Serendipity

This is the Himalayan Blackberry, or as I like to call it, the Kudzu of the Northwest.  Several years ago this non-native bramble found its way into Washington state and now covers practically every non-mown square inch of land.  We looked at a house here where the backyard was seriously, no lie, so packed with these things that you couldn’t go in.IMG_0484

This is my husband picking said blackberries while we were out riding bikes on the edge of town.  I think he’s so hot when he’s out foraging food.  Hahaha, he will kill me when he sees I’ve posted that he was “foraging food.”IMG_0487

This is the juice of those berries coupled with some sugar (ok, a lot of sugar), and some pectin.IMG_0490

I didn’t feel like digging out my water-bath canner so this is the pot with a folded tea towel in the bottom that I used to can the delicious black jellied bounty.  One of the greatest and most discouraging myths about canning your own food, especially high acid food like jellies, jams, and pickles is that it is difficult to do and requires large amounts of equipment.  It doesn’t.  If more people would learn that this is not true the world would be a better place I believe.  It’s tough to be mad at the world when you’re licking sweet blackberry juice off a spoon.  I mean really.IMG_0492

And this, this is wondrousness in a jar.  Gift of mother earth and some thoughtless horticulturalist.  Life is beautiful and sweet if you just take the time to pick the free berries.IMG_0497

Useful Procrastination

Well, maybe not classic procrastination.

I’ve been struggling with a decision the last few days.  A decision that truly has pros and cons on each side.  So I did the only thing I could, I put it off.  Hahaha.  Not as silly as it sounds.

I was able to put it off with no other price than asking.  It won’t affect me in any overwhelming material way, so why not.

I have to be honest.  It feels really good to have time to explore and gather knowledge.

Never be afraid to ask for more time.

Waiting on Perfection

My dearest friend said to me the other day that after reading some of my recent posts it seems as though I am settling in here.  I can see how it might seem that way.  The yard, the garden, all the improvements we’ve made to this humble dwelling would suggest a certain attachment.  But the truth is I’m not settling in.  I’m still very much unsettled.  Things could change of course.  I’ve got an interview for a position with the same company at a different site next week.  That alone could make a big difference.  I could come to realize that my kids really are grown and capable of being happy and healthy with me in a different state.  But none of those things are true right now.

So why all the effort on the house and the garden?

Well, the house thing has become habit I think.  This is what… the third house we’ve remodeled?  I think that if we were to move into a “ready to live” home we wouldn’t know how to act.

The other though, the garden, the dehydrating and canning, the planting and long term planning – that is the result of learning.  I’ve been sporadically reading Joel Salatin’s You Can Farm and one of the things he tells would-be agriculturists is to try it where you are.  He’s pretty blunt and says straight out that if you can’t do it where you are you probably won’t be able to do it when you finally find that perfect little country place either.

He’s talking about creativity of course.  No one could possibly expect me to be able to raise miniature cows in this 55+ mobile home park.  That would be insane.  But if I can’t grow carrots here in a small patch I definitely won’t be able to grow them in a market garden somewhere else.  If I can’t find some creative way to market what I do here then the most likely outcome at a bigger place is not being able to do it on a grander scale.  Get the picture?

So I’ve begun.  It’s that simple.  And if tomorrow the opportunity to move back home should present itself I will walk away from all the work and not be sad at all because it’s the work, the effort, the learning, THE BEGINNING that is important.

However, the truth is that opportunity may never materialize so I’m through waiting on perfection to shake my hand and say, “Let’s get started.”  I’m starting now and perfection will just have to hustle his ass and catch up to me.

Winter Garden

IMG_0634 Finally got the garden space reorganized.  It’s my little bit of bringing order to chaos. I now have six 7′ X 2′ beds to grow in instead of one 3′ X 6′ bed. Even though there’s more growing space the overall footprint is smaller.  If you look closely you can see the new sod I added around the edge of the area. Beginning with the bed closest to the lower right corner of the picture the beds contain: 1.  Carrots.  Two different kinds (I can’t remember the names and it’s too early in the morning to dig out my garden journal haha).  One kind is a medium length carrot and the other is little ball shaped carrot that is popular in France. 2.  This bed gets its reddish hue from the newly emerged beet sprouts. 3.  Cauliflower – Snowball? 4.  This bed is empty in the picture but I’m going to put out spinach seed sometime today. 5.  Mix of cauliflower and broccoli – Packman 6.  Broccoli – Packman The production I get from these beds will depend on the weather we have over the next few weeks of course but at worst the plants should at least over-winter and give me an early spring harvest.  Temps here are pretty moderate in winter.  Rain, it seems, is the big challenge.  We will see what we will see.

 

IMG_0642Iused some of the myriad paving stones in the yard to make a raised herb bed. We’ve got Basil, Chives, Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme. I’ve always wanted an herb bed and always had some kind of reason why I couldn’t have it right now. Well, I have it now.  :)

 

 

 

 

IMG_0640You can see the height of the herb garden in this picture. You can also see that there is more work to be done.  Isn’t there always more work to be done? I’ve got to figure out something to do with the stacks of pavers that are STILL there.  The last owner was a big believer in pavers!

 

 

 

 

IMG_0632Here’s our first harvest from the herb bed, Sage on the left, Basil on the right. So easy to do, so much less expensive than purchasing.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0645   Random shot of beet seedlings.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0646My bed of carrots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_0649And then there’s this.  This volunteer tomato plant just sprang up in an odd place in the yard.  Of course it’s the tomato that is growing the best – much better than the two hybrid plants we bought because they were supposedly perfect for the Northwest.  This plant is maturing late so it’s a toss up as to whether we will see many of these tomatoes on a plate but if we can nurse it to ripening I’m going to save some seeds for next year. And that my friends is all the news worth printing this Sunday morning.  Hope you have a good week.

Happy Steps

DSCN0007Hung some more hydrangea to dry.  I feel for any visitor who happens to step in here without first knowing what to expect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCN0002Also brushed off some volunteer garlic we harvested several weeks ago.  We let it sit outside to toughen and dry.  Now it’s ready to be stored away for winter.  It’s actually time to plant next year’s garlic.  Also time for carrots, broccoli, beets, and spinach.  I could plant kale as well but I can’t stand that stuff.

Labor Day Morning

Went to bed early last night and woke early this morning.  It feels good.

IMG_0579Decided this morning that the hydrangea flowers had dried enough.  The ones that turned out well will soon be on their way to San Angelo, TX and the rest… I will find some way to turn them in an arrangement so they are pretty.  The brown tips are not from the drying process, they’re the result of heat and the touchy-feely way you have to decide if the bloom is ready to pick.  If you pick hydrangea blooms too early they contain too much moisture and will not dry.  If you pick them too late (like some in this picture) they will have brown spots.  Like most of life it’s trial and error.

There are a plethora of late fall blooms on the plant now that I’m going to harvest today and hang to dry.  We’ll see what happens to the purple and 

IMG_0582lavender colors they have now.

 

I also took down the basil that was drying and packed it away in a jar.  Such a delicious smell in the kitchen this morning and it was so easy.  I don’t know exactly how long this batch of basil will last us but the effort

IMG_0589was so small I can’t see purchasing basil in the store anymore.

Reclamation

I awoke this morning with the thought that I am no longer me.

That’s a pretty sobering thought to have very first thing in the morning.

So today I am reclaiming my self.

I am kind.  The unkindness around me is not me.

I am creative.  The drudgery around me is not me.

I am loving.  The animosity around me is not me.

I am content with simple things.  The avarice around me is not me.

I am curious.  The monotony around me is not me.

I am happy.  The anger around me is not me.

I am courageous.  The fear around me is not me.

I am independent.  The thirst for approval around me is not me.

I am beautiful.  The world’s perception is not me.

Waste

IMG_0535The other day Don ordered a little shoe bench to put by the front door.

It’s very cute and it works like a top.  We take our shoes off at the door and after a few days we always seem to have every pair of shoes we own lined up down the living room wall.  I honestly don’t understand how it happens.

Before I go too far down that rabbit trail what really struck me was the fact that the shoe bench was in a box inside another much bigger box that was filled with wadded up paper.

Total waste.

 

Which of course bugged the shit out of me and when something bugs the shit out of me I think about it.

fillpak-tt-smallThe paper – what the shipping industry calls dunnage – was seriously about 30 feet long… and in one piece.  When this dunnage shows up at the shipping facility it’s either on a big roll or folded in a big stack.  It gets fed into a dunnage machine.  The only thing a dunnage machine does it wad up paper.  That’s all it exists for.

I kinda hate dunnage machines.

On the other hand, I am always grateful when something I buy arrives without damage so I kinda like dunnage machines.

It’s a fine line we have to walk while living in this world.

The truth is we can’t exist in the universe without causing some kind of change.  That’s truth.  It just is.  So sometimes it’s hard to love trees and shoe benches at the same time.  Speaking of which, why would I guiltlessly love a wooden shoe bench and so rabidly hate paper dunnage?  Trees died for both.

Again, this bugged the shit out of me.

Again I thought about it.

 

I think it has to do with the difference between use and waste.

I think we should USE as many resources as we NEED.  I am trying to reduce my WASTE which I define as the thoughtless discarding of still useful material.  So I thought about this paper.  Now honestly, this paper had served a purpose.  It had protected the shoe bench in transit.  So it could have theoretically gone in the garbage.  For some reason that still felt like waste.

IMG_0514So I folded the paper back up.

 

I thought about using it as a weed barrier in the garden.  But that felt like giving in too soon.

I mean, I have 30 feet of paper… that just happens to be the perfect weight for making patterns.

So this paper now sits on top of a pantry shelf waiting to become the basis for a pair of pants or a shirt.

When it’s no longer useable for sewing it will go into the garden or the compost bin.

And just to be clear, it’s not really about the paper.  It’s about honoring the rest of creation.

 

Staying Home Today

Last week I went to a neurologist to see if he could do anything more for my tremor than my general practitioner.  Turns out there’s not a lot that can be done.  My condition is not severe enough to warrant invasive procedures and even if it were I would not have them done.  One involves inserting wires into my brain that direct electrical impulses into my hippocampus or some such.  The other involves directing little beams of radiation to destroy a small cluster of brain cells.

Honestly, I will have to become totally incapacitated before I consider either of those.

Medication helps.  I take a beta blocker that does something, no one quite knows what, and decreases the modulation of the tremors.  The doctor felt that we still had some room to increase the dose so I’m taking it twice a day now.  It is helping but I’m feeling a little fatigued.  My pulse is still well within an acceptable range and I think that after another week or so I will adjust to a new normal.

But for today, I am being quiet.

IMG_0523I worked in the garden this past weekend.  The bare ground that you see was previously covered completely with weed cloth and a few hundred pavers.

I’ve actually gotten farther than this picture shows.  My plan is to have six beds, three on each side of the middle path.  The existing bed that you see was here when we moved in and so we made use of it.  Now though, we have to wait until the brussels sprouts and onions are ready to harvest before I can move it.  Shouldn’t be much longer though – the onions are starting to lay over and the brussels sprouts are starting to swell.

I learned two things about brussels sprouts this weekend.

 

IMG_05321.  You are supposed to trim the leaves as the plant grows leaving about five rows of leaves at the top of the plant.  This directs the plant’s energy into growing sprouts and not leaves.

2.  You can eat brussels sprouts leaves.  Yeah, who knew?!  They are actually pretty tasty but a little chewy.  After learning this I gathered the leaves and sautéed them in olive oil with some salt and pepper.  They were delicious.  Unfortunately, because I had left them on the plant so long they were just too tough to mess with.  This batch made a pretty picture but then it went into the compost bin.

 

IMG_0519While I was busy outside, Don was busy inside laying tile.

We have had the best luck with the new peel and stick tile.  I have to tell you, I think the secret is buying the 18″ square tiles instead of the square foot ones.

I just love that we finally have some finished edges on this place.  This happens to be the view from my desk.  Sometimes I just turn my head to gaze and be happy.

Anyway, that’s enough for now.  Have a happy Monday!