Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Dreds

Miss Squash loves Halloween.  She got all dressed up just for this holiday,  put on her best face and her best hair-do.  She'd even answer the door for you if you stop by to Trick or Treat.  She's taking over that job since I'm away visiting my mother who has many Things I get to do today for the rest of this week!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Unconverted Bean Vines
In our family that word meant "met the Lord.  Saw the light."  But as Things I get to do today see the light (of day) slipping away, Fall falling all around us and Winter dropping in not far behind, I find myself highly motivated to convert one garden bed into it's fall-winter-spring green house.

Vines gone, shelves installed

Last spring was the first time the zippers (of the cover) and studs (of the structure) came together making a safe haven for seeds, tender shoots and baby plants.  The translucent covering over the vertical garden frame was a raving success.  Today they meet again.  There are lettuces to be transplanted into the soil beneath.  Geraniums would like to carry on instead of being snuffed out by frost in November.  There'll be away to fit them in, too.  I'm already itching to start seeds put into their labeled packages only weeks (days) ago.  Common sense will help me wait till spring.
For Halloween
Garden Ghost with a very faint pumpkin
in its belly

As I look out tonight it's apparent that the garden bed has moved from green house to ghost all in one week.  Now that's a conversion!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tackless and Broken

Broken cardboard tube removed
Pant Hanger:  dead.

How many lives can a dead pant hanger live?  You know your pant hangers are dead when the cardboard tubes loses their tackiness and the pants fall off unless balanced perfectly.  You know your pant hangers are dead when the tubes slump into an upside-down arches and the pants rumple in compliance creating unsightly lines around the knees when you put them on.  You know your pant hangers are dead when the tubes just snaps under the load making odd parallelograms unsuitable for anything.

But Things I get to do today sometimes embrace the unsuitable and the broken.  This piece of wire with a hanger hook in the middle supporting the two smaller hooks on the end will be repurposed.  Last ski season was the beginning:  my husband's parka water bottles have always been difficult to drain and dry after a day on the slopes.  A hole punch made a neat hole in the margin at the bottom.  Over the hooks and up to drain and dry--a problem no more.

Garden gloves were next to beg a better drier that would let their fingers spread.

Other uses are stored in your imaginations!  Grab this handy hook and get cracking.  Please share your ideas with the rest of us!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Love That Store

Many square feet empty

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."  Bob Dylan said that.  In other words, some things are obvious.  My closet, not even slightly related to Bob Dylan, would say, "You don't need an interior designer to know this is wasted space."

Several weeks ago creativity got the best of me and began plotting to add shelves to this vast opportunity in my closet.  I measured, planned and bought the shelf.
Long bolt for a shelf support
Very strange nuts for spacers

Enthusiasm does not take the place of reading the labels on products, however.  The long shelf board was cut to lengths and the wall support installed.  When I tested the board against the wall, it was way short of reaching the front support.  I remembered the distance from wall to support being 12 inches.  I remember buying what I thought was a 12" wide shelf.  Sad truth was I needed a shelf 12 1/2" wide and the board was really only 11 1/2" wide.  One whole inch short of the front support won't work.  Shelves don't float on air.

Perfect, white-capped bolts to hold
the shelf

I headed out to the garage with an open mind and began to rummage through a bin of odd bolts and connectors.  That's when I fell in love with my favorite store all over again.  There in a bag with random pieces from past furniture construction was just what I needed: four long bolts, prefinished with white heads and some very odd nuts that would act like spacers to hold the shelf one inch back and tight to the wall.  WOW!  How does that happen?

Waste no more!

The end results are thrilling.  A great idea had slipped and fallen into all the wrong spaces and places and then came back looking like a champ.  Lessons from the Things I get to do today are write down the measurements, take a measuring tape to the store, measure the boards to confirm.  And I've fallen in love all over again with my favorite store, the place that provided the assemble-yourself furniture with options and extra parts for me to find and use for this project.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Basil Bonanza

Mt. Basil

Chopped fine

So now the basil puts money in my pocket as well as forecasting the weather.

Those cute little packages of cubed frozen basil as mentioned in the previous basil blog sell for $3.99 each.  My mountain of basil made approximately 18 of those.

Bagged to freeze

Things I get to do today are count my money and head to the bank. That's $71.82.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Mess of Beans

Grandma called it that--a mess.  I'm sure it was not something she brought over from Norway.  She was probably just talking "old farmer/garden" talk.  On any given day in the summer, she would cook up a mess of greens, a mess of beets, or a mess of peas.  One never referred to fruits this way, nor corn, but I'm certain you could have a mess of potatoes.

When the Things I get to do today mean bringing down the remnants of the bean vines, it gives an opportunity to glean the very last of the summer crop.  They looked spent six weeks ago, but a few little blossoms popped out, and as bean blossoms will do, they turned into beans.

Blessings Abound

So tonight we are celebrating our last mess (not mass--they aren't Catholic though they do have a nearly sacred flavor) of beans.

Minced garlic is added to the rosemary olive oil in the frying pan. Next the cut beans land in the hot pan. When they are all lightly seared, in go two tablespoons of water. And, quick, clamp on the lid.  Six minutes later, take off the lid, add salt, toss and serve. Hot, crunchy and reeking of garlic, this gleaned, past-the-end-of-the-season mess was better than dessert.  We are so blessed!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Upon More Careful Observation

Mystery is never absent--lower right.
The planter is spent.  After a whole summer and a good chunk of fall, plenty of which had a record lack of moisture, anything that has survived in this tired pot of plants is indeed a hero.  The idea of checking out the faithful arrangement of growies drifted through the Things I get to do today, and I finally detoured while headed to the chicken house to at least tip the plant container to drain out the gatherings of our lately heavy rains.

Big Green will come out someday and will be a. . .
And I moved the whole arrangement to an area that would collect less water. That's when I noticed a bright green spot in an unusual place. Ajuga trails over the edge.  It has purple flowers.  What is this chartreuse bud going to flower into on the Ajuga? More careful observation: big green is not technically part of the plant; big green is a chrysalis. 

Mystery.  Suggestions?  Can anyone tell me what this will be?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nature's Arrangement

The top broke off in the middle of summer.  Rudebeckia has brittle stems that often don't support its heady show of flowers.  In September the remaining fat stalks were cut and thrust into a large vase for a  patio party arrangement.

Urgent Things I get to do today brought me into the yard/garden to tidy up before the rain made it impossible.  That's when I noticed the lovely contrast arranged by Nature herself.  She used the wind to drive the last few remaining spikes of Rudebeckia into the Beauty Berry.  The berries are not yet fully colored and usually miss being mixed with flowers in any arrangement.  But Nature knows best.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Basil Barometer

My garden is smart.  Your's probably is, too--if you planted basil, that is. I understand that basil can tell you when the summerish fall season is coming to an end and when to put the garden to bed. As long as the leaves are green and spotless, the growing is good. When the leaves turn black, that's the end.

Most of the leaves are still green.  These are saying "coming soon."

Weather fortune tellers that we all like to be, help me read my basil leaves today.

So in the midst of and between rain showers Things I get to do today take me to the basil borders to pull the fragrant plants. I'll strip the leaves and maybe the stalk of blossoms, toss them into the food processor for a buzz. The ground basil will be bagged, pressed very flat, and frozen. If the store can sell frozen chopped basil (just like fresh), there's no reason why I can make my own even if my fertile imagination hasn't created a way to freeze it in the cute little cubes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pineapples Have What?

Seeds on the cutting mat and on the fruit

Am I the last one to know?  Things I get to do today found me in the kitchen preparing a pineapple.  My usual procedure is to slice off the bottom, slice off the top, slice off the sides in strips.  The little brown eyes can be ignored or cut out or munched around or munched up when it is served.  This time the pineapple was different!

Around some of the eyes were flecks of dark brown.  When I scraped to remove the fleck, it got bigger and squirted out an object that looked like a fat, curved flax seed.  No way! The more I scraped, the more seeds I collected. Since when do pineapples have seeds?

Seeds popped out.  One seed with just its tip showing

An on-line investigation showed that pineapples do, indeed, have seeds, that others were as surprised as  I was, and that you can actually sprout the seeds and grow a pineapple plant. Five years to harvest it said.

High germination rate I'm told

You know me.  I'm all over this one.  We are going to grow pineapple (plants)  and I'll keep you posted.  If I'm still blogging in five years, I show you the home-grown fruit.

Friday, October 19, 2012

From Where I Sit

Cleaning tools

The perspective is different when you are sitting on the kitchen floor.  There's lots of time to think, to ponder, to write blogs in your head.  Keep the scrub brush moving on the next six squares.  Spray, scrub, wipe, rinse.  There are more than 400 squares in my kitchen and family room.  I scrubbed them all, with a brush and a powerful cleaner.

It's odd that in the 20 years since the house was remodeled, there's been only one product that would actually take all the dirt off the floor. If it's mopped with anything other than the famous cleaner solution, the dark areas merely become a lighter shade of gray. About a year ago I ran out.  The whole floor had become that unpleasant hue.

The squares in the upper half of the picture had been mopped but
are still gray.  The lower scrubbed squared are bright and white.
So one of the most inspiring of all the Things I get to do today (now that I have more product) is clean, really clean, all those 400 plus squares.  Some obscure ones have been waiting for four years--proof that I'm not a compulsive cleaner.  And from the vantage point of the floor, inspiration comes easily--the dingy cupboards will be next, then the windows.  It's funny that from down here on the floor, the baseboards are really showing their wear--new paint for them and, of course, new paint for the walls.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fortunes in Turkish Coffee

There was a woman in my cup!  And a fish, a tree and perhaps a guru, I'm not sure.  My newest friend, met, coffeed and instantly loved on Tuesday, is from Turkey.  We had only begun our conversation it seemed but had actually been together two hours already, sipping from tiny cups the exquisitely rich brew she had made for us.

No woman or fish in this cup,
But you might see other figures
And then she told me about drinking the last of the liquid, putting the saucer on top of the cup, turning the whole thing toward me (it has to be toward the person) and making a wish, if I liked. The upside down cup sits nested on its little plate until the bottom is cool to touch.

When my cup was no longer warm, I turned it over to look inside. That's when I found the woman (she was blonde) and the tree and who knows what else. Exploring for a definitive guide to the symbols dribbled in empty coffee cups was certainly the most unusual of Things I get to do today. All of this leads me to my next project--getting some finely ground Turkish coffee.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Black Bead Mystery

Spiny little balls form
after the Canna blooms

Big black beads were in the seed box this spring. When I put them there (I had to be the only one who would do this), apparently I was confident that my memory would keep their name handy for the day when the information would be helpful.

Hot color in the cool Fall

Must have forgotten to inform Miss Memory of this part of her job description.  So I threw the big black beads away.  Hadn't a clue what might spring up if they went into the ground.

Mature seed pod revealing enough
of the big black bead to solve the mystery

And now the lovely sleek and slender lipstick-red cannas are showing their full cycle--buds, blooms, balls and beads--all at once even in this fall season.

Label them in a seed packet--
this time I will remember what they are 

The mystery is solved by Things I get to do today as I pause for a moment to admire the wonders of this plant.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Beds To Bed

Quilts tell stories.  The design names reveal a glimpse of the plot:  Wedding Knot, Drunkard's Path,  Dublin's Steps, Coffins Star,  Dad's Bow Tie,  Alabama Beauty.  Family history and all its memories are woven into the fabrics.

Leaves--from the earth to the earth

When putting the garden beds to bed was on the Things I get to do today, I began thinking about quilts.  The idea of keeping the earth in the garden covered with mulch or ground cover was working its way into this fall ritual. A quilt for each bed, of course.

Nature's Quilt Design
The trees in my yard have not dropped enough of their leaves to make a thick enough mulch, and our gusty winds that come with fall rain would tend to flap the covers by sending all the leaves to one side of the yard instead of snuggling down into each garden bed.  But the giant Pin Oaks in the nearby park had piled up the gutters by the sidewalk with their leaves for several blocks.  A quick trip with  my little pickup and garbage bags, the results sucked through my leaf blower/shredder to create a fine texture that will stay in place, and the beds were all tucked in the for rain, the fall and the winter.  Nature's quilted design creates beauty at every level.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tripartisan Blue Berries

Blue Berries and Basil

The earth, the soil, the plants don't care who's president.  It's lovely being in the garden and knowing that this space is free of political noise.  Avoiding campaign comments of all kinds is certainly part of the Things I get to do today.

Colors have political significance, I'm told.  And as I survey what's changing and what is thriving in the garden, it's apparent that there has been a shift in the blueberries. The berries are as true blue as you can get.  Today their leaves are blazey, crazy red!  But then they started out green.  All these colors exist peacefully, without debate, in one lovely plant.  Not only that, they are extravagant exhibitionists, pleased in their own gracious way with what and who they are--no nasty secrets, no agendas--just berries and beauty for the pleasure of all.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Happy Damp Dance

The opening lines help set the tone.  When the morning began with heavy cloud cover, the stage was set, the play about to begin.

I didn't want to miss this.  Already moisture glistened the patio, and drops could be seen on their vertical plunge to dampen the earth.  I grabbed my rain coat for a few "quick" Things I get to do today before it became seriously wet.

Canna pods scrubbed clean.
Fresh and renewed.

But the pace of this show surprised me.  The rain was immediately steady, dense, heavy and very wet.  Delights in every drop!  The girls in the hen yard were stunned.  Three months is close to forever for a chicken.  I think they had forgotten that water can fall from the sky.  The rest of us nearly had. But now we're pretty much all mixed into the first act of this show, everyone in their own version of the Happy Damp Dance.  Let it rain!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Chinese Chicken Take-Out

Dinner delivered is the best.  When it's filled with your favorite flavors, that's even better.  My chickens are in heaven.  Bok Choy flown in especially for them.  Delivered.  Fresh.

Chinese Take-Out--Bok Choy

The connection wasn't really clear until cleaning out the garden beds was next up of the Things I get to do today.  All the usual tasks:  removing tomatoes and their cages, putting away plant supports, pulling out plants gone to seed or beyond use for the kitchen.  And then--there was the Bok Choy.  Of course, the few healthy plants would cause a much greater thrill in the hen yard than on my table.

Golden Girls in the back ground looking for "real" food

So out it came.  One quick wrist-flick and it was over the fence into the girls' hen pen--Chinese Take-Out for the chickens--with Nina, Nora and Katy pecking all over it.  Lena and Latifah seem to prefer American style--oats, wheat, dirt--or nothing at all.  Exotic flavors aren't for everyone!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Open Season

A fabulous gift from my best of knitting friends, Karen.

I wasn't really sure until I went for my walk this morning.  Pulled on my socks in preparation for the shoes and heading out the door, and then I knew.

There's something in the air lately that is whispering "yarn" and "sweaters."  You can hear it with only a minimal adjustment to your imagination.  As further confirmation, inspiration and a good pattern came together a couple of weeks ago when I started a small knitting project.  Yes, it's official.  Declaring open season for all knitters, timid or brave, beginning or advanced, wild or conservative--Things I get to do today.  Let the knitting begin!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sweet Sorrow

Don't want to say goodbye!  "Parting is such sweet sorrow."  We linger, savoring the moments, intending that this space in time will continue on uninterrupted.  Forever.  But the only thing that is for sure is change.  We will be parted, summer and we.

The laundry is nearly dry before it is hung!
Our dry, blue skies have been an amazement to visitors, to Portland folks in general, and especially to the weather forecasters.  And we, as we read the forecast in the paper, day after day, week after week, month after month figure we must be three sheets to the wind to see uninterrupted sunshine for nearly all of three months.  Sun worshippers are in heaven.  Rain lovers are nervous.

Daily humidity for our area averages 50-60%.  Of late it has been for weeks now between 10 and 20%.  Line-dried laundry freak that I am, this has been bliss.  My garden, flowers and grass are not so happy.  And, I admit to being a rain lover.

For the past two or three weeks the Things I get to do today include spending a few moments each day deep in my imagination, smelling the rain, listening to its patter on leaves and roofs, hearing it gurgle down the gutters and into the empty rain barrels, seeing the plants bask in the life-giving moisture.  The weather forecasters say the dry blue will be gone on Friday.  Showers, they say. Rain, they say.  Thank you to all heaven, I say.

PS: This morning's newspaper says we could have up to 3 inches of rain this weekend. Perhaps I've overdone it!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Toni Award

My Italian neighbor, Tony, is a very generous sort.  In the summer I receive figs, greens, arugula, parsley, plums and asian pears.  I gratefully accept them all.

So the other day when I found a bucket of lovely assorted fruits on my front porch, I automatically thought it was Tony.  That afternoon, as I headed out on an errand, he was out front.  I quickly penned a "thank you" and put it in the bucket to return to him.  But something was off.  When I told him how much I appreciated the beautiful fruit, the colors, the smells, he looked at me rather blankly and a bit confused.  He speaks English quite well, and I was certain he understood me.  Either way, I left the bucket on his front steps.

Mother Nature's master artistry of colors and shapes:  Abundance
Two hours later, I checked email.  Toni, a dear friend who had recently moved to a small acreage with many fruit trees, was checking in with "by now you've probably found the bucket of fruit I left on your front porch."   Tony's befuddlement was now clear at least to me (he is probably still scratching his head.)  Immediate of the Things I get to do today is run across the street to Tony's and get Toni's bucket back.  Maybe Toni (Tony) means "great, big generous heart."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dangers in the Root Cellar

It had been nagging at me for a month or so.  Somehow, the thought never got close enough to my awareness to be acted upon.  But last week when the pest control folks came to spray my house (gasp, choke, do I have to?) to rid it of hobo spiders (we've seen 8 or 9 at last count) so that my husband could stop joking about using his sleeping bag to sleep in the car at night to prevent another nasty bite,  I had the crawl space hatch open to give the pest man access to where the hobos live when they are not marching around in our living space.

You may not remember that at the edge of the crawl space hatch is where my "root cellar" was installed last fall.  And somewhere in the very, back, back recesses of my memory, it seemed that squash was still tucked away in one of the bins.

One year in the root cellar is TOO long

Before the pest man began his toxic work, I checked.  Three squash, indeed, left from last year, not rotten, but with a funny, waxy, sticky feel grinned up at me when I slid out the bin.

Good enough for the chickens was my first thought.  NO!  I'll bake them and use them in a wonderful butternut soup recipe.  After their appropriate time in the oven, I tasted the golden flesh.  Not very good.  I guess the Things I get to do today include baking squash for the hens.

But the chickens didn't really take to it at all.  And any food that is left in the hen yard overnight is fair game for the jays and (can I make this small enough type to barely be seen?) the rats.  Now four days later, most of it is still on the ground in the hen pen.  Good sign that cleaning out the root cellar each spring must find its way to the Things list.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Honeymoon Garden

I pulled into the rest stop off Interstate 90.  The usual reason--there were bathrooms available.  Just as I stepped out of my car,  a woman walked toward me, purposefully, as though she knew me. "Here's the recipe for a honeymoon. Lettuce alone with no dressing." She walked straight past me to her car.  Words to meditate on while on the toilet for sure!

After five days with my mother, driving back to Portland gives time for thought and reflection.  I enjoy the quiet.  It's a time to plan and create Things I get to do today enough for many days to come. The Sprague rest stop woman had given new dimensions to project possibilities.  I was still scratching my head.

Nearly time to harvest seeds for next season

But when I arrived home, I found the first half of the story already written out.  There in my garden, at the end of summer, was a little honeymoon hideaway.  Two burgundy lettuce plants, long since finished with edible leaves, had elegant candelabra-styled crowns with seeds ready for the picking.  Just lettuce. No dressing.  Perfect honeymoon.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Spring, Summer, Fall

It happened while I was away last week.  The gorgeous peony gifted to me by a dear friend revealed its deepest secret.  I was thrilled.  A charge of delight surged through all the Things I get to do today when I found I could take you with me on a "time-lapse" show of this gentle beauty.

The opening of the first bud in the fresh dampness of spring sends tingles through the yard.  Everything is eager for color and elegance.

All summer the merry jester has been hanging out at the tip, waving in the wind, slowing transforming inside.

I'm collecting these seeds--just to play with, to give them a chance, to see if there is more mystery inside like a Russian nesting doll.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wild Turkey

Headed for the woods
They formed a black-shrouded procession. Gliding quietly passed the West fence of Mother's yard, they would be easy to miss. Except that they were so big. And so black.  I must have seen these birds before in my life, but never this close.

Hoping my camera will record the drifting flock is exciting in the Things I get to do today.

Taking a moment to have a good look at me as well

Scenes from "Cookie's Fortune" run through my head.  Signs of Fall on the windows at the elementary school will show crayoned leaves, pumpkins and turkeys.

I'd never eat one of these beautiful creatures, but my only first-hand contact with turkeys has been at the dining table, so gravy and mashed potatoes and Thanksgiving did come to mind, I have to admit!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Healing a Wood Ulcer

Wood ulcer is not a real medical term.  It describes, however, what we found while repairing and rejuvenating the back door.  Over the last 50 years the structure has seen its share of inhabitants come and go, though this old schoolhouse-turned-home has always belonged to my mother.

My sister recently realized that we all, including my mother, were having more and more trouble getting the old knob and paint-coated door jam to release the door from its opening on request.  So she bought a door handle-lever to replace the knob.  Installing it was at the top of the Things-I-get-to-do-today list when I arrived at Mother's place last week.

Knob already gone.
  Deadbolt chipped loose
Ancient deadbolt
Old hardware had to go.  A very dead deadbolt, no key, no bolt, no screws to undo it, had been in place as long as my mother could remember.  A few firm blows with a screwdriver under its lip and it was loose enough for my mother to suggest the claws of a hammer as the next tool.  Popped that sucker right out, it did!  Now there were two gaping and useless holes in the door.  We covered the hole mess with a metal guard, and no one other than all of us reading here needs to know what lies underneath.

Covering a multitude of "sins"

The new handle slipped into a hole made just for it at a comfortable-to-reach height.  Slick. Functional. Handsome with its own strike plate to match.


But now we see the hole in the door jam--the scene of a bundle of careless attempts to fix/replace the strike plate over the last many dozen years.  This is the wood ulcer--deep, ugly, festering, rotten.  No solution but surgery will work.

Prepped for reconstruction

So we cut away to clean wood, making square corners and straight lines.  Wood graft cut to fit the dimensions was glued and wedged in place.  The belt sander cleaned it smooth to its neighbor wood.

Restored and ready for its last
coat of paint.

It's interesting, isn't it, how old wounds/ulcers hold a funny sense of dis-ease about them whether in the body or in the wood.  The repair, cleaning, restoring of the entrance to this home has released old pain and suffering.  Now, as we come and go through that space, it feels free, fresh and peaceful. Healing on so many levels has taken place.