Sunday, July 29, 2012

Second Time Around

The first time was nothing compared to this!  Why these day-neutral strawberries are knocking their little socks off getting ready for the best crop of their entire career up till now.

All this on one plant!

There's a thing called "ever bearing" that refers to strawberries.  The term does not mean they make fruit all summer.  Just somebody's excitement in the name factory when they created a new strawberry years ago--and the name stuck.

Just like spring--at the end of July

The real revolution came to strawberries when someone developed a berry that did not take its cues on fruiting from the length of the day.  It begins to fruit when it is warm enough and does not stop until it is too cold.  I've picked day-neutral strawberries in November.

Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with these lovely red rascals is the dessert tonight after all the other Things I get to do today.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

I'm Guilty, Too

Keep your tools clean!  And keep them sharp if that is one of their features.  That's the ideal, and many of the Things I get to do today are about the ideal.   The ideal is great, but then there's real life.

Ugly and not fit to use

A blog follower admitted with embarrassment in response to a post last fall:  I don't take care of my tools.  Just so you know, blog follower,  I don't take very good care of mine either.

All better.  Now it just needs to be activated
by a good strong arm and some determination.

I found this pathetic weed sickle in the shed the other day.  An hour or so later, it was pulled back from the brink of hideous and can now be used again.  Nobody's perfect.  I'm guilty, too.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Yellow Transparents

It was the call I was waiting for.  Several blocks from our house stands a lovely, old, farm-style house.  In the yard an ancient Yellow Transparent Apple tree spreads it twisted branches.  I cruise local neighborhoods looking for that kind of tree.  "May I buy some of your apples?" is the line I use.  Most folks go from blank to grateful at the prospect of unloading worthless apples that become wasp attractors within a few days of falling off the tree.  The apples announce their ripeness by dropping to the ground.  Brooke was phoning to say the apples were ripe.  Come get them off the ground.  Today.  Please!
Enough Yellow Transparents to make more than a gallon of sauce

I've loved these apples all my life, not for eating from the tree, but for the delicious sauce they make, thick, tart and smooth as velvet.  My grandmother had an old tree that yielded dozens of quarts of sauce every summer.  They are ready to cook up right after the raspberries are finished.

Victorio Strainer:  a sauce makers dream
Cooked fruit goes in the top
Peelings come out the spout on the left
Sauce pours into the dish

A brief search told me that the tree is from very old Russian stalk, is exceptionally cold hardy, and tends to take every other year off to rest.  Someone's blog said they were worthless and in their area were called "throwing apples" since those folks believed the only thing they were good for was throwing at dogs and cats (that tells you more than you want to know about the whole mentality of the area).

Finished sauce, hot and ready for sugar

In our family, these apples are gold.  We love this sauce more than any other fruit sauce, so after gathering the apples at Brooke's, the next of the Things I get to do today is assemble my Victorio Strainer and make The Best apple sauce in the world.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Bees Want You to Know

They're smarter than you think.  If you already are aware of the magnificent process of honey bees, be prepared:  they are still so much beyond what we understand.

Maiden bee on the top right coming in for a landing

Honey Bees love purple flowers.  Their least preferred is red.  It's nice that the balance of Nature leaves those to the humming birds.

A thought about Drones : Drones are not do-nothing free-loaders.  Drones have a critical task in the hive. A Drone tends the nursery area of the hive, singing to the maturing eggs, larva and pupa.  The Drones sing bee wisdom,  bee awareness, bee history through the vibration of their song to the next generation of honey bees. They are communicating all that is needed for the life of the new hatchlings.

Cardoon is a current favorite

In regular commercial bee management, drone eggs/drone cells in the brood are removed with the thought that they are consuming food that would be better left for us to eat.  The result is that each generation of bees is weaker and dumber than the one before since they have not been reared with in the true bee wisdom way.  Colony Collapse Disorder is the result.

Gathering pollen and nectar

Time for all of us who care about the earth to find a spot in our yard or on our roof for a box of bees, making a home for a swarm from the local area.  And then just let them run their show the way they've done for thousands of years.  Things I get to do today:  add Warre' Bee Hive to my wood projects list.

More info: Spirit Bee with Jacqueline Freeman.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Repeat After Me

I give myself permission to be all that I can be, and I deserve the very best in life.

I love and appreciate myself and others.

I lovingly accept my decisions knowing I am free to change.  I am safe.

I now choose to support myself in loving, joyous ways.  I nourish myself with love.

The above statements are on a card that is posted in my space.  This is the most important of the Things I get to do today.  On my Things list from now on.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flower Powered

I have Viking blood!  Well, more accurately stated, I'm one quarter Norwegian.  That stands for something, I'm not sure what.  Regardless of the fractions, Things I get to do today includes taking watermelon to a family reunion potluck.  Some things stir my creative juices, and the plane watermelon begged for something out of the ordinary.

Well, naturally a bowl made from the rind would be like a boat.  Any Norwegian with any sense, and there would be those who dispute the possibility that Norwegians could have any sense, but they're not we folk, any Norwegian would know that the boat to build would be a Viking ship.

Marsh Mallow masts
Shields of Calendula, Oregano, Borage, Bok Choy
Handy as this Andy is, she has never built a boat, let alone a Viking Ship.  We needed to leave for the family gathering in about 20 minutes.  Fortunately the only tools required were a knife, a BIG spoon, and little gadgets used for carving pumpkins.  A short time later, my helpful husband had cut the "boat" innards into bite-sized chunks while I tossed about Viking shield patterns for the sides of the craft.  With time on the side of extreme simplicity, a citrus zester was used to give a bit of pattern to the rind.  Flowers from the yard stepped up to add color, texture and design as well as to shape the "masts" that the rind/watermelon could not do.

I doubt that this melon tasted better than the others at the table, but folks moved toward the Viking ship and dipped generously of its contents.  Letting flowers on board for the shields seemed perfect--flower power--make peace not war.  Family reunions can always use a generous helping of peace.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beauty and Elegance to the End

Curls of crocosmia

Crocosmia doesn't last forever.  The blooms last a long time from first explosion to last bump that flowers on the stem, but not forever.

However, today as I was sweeping up the spent flowers in front of the fireplace bouquet, part of the Things I get to do today, it was clear that wilting a bit, drooping on the vine, letting go of the life-giving stem, and finally, drying up were not things that prevented beauty from continuing to shine forth.  So elegant, so exquisite, even to the end.  Oh, to live and to pass like a flower!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Bean of Another Sort

I'm in love with Fava Beans.  I've never actually eaten one prepared as an edible food.  There's even a can of them in my cupboard that I'm hesitant to open and eat.  Weird, totally weird you might say. Yup!

This part goes in the salad.  I'm going to stir-fry them soon.

Fava beans are cold hardy and can be planted early in the spring before frost danger has backed off.  They sprout right up and are covered with the most delicious grey-green leaves.  That's the part I love.  Salads made of all the edible green things that grow in my yard are what make my body strong and my heart sing at the dinner table. So before dinner, bits of all these are collected from the garden with heavy emphasis on the Fava Bean leaves.

Lush stand of beans obviously not diminished by
contributing leaves to our dinner table

You might think that a plant would have a tough time growing if all its leaves were pulled off.  That's undoubtably true.  So I always left the top three of four clusters--they grow in groups of five or six.

Very fat Favas on stems that are naked below--evidence
of my bean leaf theft

Now the plants are setting on beans. I've nibbled a few fresh and raw off the vine.  I know they aren't toxic, but it is clear they are best prepared some other way.

Unique blossoms of the Fava:  black and white

Soon I'll open that can in the cupboard and see if I like the beans.  Right now it's the greens I love.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Raspberry Recycle

Everything can be put to good use.  In my dream world that is true.  When it actually happens that a natural waste product has a beneficial second life, I'm blissed out.

The fresh green of this year's growth.

So collecting my bliss is top of the Things I get to do today in the berry patch.  The raspberries are finished after four weeks of generous gifts to our table and tummies and a few into the freezer.  The last few pickings were not very much fun with the new canes hanging every-which-way, getting in the way and risking being broken off, brittle as they are.  Removing the just-finished-baring canes feels good as I put the patch in order and give this year's canes space and support for their fall crop.

These grew up last summer, released their first berries in
the fall, and just finished blessing us with this year's crop.

Mulch is a gift to the new growth, holding moisture and releasing its nutrients back into the soil.  As I collected the spent canes, their yet-healthy-and-green leaves caught my attention.

Old leaves stuffed between the canes as mulch.  Do not do this
if there is disease or rust of any kind on your raspberry leaves.

They snapped easily and quickly from the stalks.  A generous fistful was tucked between the canes and snugged to the ground.  All the spent leaves stripped, and all of them used for mulch.  Bliss.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hyssop Honey

The Children of Israel used it for a paint brush.  I'm beginning to see why.  A month or so ago Things I get to do today included learning  more about Camphor Hyssop.  All I knew before I read about it in the seed catalog is summed up in this post's first sentence--used as a paint brush.
Some of these purple brushes are nearly 6" long

The bees it was supposed to attract had not yet found it or its nectar was not yet available.  But now, now the flowers are long and fuzzy, and the whole nearly-seven-feet-tall grouping of perennial hyssops are humming with the prospect of honey.  First thing in the morning until last warmth of the evening you'll find golden, furry honey bees from my neighbor's hive collected around the purple columns, pushing their eager tongues deep into the micro throats of this delicate flower from the mint family that grows outside and up against my living room window--a perfect viewing area. I wonder if there is even a teaspoon of honey altogether here for their efforts.  It matters not to the bees.  The 30 or so girls working the blooms this morning are finding what they are looking for.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Unhappy Hops

Hops struggling to hold to the posts.
Twine wrapped around the post was no help.

I thought they could do it.  Squirrels don't swim.  Ducks don't climb trees. Why I thought my hops could spiral up the trellis posts is beyond me--now.

Hops unwrapped, sorted out
and ready to be "applied" to their new twine support

Hops grow in our area.  I've seen them, beautiful tepees of verdant vines going up 12 feet or more. What I didn't know is that they like to grip a tiny support like twine, and they cannot hang on to a 4x4" post.  The whole vine spine feels like a mini rasp, designed to catch on anything small and rough, allowing the vine to climb up and up.

Happy Hops

I finally saw the light when I asked the hops what the deal was.  There was the picture of them growing up a slender support.  Things I get to do today are make my hops happy and get them a support they can understand.

They feel so much better, I bet you can hear them boogie.  We're looking forward to their splendid blossoms in the fall.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Persimmon Panic

The persimmons are falling!  It's not like having the sky come down, but I was totally disheartened. The total crop of my favorite fruit was under 40 last year, and that was before the squirrels nipped them off, chewed a little hole in the skin and hid them all over the yard.  The actual net was closer to 10--from a tree that typically yields 300 or more each year.

Twisted, pixy magic of the persimmon calyx from the tree
that wisely thins itself

There were tiny wax-yellow blossoms all over the tree a couple of months ago.  Hope surged high that things were back on track. What I had forgotten was that the tree does an automatic thinning just before the fruits begin to grow.  All over the ground were dozens and dozens of spent calixes from the tree.  My panicked vision made it hard to see what was left to mature on this grand tree.

Baby persimmon about 5/8" across

Collecting my wits along with the Things I get to do today revealed that there is, indeed, a good crop of green, baby persimmons that will grow into brilliant orange pumpkin-shaped fruits for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It Sucks!

*One Sweet Sucker found in Aunt Alice's garage before she passed.
I was the only one interested in giving it a home.
A working girl needs friends.  I've got quite a few--talkin' tools here.  My closest collection of good buddies include the staple gun and zip ties.  One powerful sucker of a tool is up for nomination to the inner circle.  Indeed, it was this piece of equipment that inspired my very first blog posting about vacuuming out the gutters. May I present my ancient Craftman(woman) Variable Speed Power Blower.*

A Curly Black Locust grows up to the sky near our back patio, and from nearly its first spring sprout of green, it begins to shed dozens of golden petal-like leaves everyday all summer long.  Never complain about raking leaves in the fall--you could end up doing it all summer as well.  Here's where my great and dear friend the blower earns his keep.  Everyday from June until all the trees are stark naked in the Autumn rains, Things I get do today include blowing the leaves off the patio (which keeps them off the bottom of our shoes, and therefore, out of our house).  I am so grateful.

The latest demonstration of dear friendship from this tool came last week.  The hen coop was cleaned (finally).  Fresh straw was spread deeply on the floor.  After the job was complete, I remembered that I had been using chopped straw.  It's finer, fluffier, goes farther and is not stiff like little sticks the way regular straw is.  But I had borrowed the neighbor's electric mini leaf-grinder to create a huge sack of the chopped variety, and that supply was now gone.  I had never tried using my blower to suck and grind before, at least not straw.  For some reason I doubted its strength for such a task.

But now there's a giant bag stuffed tight with chopped straw, great mouthfuls whizzed up with the sucker end of this mighty blower.  Oh, me of little faith!

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Yellow foxglove pointing the way

It makes flowers grow up.  It seems that no matter the direction of the stem, the flower itself knows how to hold its head up. Weighty blooms on long stems often are not well supported.  The stem leans more and more, but the flower always knows up.  The yellow foxglove just turns up the end of the stem.  Shasta Daisies put their yellow faces up.  My tomatoes were lying down a bit.  When they were tied to their supports, the stems had some pretty odd angles, but in the day or so they all straighten out and knew which way was up.  Gravity is the friend that shows the way.

Stems flat but faces turning up

Some times when it seems there are too many Things I get to do today, or I feel too distracted to know which way is up, looking at a simple, elegant flower will give me my directions.  Settle into the energy of the earth (gravity) and you'll see which way is up.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Man and Two Horses

I've been pondering horses lately.  Several blogs I follow have described beautiful creatures with sleek coats and elegant necks and tails.  I'm not yearning for a horse, but I think they are wise and lovely animals.  My husband is not a horse lover.

My father-in-law was a building contractor.  When I'm off on one of my woodworking projects, I often think about him, his skills, his tools, his love of wood.  We inherited a couple of his sawhorses at one time.  We stored them outdoors (too big to take up precious space in the garage), and every year the legs got just a tiny bit shorter as the wet Northwest weather slowly rotted them away at the bottom.

Team of horses

Now those horses my hubby remembers with fondness, especially if he is having to use the cheap, fold-up, plastic models from the big-box store.  "Now if we had Dad's sawhorses, this would be. . ." he has frequently intoned.

So the other day when Things I get to do today included hankering for another wood project and thinking of making it out of eucalyptus wood, Hubby was enthusiastic about my doing a test using that wood to make a pair of sawhorses to replace the old respected and admired horses from his dad.

All saddled up

We found a plan.  I bought the wood (not cheap--legs for two horses--$95). Cut the lumber:  all angles are 10 degrees to make the legs super stable.  Assembled the parts.  Learned lessons (all the legs are cut exactly the same.)  Learned lessons (if the leg seems backwards, turn it around until it works.)  Learned lessons (measure and cut each end brace individually.)  Learned lessons. I love all that I'm learning, and I like these horses, too.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Green Feeding Frenzy

The head of lettuce already torn apart for easier access

They take bigger bites than I do, I swear! Lena Horne Hen tore off a piece of lettuce two inches square and swallowed until it went down.

OK.  This one is a little too big to swallow.

The rest of the girls didn't take smaller bites because they were polite.  It was just the luck of the tear.  Grab what you can.

Getting down to the last leaf

When a whole head of bolted lettuce (all you garden folks know that's what it's called when it is starting to grow tall and make seeds) lands in your yard, in the hen world you have to get to busy or there'll be nothing left to cackle about (or eat).

Katy reigns over the core

Going down!

The first lettuce plantings have turned bitter, so chicken Things I get to do today are fling a head over the hen-pen fence and watch the gals gobble it down.  I'm expecting them to say "oink."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Perfect Scoop*

This is not about ice cream.  There is a fabulous recipe book by that title* with everything you need to know about ice cream by David Lebovitz.  Sorbets, sherbets, ice creams, granitas and toppings and cones--everything.  But this post is not about ice cream.  Its about a scoop--a perfect one.

Yesterday's Things I get to do today included tending the front flower bed, the one by the curb.  It faces east and dries out quickly after a watering.  Mulch would be the answer in our area, something like bark dust.  Here in Oregon you can hire a big truck with a huge hose that will pump a cubic yard in three minutes.  People cover all their bare ground with bark dust.  Keeps the weeds down (for awhile) and looks tidy and uniform.  My mulch is similar but is enhanced with compost and good things for the plants.  It helps hold the moisture in the ground because sometimes in Oregon it does not rain.

Putting mulch in an established flower bed needs to be done carefully with a degree of sensitivity and attention.  The big truck and the hose are out.  My usual technique is to gather what I can between my two hands and place it between and around plants.  By the end of the second wheel barrow load heading out to the flower bed, my back starts talking to me in a low, grumbly tone.

Bottomless milk jugs
made into plant cloches
The perfect scoop
So yesterday I remembered a recycling tip about making scoops: from plastic jugs and containers.  Ding Dong!  The little pile of cloches used earlier in the season to keep the bell peppers warm popped to mind.  They are made from gallon milk jugs with the bottoms cut out.  All I needed to do was grab the handle and scoop.  It held three times what my hands could carry.  It was easy to shake it around the plants without having to bend over so much.  It was fast.  It was perfect.

It was also hot and noon straight up when I finished, and all I could think about was the Perfect Scoop--of ice cream.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When All Good Things Come Together

Regular red Raspberries, Autumn Gold Raspberries, Blue
Berries and Marionberries just waiting for their
cream and sugar

It's called a convergence.  When things all come together, the whole is often greater than the sum of the parts.  So add a splash of cream and a half teaspoon of sugar and your have a harmonious convergence of flavors and delight.

I love, love, love this time of year when all the berries in my yard overlap their sweet ripeness and play out their colors and textures on my tongue.  It's the best of the best.  Most delightful of the Things I get to do today is bask in the goodness of it all.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Marionberry Thumbs

Big black "thumb"

I always pick the "thumbs" first. They see to it.  They are always the first ones to get ripe.

It's marionberry time of year. Just as the raspberries start to wain, right around the Fourth of July, you can count on green nubbins expanding and turning red, and small red berries growing FAT and plump and black.  Always the first berry to ripen at the end of baring stem of about six or seven fruits is the short one in the middle.  Always.

Ready to pick

Naming the short berry digit "thumb" was one of the Things I get to do today while picking berries.  After the thumb is picked, the other berries ripen quickly, though I'm sure it has nothing to do with the removal of the fruit.

Green nubbins turning red, then turning black

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make a cobbler like I promised a few months back in "Buzzing Berries." Stop by for dessert if you're in the area tonight.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

There Comes a Time

The hen house needs cleaning.  Eventually, there comes a time.  It isn't the most favored of Things I get to do today, but today's the day.  It's extra warm out, so all the water used in the cleaning will run off and dry up before the girls head for bed at dark.

Nina in the fresh and sparkly mezzanine nest box

The nest boxes will have all the dried egg (from accidents and scrub jay intrusion) washed out,  dust and debris hosed off the tops, and, when they are moisture free again, they'll be filled with fresh, crisp, fragrant straw.

Katy says it passes the "Hens' Housing" inspection

Perches will be scrubbed with bleach water and dusted lightly for mites.  The mezzanine will be hosed and brushed till clean.

Clean straw, ankle deep on a chicken

 Fresh sand goes on the floor before clean straw.

The only thing left to clean up is me.  Toss me in the shower, please!  There comes a time. . . .

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Paddy Whack, Give the Dog a Bone

The Neighbors next door are away.  You can tell by the tone in their dog's bark, lonely, distressed and badly stuck in the bark-until-dawn mode. Thursday night, she gave up in exhaustion after a couple of hours.  But last night was a warm night.  For blocks around folks had their windows open.  Dynasty (the old dog's name) was securely stuck in "bark."

I can often sleep through this sort of thing.  One ear doesn't hear very much, so I tuck the other one into the pillow and pay the noise no mind.  But a lonely heart taints the voice, and I could her plaintive and perpetual expressions even through the pillow. Irritation energy from all the sleepless neighbors was also sparking around with each continuing doggy exclamation.

Looks like 1:30 AM is the time to start the Things I get to do today with settling Dynasty so we all could get back to sleep.   Two cups of ancient dog food (rancid for years, I imagine), slippers, a bathrobe and a flashlight in hand, I pad over to the neighbor's house, around one side to the fence and heave the kibbles over and up onto their deck where the dog takes her station of lonely and forgotten watch and alarm.  She remained bark-stuck for another minute or so until her nose brought in a more important message: food.

The sun rose on a quiet neighborhood this morning.  You could hear the birds singing.  Unfortunately, Dynasty heard another dog in the area and began her incessant tale of woe all over again.  This time I did what I had to do--found the second-hand bone in my back yard that still have a couple of good chews on it and plenty of good sniffing (we had been dog-sitting our daughter's pooch last week, and he didn't take it with him, having gnawed all the best stuff off already), hiked over to the neighbor and thrust the bone up onto the deck.  Instant silence.  Some 8 hours later it is still quiet.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Wall

It's been on the list for nearly 10 years.  And, yes, it was a different kind of list then--have-to-do sorts of things.  Today the pictures came down.

Left Side
Right Side

 A whole wall of memories, the composite heart-throbs and highly admired from 1997 through college, my daughter's picto-memory-graph.

Blue Goo

On the non-practical side, this wall of chosen photos has become sacred is some way, part of a life it seems.

But she's not lived at home for years.  Guests attempt to get some sleep here with all those wildly famous people. For many reasons it feels like it's time for a new wall.

The practical side (my hubby would say of me that there always has to be a practical side) is that the poster putty gets imbedded in the textures of the wall.  A scraper tool just makes a bigger mess.  The idea of a whole wall of blue polka dots was daunting at best.  Hard to move into such a challenge.

But today determination got the better of me.  What I discovered was that the enemy, poster putty, was also the friend.  A small ball of the stuff rolled, rubbed, and repeated pressed over a blue smudge removed it entirely as you can see at the right.  Hope fueled the project which still took considerable time, estimating that there were approximately 500 little glops of putty on that wall.

I wish she had been here to reflect with me.  Honesty requires that I also wish she had been here for the reason that 500 rolls-rubbs-presses causes very sore fingers.  The fingers will heal.  The memories will live on and be part the Things I get to do today for a long time to come.