insured. The house and boat are, although the boat is really old and not worth that much. Fred and Weezer’s house, where we love to stay and I have written about many, many times, is underwater, as it was during Hurricane Floyd.

I have not heard from my brother in Lumberton, but he is not on the side of town that floods. My cousins are. I talked to him on Friday and they were hunkered down. I think that the main concern for him will be the farm. It backs up to Ashpole Swamp which backs up to the Lumber River near Fair Bluff. He leases most of the acreage but raises a few cows. It is beloved place for him, as the lake is for me.

So. I will update when I know more. Waters were still rising down east the last time I checked, and hopefully they will crest and go down soon. After Floyd it took two weeks before the roads were passable and Florence was worse.

The tomatoes and basil were looking rough, and what figs ripened seem to have been eaten by birds and ants. I cut the basil back hard and will make pesto and freeze it in an ice tray for cubes of flavor during this winter. I harvested two huge trombincino squash and one is actually a little past its prime. We’ll see whether it is just as good with a good peeling. The cheese pumpkin doesn’t seem to have been attacked by critters (fingers crossed). The vines have taken over our small back yard and would be producing like crazy but the fruit is rotting on the vine at a very young stage. I suppose this is blossom rot and will amend the soil if I plant these again. I have a new small crop of butterbeans and some banana peppers. A monarch butterfly laid eggs on a variety of milkweed I planted and the caterpillars have eaten up the plants. I don’t know what they will do now. I hope that they eat other plants. I collected seeds and will replant more next year. (I didn’t even know that these flowers were a variety of milkweed!)

Our application to install solar panels on the roof has been approved. We are waiting to make an appointment for a site visit. I know that some extra rewiring will need to be done in the attic first, and I’m hoping the same company can do it.

We came back from our wonderful vacation and went straight to work the next day, so it took a while for me to catch up on work, laundry, groceries, garden, and personal emails. Sandy is working again today and so I will have uninterrupted time to blog about our trip, if you are fond of my travelogues.

Also, as usual, I hope to get back to weaving this weekend. I have a frame loom waiting to be warped for a fringeless tapestry, and loads of inspiration.

Labor Day

You know, it’s ironic how many people have to work on Labor Day. My husband volunteered to work, like he often does on holidays. He likes the holiday pay and we rarely do anything special on holidays anyway. But I remember retail work, and I salute those of you in retail and restaurants and other service work who do not get a choice. I welcome the four day week after the stress of the beginning of the academic year, but it ain’t nothing like the stress of my old jobs.

Plenty of Roma and cherry tomatoes are ripening and I’ve been drying and cooking sauce every few days. There wasn’t any bicolor corn at the market this Saturday and I am rather spoiled for that, so I didn’t freeze any this weekend. I gave in and bought fresh shelled butterbeans (little green lima beans) for the first time maybe ever and was shocked at the price. It was fair, just as the price of shelled pecans is fair for the amount of work, but those are two food items I never had to buy before this year since either my mother or I grew them. I bought bell peppers and dried and froze them in strips. A friend is giving me his okra from his CSA bag, so I blanched and froze some and put the rest in my butterbeans. Half of the butterbeans were blanched and frozen and saved for Thanksgiving. I hope that I will have a second crop soon that is much better than the first crop was. The Sugar Baby watermelons are producing, but I am not impressed. So many seeds in such a small fruit. Also picked arugula that had been sheltered by the potato vines.

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My big garden success was this tromboncino squash. It’s rare that I get more than a squash or two when I attempt to grow them because of squash borers and my laziness in combating them. This is the second one – the first was eaten by bugs. I picked it at exactly the right time. The rind is tender, the seeds undeveloped, and it is delicious. I sure hope I get some more. I sliced up the neck thinly and dehydrated the slices. Just tasted one and I was surprised at how tasty it is. The rest will be cooked in a casserole with vidalia onions and cheese and crackers today. There is a second vine growing along with this one that looks to be either the candy roaster squash or the cheese pumpkin that I expected. They are taking over the back yard!

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We have a house sitter for our trip and I am so happy about that! Our neighbor does a great job in feeding and visiting the cats (he likes our front porch too) but we have a friend who is selling her house and needs a place to stay, so it is a mutually beneficial arrangement.

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Here’s what I chose for the tapestry diary for the months of June and July, now that my weaving block is broken and my brain is back from circling the hole. I have to weave a little at a time and walk away but I am enjoying it. I got a massage yesterday and she was surprised that I didn’t hurt more than I did and recommended rest for the rest of the day yesterday. There’s a funny English word with two meanings: rest. Anyway, I have to get back to doing my stretching exercises regularly and when I get back from our big trip I’m going to start taking a yoga class again to keep me on track.

I bought CBD oil balm this week and have been using it on my elbow. So far, so good. As long as I don’t lift anything or hold a book or a Kindle for a long time in my left hand, my elbow is fine. After a few weeks of trying this I’ll report back.

We are still waiting to hear about our application to the city to install solar panels. Turns out that they either didn’t get my first fax or lost it and it didn’t get on the agenda for the historic district commission. The city planning office has been great to work with, however, and I was told that they may be able to approve it on their own based on other applications that have been approved. I’m excited about the prospect.

It’s possible that my next entry will be from Idaho, Wyoming, or after I get back from our next big adventure. I have a lot of house cleaning and prep work to do before then, and I am going to weave this afternoon.

Sunday morning coffee pot post

I can’t upload to Flickr right now and I’ve been worried for a while about the change in ownership of the platform. I have so many photos on it – over 10K – and over the years I have linked here to my photos stored there. I would be wrecked if the platform changed its code or went bankrupt and dumped my photos. Anyway, I’ll just move along and deal with it later, since it is much too beautiful outside to fart around on the computer. I am writing this on the front porch on my laptop, but I will lose power soon.

One thing that I am trying to be more conscious about these days is my use of plastic. Once you start paying attention, it is stunning how much plastic is in almost everything we use. I don’t have time to avoid it completely. That would require me to commit to buying almost all my food directly from the farmer, and only certain ones at that. I’d almost certainly have to stop buying dairy and meat products. There are some packaged foods that don’t use plastic, but you kind of have to figure it out by buying them and keeping it in your head. Sandy and I decided to start eating vegetarian at home a couple of weeks ago once I cook what’s left in our freezer. However, I don’t think his resolve will last long. He’ll go out and buy something to eat if he doesn’t feel the urge to eat what I’ve cooked.

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Repository for Lost Souls

I really loved the look of Leslie Marsh’s studio when I went there for a book workshop earlier this summer, and my friend the fabulous Zha K was getting rid of most of her possessions to sell her house and get the hell out of North Carolina, so she gave me a lot of baskets and cigar and wine boxes and candy tins. I’ve slowly been transitioning my studio storage over to these boxes and baskets and, most importantly LABELING THEM, and I’ll give the plastic bins to Goodwill or Salvation Army or wherever. This is mostly an aesthetic feel-good action, but I’ll take my feel-good where I can get it these days.

My depression has lifted, THANK GOD, and I hope that I won’t see it again for a while. Or forever, but I’m pretty realistic about the fact that it’s probably something that I have to deal with for life. That’s not to say that there has been an absence of stress or sadness in my life, but depression is not about that. I can cope with stress and sadness when I am not depressed. People who have depression will understand this.

I’m going to work on my tapestry diary this afternoon on the porch. I finally came up with a simple design for June and July that reflected my main focus, although looking at it now makes me realize that I need to reduce the size. Otherwise it will overpower the rest of it. We removed the swing from the porch to make it less crowded. A front porch swing is lovely in concept, but we seldom used it and it divided the space. Now there will be more room for company on the rare occasion that we have more than one visitor.

The groundhogs are back now that the tree removal is over. I’m still getting plenty of tomatoes, especially the ones inside the wire cages. Figs are ripening on the tree, but the few that have ripened so far have been nabbed by the birds. Reflective tape and all. I’ve been buying bicolor corn from Rudd Farms every weekend, enough to eat some and freeze some. Tomatoes, onions, peppers, and some eggplants have gone in the dehydrator. The squash overtaking the back forty turned out to be tromboncino. I’ve got to start putting markers in the garden. These photos are from a week ago so the tromboncino is in the tomatoes now. I should pick the flowers and try cooking them. I’ve never done it.

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Soon we will hear if our solar panel installation will be approved by the Historic District Commission. I will be surprised if it is not, but usually there is some caveat that is expensive to add. For example, we have wanted to replace our front door for a long time and our certificate of appropriateness for that has expired because we haven’t been able to find a door that fits and satisfies both of us and the city staff that we can afford. So we still have this wretched hollow 50s ranch-style door.

If and when we get that approval, it will be hooked into the meter so that it should provide all our electricity and we will only have to pay a meter fee to Duke Energy. The cost is not much more that our current electric bill (we pay an average amount monthly on a budget plan). In a few years, if the price goes down for whole house batteries, I’d love to go off-grid totally.

I finished reading Salvage the Bones this weekend. A very difficult book, but I persevered through the uncomfortable content and was swept up in the story. At one point I did not think I would be able to finish it. I’m glad that I did because it is brilliantly written. I found her afterword about her experiences growing up and her experience going through Katrina to be helpful in my understanding of the culture and why she chose Medea of Greek mythology to be a touchstone throughout the book. It also reminded me a little bit of my childhood growing up in rural N.C. even though my black friends were not so poor, my best friend’s father was an alcoholic that raised his family in a falling down house with junk cars and stray dogs all over the yard. The black family I tried to hang out with (the parents on both sides were not pleased) had a Skeeter, and I was reminded of the disconnect between our cultures.

This was an accidental photo but I like it anyway.

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Okay, time to cook and freeze corn and weave tapestry on the porch.

Planning ahead

I’ve reached the point in life where everything must be written down or lost, which seems a little bit scary and sad, but when I look back at my blog posts, I think that the ones where I plan are my favorites. I get to think, “hmmm, well THAT didn’t happen,” or “this was perfect planning (pats own back)” or “next time, I’ll add this.”

The next big trip, because if I don’t get in one trip out west per year these days, I get mighty antsy, will check off three national parks and monuments and two new states for us: Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

I’ve been planning this one for almost a year, and most of it has been paid for except a little bit of housing, parking, all the meals, car rental, and gasoline. Originally the tax refund was going to cover it, but we decided that the tree removal shouldn’t wait another hurricane season, and the tornado that hit Greensboro three miles away in April put this issue on my mind.

We’re doing AirBNB again for the most part, and I used Southwest points for most of the airfare to Salt Lake City and back to Raleigh/Durham. I was a little surprised at how much the airfare was, but I tweaked it best I could. I probably missed my calling as a travel agent, because planning a vacation is one of those things I really enjoy. I’m already looking at options for the big trip next year.

Because I started early, I found a relatively inexpensive room at Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone for three nights. We have to go outside for the bathroom, but the room is nice. Before that, we found a super cheap AirBNB room in Twin Falls, Idaho for the first night – the nearest affordable place to Craters of the Moon, which is REALLY in the middle of nowhere. Craters of the Moon will be a short stop on our way to Driggs, Idaho, the closest town we could afford to Grand Teton National Park. That AirBNB room is in a former assisted living home, and it has a bathroom but the showers are on the hall. It seems nice from the reviews and the photos. It’s about an hour’s drive from Jackson.

There is a large wildfire near Craters of the Moon, so I might change this plan if the smoke is too bad. There’s no point in going if we can’t see, but it would be rather fitting if we couldn’t breathe the air at Craters of the Moon, eh?

We’ve made a reservation for whitewater rafting on the Snake River in Grand Teton. This time of year it should only be class II and III, and it’s a big raft so I can sit in the middle and ride. I love paddling, but my left elbow does not. We’ll rent wetsuits since it should be chilly but that is not expensive.

We won’t be doing much hiking, given our physical shape. Honestly, I’d be better off hiking than sitting in the car so much – that is what really makes me miserable. But we’ll stop at least every hour or so to let me walk around a bit.

My friend Judy is meeting us at Yellowstone and I am so looking forward to seeing her again. We had hoped that she might visit in North Carolina but it didn’t work out this year. Judy is one of the many friends I have made through attending art retreats, and the closest of those. We met at Journalfest in 2009 and have met up again at Focus on Book Arts a couple of times since then. She is an avid backpacker and one hell of a book artist.

Usually I visit my aunt and cousin near Denver in September, and I couldn’t work out the budget to visit on the way or back because I had to be frugal with the airfare. I’m going to try to go out there for a long weekend sometime in the next six months. I miss my aunt and cousin. They are close to my heart. It’s wonderful that I can get a direct flight to Denver from Greensboro fairly cheap, as long as I plan it for certain days.

Anyway, I’ve managed to figure out a fairly cheap way to travel by practice and the magic of the Internet the last few years. I use my Southwest card for everything to get the points. Southwest is my favorite bargain airline partly because you don’t have to pay extra for a small amount of baggage, and we travel light. There are a lot of things that add up behind the curtain when you shop for cheap airfare. Another is that once you set your schedule, they don’t monkey around with it; at least they haven’t in my case. When I’ve had to cancel, they gave me credit to use for the next year. I volunteered to get bumped once, and I got an $800 voucher! Even the gate agent couldn’t believe it and had to check on it with several people. I am not affiliated with Southwest in any way, by the way. They have earned my business.

After we come back, I’m going to Stamford, Connecticut for a long weekend over fall break to take a workshop from Sharon Payne Bolton, one of my favorite teachers, at the Art-is-You retreat, which is one of my favorite art retreats. I have never been to Connecticut either, so I’ll mark off another state. I found a roommate through the Facebook group and we are taking the same class and seem to be totally compatible. I have made so many friends through art retreats and Facebook. It’s one reason I’ll probably never give up Facebook. Unfortunately I’m flying American on this trip, but it was cheaper to fly to White Plains airport than to take Amtrak or fly to LaGuardia or JFK or Newark and take the train, which surprised me. They have already changed my schedule once, grrrr. I don’t like American Airlines, however, I am on a budget. Honestly, I shouldn’t be doing this at all from a money standpoint.

Then in November we are going back to Topsail Beach for another wonderful book arts workshop with Leslie Marsh and Kim Beller! Another 3 day weekend, this time in off-season in an oceanfront hotel, the Jolly Roger. Susanne, Joseph and I are taking the workshop and Sandy will just hang out like a beach bum while we are there. It will be his birthday present. Often November’s weather is still nice at the beach here.

I’ll add links later. It’s time to go do something else. Expect lots of travel posts this fall.