rental backyard: winter hiatus (part 9)

rain gutter (December 12, 2015)

I figured I'd check in about our backyard project in case anyone is wondering, but I myself haven't been out in the backyard for a couple months. Who knows what could be happening back there? A family of raccoons could be serving dinners at the picnic table. Bigfoot might be lighting pine cones in the firepit. Squirrels could be having high-pitched dance parties under the string lights. I really don't know because it's too cold and wet to be outside for anything unnecessary like home improvement.

So we'll just have to wait for spring—though the weekend before Christmas, Jeff did drag this summer's $5 garage-sale potted pine tree into the house and turned it into a Christmas tree. Now it's my turn to de-Cinderella the tree, put all the ornaments away, and make like it never happened.

side yard puddles (December 12, 2015)

We did pick up some huge concrete rounds off Craigslist from a nice man named Gary out past Oregon City, who dug them up from under his old deck. Our plan is to dig them in as stepping stones in the side yard and between the fence and deck, surrounding them with ground cover plants to sop up the mud. We still have another load to pick up when it dries out some, though I won't be holding my breath for the rain to stop anytime soon.

And to top off this cheery winter wonderland, Jeff accidentally pulled the side fence halfway down last week, finding the posts rotted out, so he's just given himself another project. Meanwhile, access to the backyard is even more sketchy than pictured and would require low bending, if not crawling. I'll be sitting inside next to my cat, with candles, planning my tiny house while dreaming of summer. . . .

Missed the earlier posts in the Rental Backyard series documenting our backyard fix-up? Check out . . .

Part 1: The Tangled Mess
Part 2: Down to Dirt
Part 3: New Old Deck
Part 4: The Old Fence
Part 5: The New Fence
Part 6: Clean Slate
Part 7: Discount Plantings
Part 8: Temporary Fire Pit


Altamont, Oregon (hometown Christmas)

snowy Hogsback Mountain

My smartphone says I'm in Altamont, Oregon, which isn't, to me, a place at all but a street, as well as the name of my mother's junior high school. Per Google, Altamont is an unincorporated community and census-designated place; I had to double-check that fact with my step-father because nobody ever bothered to mention it when I was young: we all lived in Klamath Falls, city limits or not. In any case, I've been in my hometown for a few days.

The sky on Christmas was big and deep blue, something I miss, living now in the perpetual gray of Portland. Here, the sun shines—or at least used to shine, pre-global warming effects—300 days a year.

handmade fence

snowy Klamath Basin hills
The Christmas snow that once was standard when my grandmother, my mother, and we kids were growing up is temporarily back this year, so the dry, tree-spotted basin hills are blanketed in white. Six feet of snow sits at the top of the pass between Medford and Klamath. Crater Lake is closed, the lodge snowbound. It's in the teens outside.

icy downspout

When I suggested playing outside, my gun-toting youngest brother said snowshoeing is like running up the steepest hill you can find, cross-country skiing is hard on the knees, and sledding requires a sled. My family has never much liked exercise; mostly we just sit and eat and watch movies or play board games.

Jasper kitty

On Christmas Day, my other brother and his girlfriend brought their new kitten, which I had to beg to be let in the house since some were allergic. I handed my sneezing youngest brother a Benadryl. Families focus on the antics of children, but having none of those around, pets will do. We wore the kitten out with a laser pointer, tangling him up in wrapping string. My baby-loving sister was off in the Tetons, having rented a little cabin by herself; she texted that she was having a grand time solo. There has been too much TV and sugar, too little exercise and conversation, as usual.

I'm going to soak in a bath of Epsom salt while they're off at church today. A wide rectangle of skin on my back is peeling and stinging from radiation burn. Seven more treatments to go and I will have "beaten cancer," at least for now, for which I am so, so grateful, despite missing one breast and both ovaries. I am greeting the sun of my childhood in a new way this Christmas.

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