Saturday, September 29, 2012

I'm Back!

Last of the Things I get to do today is tell you all I'm back.  The lasagna was terrific.  The hikers were well (more on all of that soon).   However, the days after my return from Mowich Lake just overtook me with Bailey Dog and my own backpack trek which, by the way, was 30.1 miles.

The hikers came home and immediately (well, actually 36 hours later) I left for a week to check on my mom in northeastern Washington--no computers and no internet.  But I'm back.  I'm looking forward to filling in some of the blanks.  Thanks for your well wishes, concerns and comments.  See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gone Camping!

Today and tomorrow.  That's how long I'll be gone.  Things I get to do today are:  pack up the dog Bailey, pack up the camp stove, fuel, sleeping bag, pack up real food for real dinner and real breakfast, and drive one state north to Mowich Lake on the northwest side of Mt. Rainier. I'll camp one night with  those hungry Wonderland Trail hikers, feeding them dinner and breakfast the next morning. The menu for dinner is lasagna with eggplant from the garden and tomato sauce squeezed out of our own Rapreco Paste Tomatoes.  The sauce was the best I've ever eaten, I swear!  We'll add a huge tossed green salad and finish it off with wet, wet, juicy watermelon.

Breakfast to fuel those three pair of legs to Cataract Creek Campsite will be fried potatoes (from the garden), scrambled eggs from our chorus of hens, and sticky, gooey sweet cinnamon rolls from the nearby chain grocery store.  We are not so high and mighty as to not recognized the value of something that tastes this good that is filled with sugar and refined flour.  Hooray for common sense and happy campers.

Lasagna with eggplant and homemade tomato sauce

There'll be have more photos when I'm back on Thursday afternoon.  You get the leftover lasagna, if they leave any.  If they liked it, I'll write up the recipe and share it with you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eventually Exquisite

Very sticker and not pretty either

Eventually something happens.  The cardoon(s) have been in uglyville limbo for two months!  After the  fluffy, purple, honeybee-attracting blossoms closed up and morphed into brown, stickery balls, I've been waiting.  Checking to see what was next has been on every Things I get to do today list since then.  See, there it is:  "Check to see if the cardoon is making a pretty puff ball."  Until today the answer has been no.

Biggest blossom ready to send out fairy puffs

Suddenly, but just one at a time, the hundreds of seeds in each head are putting out their two-dozen wings and soaring off on the wind:  destination unknown.

Individual seeds ready to take the next wind.

They spring from a clamped-tight ball or from the golden fur of the first flower to bloom on the stalk.  Either way, the fairies are playing games with these exquisite parachutes.  Magic on the wind!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Food Drop #1

Pretty good looking group, though Matt illustrates his bottomless
pocket, a victim of the trail.  Gordon (right) came back to Portland
with me.  Spirit was willing.  Flesh was weak.  30+ miles was enough.
Down to three but ready to set out on the next 33 miles
from Longmire to Mowich Lake.

Remember the clean underwear! Remember to put in the extra fuel. Remember all the components of three meals a day for the next three days. When I went to bed, there were so many important Things I get to do today (the next morning) that I set my alarm for 6 AM. It is "meet-the-crew-to-trade-dirty-clothes-for-clean-ones-and-bring-extra-food day.

Happiest when she's working hard!

A real lunch of Foot-long sandwiches from "Subway" and dessert of peach crisp disappeared so fast you could almost hear it being inhaled.

Securing the trekking poles.

Nearly ready to role.

Well, Food-Drop Mama did a pretty darn good job of driving in provisions, but she didn't bring any brown sugar!  Brown sugar is the key component for being able to swallow the morning oatmeal. Dang!  Well, the raisins, cranberries, and cinnamon will have to do. Promised (and wrote it down) to bring the Brown Sugar to the next connection.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


When a cat reaches 20 years, that's pretty much enough.  Except sometimes the cat is still alive, though senile and decrepit.  And well-loved as many cats are, they'll find their own time to leave this plane.  Same with a good dog.  Some breeds live longer than others, but when a critter is done, it's done.

Hit the road, Girl!

Now, my hiking boots, on the other hand, are supposed to last forever.  At least that's how my calculations go.  Bought them in 1997, hiked the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood, climbed nearly to the top of Kilimanjaro in Africa, stomped around the Northwest a little, loaned them to my daughter.  But they're only 15, with low mileage to boot.  Am certain they could last to 20.

Major failure all around the sole
What brings all these numbers, and memories, and animals stories to the fore is my family-is-gone-hiking-I'll-get-in-shape-while-they're-away routine.  The first day out, I wore a fancy-pants name brand pair of walking shoes with no socks, and came home with a hot-spot on one toe.  Next day on the road dealing with the dog, the dog's pack, and my pack (turns out it was 42 pounds, oofta!), I pulled the trusty old boots off the shelf.  The fit is perfect, soothing to the foot, supportive, strong, but not too much so.  I love them.

Shwopppers instead of heels on my boots.  
Other than the massive weight on my back, it was a fine walk and first of the Things I get to do today, though I noticed a funny sound toward the end of the walk each time my heels came down.  Thought maybe I had a rock stuck in the tread.  About a quarter mile from home, the flapping began.  The whole sole was cracking off the shoe of the  boot, with the heel completely separated, shwopppping along with each step!  I was stunned and laughing as I limped unevenly along home,  and grateful for the wits to wear the boots close to home and not out on a backpack trip of some mileage.  Apparently for these boots, this brand, this breed, 20 years is not in the cards. Yesterday at 15 they said "It is enough!"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Left Behind

Fresh before the adventure

They're on the trail. A text message said they were at Summerland (their second night's camp site), arm was much better, and they were very tired. Today's hike was 10.3 miles with packs averaging 43 pounds. Tomorrow will be 11.1 miles.

It's called the Wonderland Trail, that magical walkway that encircles Mt. Rainier.  93 miles of ups and downs reach over the shoulders and arms of that mountain.  If all the elevation gain were added together it would be four miles of straight up.  Of course, that is not so.

Bailey dog and I 
For days we've been collecting food items that are now assembled into 10 breakfasts, 10 lunches and 10 suppers for four people.   Mountains of plastic bags stuffed with instant oats, fruit toppings, trail mix, beef jerky, rye crisp (I'm in charge of breakfast and lunch) have been forming on the kitchen counter.

But the food was finished, meals assembled, packs were packed, and the crew (spider-bitten arm and all) headed off to their hiking vacation.

Bailey and I are home alone.  My body wasn't in shape to do this jaunt.  Bailey dog needed someone to be with while his owners were away.  Things I get to do today include planning for next time.  Got out a good-sized backpack.  Put in my sleeping bag with 36 pounds of weights.  Will wear it for the next 10 days while Bailey and I walk around the neighborhood.  Hope to log 30+ miles.  Next time someone else can watch the dog.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Spider Identification

It's mating season for these boys.  And when they have these urges, they come out into the open and march around in my house looking for the girls!  Sometimes they bite.

Got worse before it got better
My hubby was bitten sometime Saturday night we think.  His left bicep started to itch.  By Sunday bedtime when he finally became aware of it, the swollen area was the size of a mango pit.  The bite area looked a bit angry.  You don't need the details, but the skin area affected by the bite--oozing to get rid of the toxins--was 2x3".  The doctor at Urgent Care reassured us that the toxins were localized and would simply run their course.  Good news indeed since hubby was scheduled to leave on a 10-day backpack trip around Mt. Rainier in Washington State the next day.

2 1/2" across the legs
Then we saw another one of these giant spiders just like the three we had already seen during the past week.  Suddenly I knew that putting a name on these spiders was an important Thing I get to do today.  Should they be caught sweetly and gently and turned outdoors to live out their lives in peace?  Or should they be terminated?  Needed to know who they really were to answer that question.

I found an excellent spider identification chart on line that showed this exact image: it's a Hobo Spider.  Those little boxing gloves out front are the male genitalia, just so you know.  So there's no more Mrs. Nice Gal around these critters.  I've got a vacuum cleaner with a long hose.  Weeeeeeeefpt!  I'm certainly not the girl those guys are looking for!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Socially Accepted

Ice Cream is about as social as you can get.  From the brilliant suggestion in a MaryJanes' Farm Magazine in the summer of 2011, we've begun a neighborhood tradition, two years running now, of having an ice cream social the first Sunday after Labor Day.

The weather has shown us its extremes of melt-your-ice-cream-in-a-minute 90 degrees the first year and 68 degrees with a noticeable breeze this last Sunday.  No one seems to care either way.  What fun it is for folks to chat about their summer vacations and projects, to catch up on how school goes for the young ones, to drip ice cream and wait briefly in line for third helpings of ten varieties of home-made delicious goodies.

Nearly all the recipes came from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz.  The fun part was eating the bowls filled with all the icy sweetness.  Making ice cream cones shaped into bowls is delicious way to use up all the egg whites generated from custard-type ice cream.  If this kind of effort for a special dessert sounds like it might be fun, check out Joe Pastry for the recipe.

This batter is sticky!
Cookie dough scoop

Two circles are better than three

Shape the bowls over an inverted glass

There are plenty of Things I get to do today, but I must remember what was learned the previous time I made these bowls.  1.  Thin is better than thick even if your circle is bigger than the 6 inches:  easier to shape the bowl when it comes out of the oven.  2.  Use a cookie dough scoop for measuring out the 2 tablespoons required for each bowl.  3.  If you put 3 circles on a baking sheet, the third one will have cooled too much to shape it easily.  More is not always better.  Sometimes it's just more.  4. Do this again next year and for as many years as you can.  5.  When the neighbors visit, they become and stay friends.  When they stop talking to each other, there's space for problems to slip in. Fill folks with ice cream to keep things sweet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tooth of the Lion

Tooth of the lion

These guys really know how to propagate.  I was observing the stages of the process the other day--part of the Things I get to do today when I have everything else done.  This is where you are supposed to laugh.  When does anyone, even a "get-to" person, have everything else done?  But back to the guys/gals in my yard and their techniques for spreading the word and themselves.

Lying low and waiting for the seeds to develop

Dandelions could also be called "Artful Dodgers."  This is what I've observed: A bloomin' Dandelion stands up as tall as it can to be pollinated. After the pollination process, the flower closes up and lies back down, tucked tightly out of sight until the seeds mature.
Growing tall to catch the wind

Full blown, full bloom

Upon reaching full potential, the seed head stands straight up and grows quickly--several inches in a day or so--so that the pretty, puffy seeds can catch the wind and make a million more plants.  Indeed these Lions' Teeth have quite a bite.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Crazy Kraut

Most of the time I'm half crazy.  I'm also half German and don't know which half is crazy at the moment.  Ever since being bitten by the Kefir (fermented milk) bug, I'll try krauting anything/everything.

Food processor did this for me

Fall gardens produce lots of Things I get to do today--way more than any regular "today" can handle.  But then you already knew that.  Just because one whole bed of tomatoes has the flavor equal to sticking your tongue out into the wind doesn't mean they can just be lobbed over the fence to the chickens.  They are tomatoes, after all.  So I pulled up all the plants, harvested 25 pounds or so of green tomatoes that I made into kraut.  First time for everything, right?   The cookbook said you could use any vegetable.

Used a plastic bag with water to hold veggies under the brine.
Clever, sure to fit, but didn't weight the kraut enough.

Keeping the veggies under the brine is the most important thing in krauting.  Inexperience found me forgetting to measure the crock to see if the hold-down plate would fit.  What if it wedged in so tight I couldn't pull it out?

With the weight-plate in a plastic bag,  it could be
tested for size and pulled free when it was time
to check the krauting process.
Now the truly crazy part:  I could just sit down in the middle of the kitchen floor with a jar of this tomato kraut and a fork and be the happiest person on the block.

Crock, brine, and tomatoes with plate to hold them down.
A jar of juice stands guard and holds everything under
the brine.
Half gone already.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

Life From the Sky

Daphne with its morning drink

It's been over two months, now.  This morning before dawn, before being even slightly awake, I could smell it through the open bedroom window.  Moisture on parched earth--the finest of perfumes!

On a fragrance wheel, perhaps it was between "fresh" and "woody."  An artist of the trade would talk of head notes, heart notes and base notes.

Fresh rain:  fragrance that can't be bottled

No rain for more than two months makes rainy Portland a very dry place.  The Things I get to do today are all now soothed with the balm of this heavenly substance.  The fully-ablaze zinnias are shining wet.  Leaves that have felt only hose water for a very long time are refreshed and serene with real water.  They and I say the fragrance is a blend of "heart" and "heaven."

Friday, September 7, 2012

High-Crime Alley!

Are his paws red?  Caught by the camera

I call it the alley.  It's so small that if it were a high-crime area, the perpetrators would need to make reservations.  Not much room.  But the little criminals don't read and can't tell time.  Dang.  If I knew when they were going to be there,  I'd lie in wait and nab the little buggers.  It would be first of the Things I get to do today.  

In that narrow walkway between us and the neighbors, I found evidence of the crime:  piles of sunflower seeds and well-chewed heads from the sunflowers.  This is where they go to work over their loot.     
Even a fully-stretched squirrel is not long
enough to cut off the flower head and run.

Maybe these guys are just teenage boys doing their little vandalizing thing--you know, having a good prank on the older couple who live in the green house with the white trim.

Broad-daylight thievery 

"Meet ya tonight after dark.  We'll take down Andy's Hop Vines.  You know, cut the twine in chunks and chew up the plants.  That'll be a hoot!"

Didn't notice the twine had gone missing
but spotted it on the roof a few days ago!

"Then tomorrow night we'll hit the pile of stuff the ole lady left on the table.  We'll steal the bean twine she thinks she is so clever to save.  We'll show her who's smart around here."

I think we are in for an early fall:  Trick or Treat is here already.  The joke is on me!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Art by Gravity

Just in from the yard, flower heads bent down
Two days later, each stem is artfully and elegantly shaped 

You've seen it here before.  Gravity and flowers, the pull down makes the flowers face up.  Gravity has  such an artful way, twirling and swirling the stems with elegance a human hand knows nothing of.

This year slender branches of the Rudbeckia seem to break off at the central stalk.  Just enough connection remains to keep the flowers alive. Gathering these for house flowers is part of my Things I get to do today. Arranging them over the next few days is what Nature gets to do today.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Beans Went Up. The Beans Come Down

End of the season.  Ready to come down

Pole beans know how to climb.  They know how to hang on.  But I love them because my tall frame prefers to reach up rather than bend over to pick.

String support for the beans has special requirements:  strong enough,  able to pass under the bottom support beam (a stalk of bamboo), compostable.  Many years, I hit only one of the criteria.  That was this year.  I used garden twine.  The big ball would not go under the lower support, and twine takes years to break down in the compost pile.  Tangled twine is a guaranteed mess.

Beans pushed down the twine.
Save the twine for next year.

So I cut lengths to tie at the bottom, stretch up over the top and then back at the bottom forming a giant upside down "V."  Four of these per side worked slick. The beans were never the wiser. Things I get to do today include bringing down the beans. Untie the ends of the twine at the bottom. Grab the bean vines at the top and force them down the twine, slipping the untied twine out of the vine bundle. The twine can be rolled and saved for next year. Bean vines go to the chickens for them to make eggs.  What a good idea!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Indy 500 (mm)

Late night with a flash light will tell you these tracks were made by some big fellas!
I don't know where the slugs go during the day, but at night they make tracks.

They drag race every night, I think.  You know how the young folks like to race at fast and furious speeds around the neighborhood.  Well, just imagine it in your back  yard!  Odd thing is that I never hear it.  But as I'm starting the Things I get to do today each morning, I see the evidence of it all.  "Tire" marks are all over my back steps!