Tag Archives: gardening

Preserving, 2019

In past years I–and then after retirement, me and hubby–did a bit of food preservation from the garden and purchased produce. This year, we’ve kind of eased back on that. No more garden in Clatskanie, a small patch at the Portland house, and the apple trees in Portland. However, I started some Lemon Drop peppers from seed in Enterprise and kept them in pots, and we planted dill, mint, thyme, chives, and rosemary in the beds created by the hubby’s retaining wall project.

The Lemon Drops are slow, with three peppers so far. The early chill meant that I moved the pots inside, and have taken on the role of honey bee by using Q-tips to fertilize the flowers (something I did successfully years ago with Thai Bird Peppers). So far…we’ll see what happens. It’s still fairly early in that experiment.

The rosemary died, and was replaced with lavender which seems to be thriving–we’ll see if it lasts the winter. The chives have kinda sorta been chugging along, and we harvested some to dry.

The thyme has been happily warring with the mint for turf. We got two different creeping types, and they both like it in the beds. The mint (chocolate) does what mint always does, and is growing aggressively. Last week we harvested a big batch and brought it in to dry. I now have a pint of dried mint for tea, and picked another pint to infuse the fresh leaves in Everclear for a tincture.

But the happiest thing has been the dill. Hubby would break off from his wall building to harvest dill heads before they seeded, and bring them in to dry. We’ve got lots of dill as a result. So far the deer have left the dill and the plants in the wall beds alone. We’ll see what happens as winter progresses, but…we have mint, dill, thyme, and some chives that we’ve grown here in Enterprise.

Maybe next year we’ll grow more.


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Summer harvest begins

One of the things about our friend’s place in Clatskanie is the amount of food already present in the form of berry bushes, fruit trees, and wild forage. All the berries are coming on strong, so while the guys worked on weeding the garden yesterday, I picked berries. I started with raspberries in two locations and got a gallon. Next came loganberries, about a third of a gallon. Then I moved on to mountain blackberries. Our friend has an amazing rhododendron thicket just filled with these little wild Pacific Northwest native berries. He set up a three-legged ladder and I was able to pick a gallon of these little darlings (mmmm, mountain blackberry jelly this winter….). After that, I got a cup of blackcaps, a pint of red huckleberries, and a small pint of red currants. All but the blackcaps ended up in the freezer for processing later on during wintertime, during cool weather when we can use the processing heat to warm the house.

However, during the huckleberry harvest, I accidentally sat on a pitch stump. Fortunately our friend has the appropriate dissolving gunk, so I didn’t lose those plants. But it did take a couple of treatments…that’s one pitchy stump!

Today, I harvested a big bowl full of lamb’s quarters from the garden. We use these a lot in stir fries. Earlier, we harvested and froze a batch of rhubarb. Meanwhile, everything is growing great guns except the parsnip. It’s taking its own sweet time to germinate, which is driving all of us crazy. But potatoes are growing, corn is growing, we’ve got lots of cabbage and squash…mmm, another year of garden harvest lies ahead.

This year it’s looking for sure like zucchini relish is going to be a thing. Yum. About time, too.

Enough procrastination, time to get to writing….

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The Queen of Jammin’

Jam and jelly, that is. Over the course of the past year and a half we’ve (DH, me, our friend S) been gathering fruit and berries and stashing them in the freezer in preparation for a monster canning session during the cold part of winter. Didn’t get it together for last year, so we had quite a buildup for the Jam and Jelly Marathon.

It started two days ago. We arrived at S’s, and I got started on strawberry plus blueberry lime jams, two batches each.

Yesterday, I whipped out a batch of plum jam, two more batches of blueberry lime (one with huckleberry that is…eh, a bit odd), and two batches of raspberry jam.

Today was another five batch day with two batches of evergreen blackberry and three batches of blackberry (Himalaya). That made fourteen batches of jam and jelly in three days.

Whew. No wonder I’m feeling a bit sore and achy. OTOH, we now have enough jam to last us for a while. Well worth the work.

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The first day of winter


Woke up to this today, and it kept on coming. However, because things were right at freezing, even though the snow kept falling at this level, it also wasn’t piling up above two inches. One of the first things I did was trek out to the barn to check on Miss Mocha because she hadn’t gotten her winter shoes yet. That appointment is scheduled for this Friday, and I had been hoping that this storm would be like the others and warm up. Nope. She came loping up with the herd so things weren’t too bad, though she was grateful for me picking out her hooves and spraying WD-40 in them to help stave off the worst of the ice balls. I thought she was shaking because of the cold for a moment but no, it’s because she’s been conditioned to equate getting caught with being fed grain. So she got a taste of grain (about a handful) and she settled with no shivering. Maybe she thought I was going to be crazy enough to try to ride her in this stuff. Nope, not if I don’t have to. Then, when I turned her out, she trotted over to one of her friends and they pressed foreheads together, then she trotted off to join the other one. That mare…sigh. She doesn’t like me taking Mocha away from her, so we Have Discussions. I suspect part of the issue is that this mare is still pretty lame (she’s there for a pasture layup) and Mocha being Mocha, she’s looking out for her. Or something.

Then it was back to home and prepping for book releases and an upcoming craft show. I laid out the plan for a novella in the Goddess’s Honor series and wrote enough of the opening to insert into the back of Pledges of Honor. Hubby went into the attic to install insulation and I turned to cranking out inventory. When I first planned to participate in the show, I had been thinking about designing stuff. Not inventory. Then I realized I needed inventory, not just flashy design stuff. So. Today was cranking out pretty hanging things, not necessarily Christmasy stuff but things meant to be pretty. No idea if they’ll fly, but I’m running several different lines for this show. Plus chapbooks. All of which needs to be done before Orycon, because we won’t get back until just before the show. Yikes. I do need to plan things better…

There’s so much that’s been going on and it’s been easier to throw a note up on Facebook than write about it. I interviewed for a long term temp job and didn’t get it, but it was a good interview and I know why I didn’t get the position (credentialing). That meant we had to adjust a Portland trip time for the flying trip back to do the interview. Then it was back to Portland and Clatskanie, to winterize the garden plus search out chanterelles. We ended up with three days of great mushrooming as well as piles of produce. For a first year garden it turned out pretty well, providing the bulk of vegetables for four households (all us old folks) from mid-July through the first part of November, as well as giveaways to others. And there’s still onions, carrots, beets, and chard left. We froze some of the produce but ate most of it fresh.

I also have two books launching, one in November and one in December. Netwalk’s Children drops the Monday before Orycon and Pledges of Honor in the first week of December. Production work is done on Children (hard copies will be available at Orycon) and work’s mostly done on Pledges. Now it’s just promotion (sigh).

Promotion and inventory creation. That’s what I’ve got to do here. But for the first day of winter, with snow flying, we’re settled in and stuff is happening.

And with that, I’m tired and off to bed.


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Fall garden preparation

We’ve decided to work with a friend who has a place in the Coast Range to grow a somewhat bigger and different garden next year, primarily because we’re going to be in transit and because he wants to do a garden but needs help.

Today, we took the first step in setting that garden up by moving black plastic from one side (where it’s been covering and killing back grasses) to the other. I didn’t have a starting picture of the process, but I have some intermediate pix.


One section of black plastic moved.


In process of prepping and moving the next section.


Second section moved and weighed down with miscellaneous boards, pipes, and bricks so it won’t blow away in winter winds.


Finished version, with just a few small strips short of covering all the remaining grass. Now we just need to bring in manure and sand to sit on the bare strip over the winter, then till in spring for planting. The other section has been previously tilled but has gone to grass for various reasons.


Part of dinner afterwards–last of the chanterelles from two weeks ago, sauteed with green peppers and onions. Nomnomnom.

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A productive weekend

As summer of 2014 winds down, we’re engaged in activities both seasonal and for the future. I finished preserving the bulk of the Gravenstein crop with five and a half more quarts of apple juice, leaving us with plenty of juice, applesauce, and a small amount of apple butter. Plus numerous crisps and a couple of apple pies.

The Blue Lakes have been poking along but they aren’t heavy producers this year. We’re getting good tomatoes, enough to justify making a taco salad tomorrow.

We’ve got our own firewood stacked and stored, but yesterday we helped a friend haul and stack three cords of his winter wood, with three more to go. It was delivered to one area easy for the delivery guys to reach, then needed to be transported by pickup to the storage shed. We’ve been nibbling at it all summer, and yesterday was the last transport day. Then it became stacking.

Today, we worked on a new skill–driving the truck with the horse trailer. This was my second time out, and I’m pleased to announce that I’m now approaching the speed limit on the back roads. No horse in the trailer yet, but DH and I cruised the backroads around the barn practicing.

DH is also preparing for the annual deck treatment. Today he trimmed vegetation around the deck.

Crickets are chirping out back. Last night I thought I heard an owl calling back there–not a hoot owl or a great horned, but perhaps a barn owl. Definitely not a screech owl. There’s a cool touch in the evening breeze, damp with the promise of forthcoming fall.

On the one hand, it feels weird not to be contemplating the beginning of the school year. On the other, I just don’t miss it. I’ve missed being able to enjoy my fall, and now I can again. Things sound sufficiently ugly with Common Core issues and the like that I am glad I’m not around for this year of turmoil. But I think good thoughts for my friends who start work tomorrow, and miss them.

Winter is coming. I’m thinking of snow. Time to get fit for skiing.

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The Year of Wacky Gardening–Midsummer report

I’ve decided that this is the year of wacky gardening. Due to upcoming life changes, unlike previous years, I don’t know where we are going with a garden for next year. We may not have much of a garden, if any. Or we may co-garden with a friend in a different, more coastal, microclimate. I don’t think we’ll have Farpoint up and running yet. So this year I am determined to do the things I’ve wanted to do with my current gardening space all along–such as a coherent autumn/early winter/overwintering strategy, for one. It’s all good, but the key is that this year, late August does not mean I have to start cramming writing into the morning, work and horse into the afternoon/evening, and I have little time and energy for maintaining the outdoors. New adventures lie ahead for late summer and fall gardening, and by golly, I’m going to try them.

Additionally, a neighboring urban hen has decided that our yard is Chicken Heaven. I don’t mind her scratching under the bird feeder, but her sampling of the windfall apples and the broccoli is Right Out. She’s a pretty thing–a White Rock, well-conformed, would probably win blue ribbons at a chicken show if not championships. Neighbor says she is a good layer. From what I’ve seen, she’s also an excellent forager with a wide range of preferences.

She’s smart. She started by crawling under the fence, then, when I blocked it, she went the long way around. Flew over the driveway gate, walked up the driveway of the flag lot she lives on, around the front of our long house, and back along the side to the delights of our backyard. That’s a pretty involved route for a chicken brain to figure, but she’s got it down. She would make a wonderful free-range farm hen with her smarts, but an urban hen? Not so much.

Some days I have chased her out of the yard up to three times. This morning, I caught her meandering around the front, just as the neighbor came around to catch her. He saw her fly over the fence.  We pursued her, he captured her, and Things Will Happen. Alas, but if I wanted chickens in my yard, I’d have a more protected garden. We’ll see if I still chase chickens for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, in the name of garden succession, I’ve been plotting on how to replace cabbages. I’m going to see if we can get regrowth from this batch of cauliflower (done so before) but not with the cabbages. We’ve eaten two of the four cabbages and I think Number Three will get harvested tonight. Three of the four cauliflowers are viable and we’ve harvested one. I think Number Two gets harvested tomorrow. I’m going to check out a couple of hipster Portlandia garden shops to see if I can get late season cabbage starts and hope for cabbage for Thanksgiving.

I harvested the last crop of edible pod peas on Monday and pulled the vines. This batch has been quite prolific and I still got over a pint on the final picking. But the vines were mostly dead, with about six inches of green. Still, I was harvesting edible pod peas for a month. Not bad. Now we’re moving on to green beans. The first harvest of Blue Lakes was quite productive–a pint and a half, and I need to pick again.

The garlic was disappointing. I did harvest some heads with big cloves, but I didn’t get all the regrowth I wanted. I think this line has petered out. Too bad. I’ve been cultivating it for twenty years, but the past three years have not been as productive as I like to see. We’ll eat it all this year.

I’ve been harvesting onions all along. Besides planting a full packet of sweet yellow onion starts, I planted some red onion starts. They aren’t big but they are yummy. I’m hoping to be able to harvest a batch that will keep in the basement and have my own onions to eat all winter.

The Gravenstein has been dropping apples for two weeks, and I’m at the point of being buried. While I’ve been taking apples to the horses, it’s time to pick apples and put some away in the basement. I’ve made one apple crisp (will make another today) and an apple cake. I’ll probably make apple pie later on in the week. I canned twelve pints of applesauce and froze a scant quart of applesauce on Sunday. Today I plan to make apple juice (after I go buy quart jars, alas, I keep letting hubby talk me into getting rid of canning jars). I should be able to get six quarts out of that, and I might do a second round. However, I’m also going to start putting apples away in the basement and giving some to friends. It’s a good apple year, and the apples are both plentiful and big. I definitely want to take advantage of the bounty. I might even fire up the dehydrator.

Tomatoes are just starting to come on. This year, if I get buried, I’m making tomato sauce in pints.

Yesterday, I started the fall harvest replanting. More edible pod peas that I hope will be ready to start picking about the time that the Blue Lakes peter out, plus onions, in one bed. In another, more onions, plus beets and rutabagas. I’m contemplating finding a spot for carrots and, of course, thinking about when I need to plant overwintering crops for early spring harvest. I’ve never really tried to do this before. Should be fun.

And now it’s time to wander off and pick up jars. Onward.

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Ah. June. And my last week.

We had a little bit of sun this morning before the clouds blew in. I ran around watering everything outside, and will soon be watering the houseplants. Meanwhile, despite the coolness of the morning, I’ve got the house open and I’m enjoying the weather. Summer, Oregon-style.

It’s also helpful that I’ve gotten the office and bedroom cleaned out and organized into what should be its final form until we move to Farpoint. It’s now a working home office. I’m going to miss it, and will do my best to structure the Farpoint office to be very similar.


I was able to find a good setting for my Welches plate.


So now I have an image of what and where I’m going to be working.

The garden is also doing well. We’ve been harvesting green onions; in fact I had to advise the hubby that we need to save some green onions to grow into big onions (I have about 25 more sets to plant as we use up the greenies, so no big deal). The sugar pod peas should be producing their first crop, and the apple trees have maintained a good crop of apples despite the June drop. What remains is turning into good big apples, though apparently I didn’t clear the grass around the Gravenstein trunk soon enough to keep the scab away. Oh well.

The cabbages, cauliflower, and broccoli are growing quite happily. So are the green beans. The tomatoes are starting to flower.  It’s looking like we will have a lovely harvest this year, if everything proceeds as it should. I may even get ambitious next week and put in some starts for fall and overwintering crops.

And today is my last Monday at work. The last Monday I need to look at work e-mail. The last Monday where I look at the time and realize that I need to get moving, because the clock is ticking toward the moment when I have to get my butt to the car because I’m on a schedule.


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First day of summer

Typical Portland June summer morning started with overcast sky, followed by sun eventually as the clouds burned off. I’ve been pushing pretty hard on the conditioning and am now feeling somewhat sore and tired–too early to see much in the way of results weight-wise, but definitely starting to feel a difference in how I move and how the body holds itself.

Not so good news on the job front–got a call from the last interview place that the position had been put on hold, so no job there. Then got a letter from another place that I hadn’t been picked for an interview. Sigh. Figures. Still, I got some writing words in today–just some tweaking of the next Netwalk: Foundations posting, nothing big, but OTOH, I needed a break today.

So I picked up and went to the barn to ride my bad mood away. Fourth ride this week, and Miss Mocha chuckled at me when I came in the door. She’d managed to give herself an owie, probably playing with her grain bucket. Or something. Near as we can figure, she must have been the one that put her big salt block in the grain bucket–apparently she’s been playing with her bucket and knocking it off of the wall, and before G threw the salt block into her hay feeder, she’d been countering all efforts to put it to the side and had planted it in the middle of her stall. It’s a 50 lb salt block and she likes to roll it around her stall. It’s not too far of a stretch to imagine her somehow getting the block into the bucket, then rolling block and bucket around the stall. Silly horse. Smart horse.

Unlike some horses, Miss M doesn’t exactly cater to my moods. If she’s in a witchy mood herself, well, the fireworks can be entertaining. Not bucking but just a bit of “Oh? You want sensitive? I’LL SHOW YOU SENSITIVE!” and then responding to every weight shift. But if I’m in a down mood, there’s no guarantee that she’ll be cooperative. Sometimes she is, sometimes she isn’t. Today, she was, and we had a nice schooling. At one point when doing counter-canter figure 8s, she missed a cue and swapped to be on the lead, but she swapped back readily and I made sure my seatbone was better weighted the next go-round and she held it.

In any case, nice schooling, and then I came home to Do Stuff. Showered after a late lunch, and was combing my hair outside on the back deck, when the neighbor kicked up the bird who’s been making a very odd chirping call around the neighborhood for the past couple of months. I’d been thinking it might have been some variety of parrot, but what I saw fly up in the tree looked like a dove. She called over to ask me what it was, and we couldn’t see it. Then I thought I saw it fly down into the dusty area their hens had scratched up next to their house, so I went to check it out.

This is what I saw:






Juvenile female ruffed grouse. I didn’t ID her right away because, of course, bird books don’t have juvenile female pix. But I had to wonder as she was pretty tame, as long as I spoke to her in a calm voice, though the call threw me off. I’m used to adult ruffies scolding me as I scramble around the brush trying to shoot them, not juvenile flocking calls. Still, I’ve been able to kick up a ruffie in the brush while carrying my rifle on a short stalk looking for deer, gone back to the rig, grabbed the shotgun, and found the same ruffie on the same log squawking at my invasion of his space. Boom. I had to wonder–was she a domesticated chick or a ruffie? The quail I see around the barn are much more skittish, as are blue grouse. Ruffies, though…they’re fools. Fortunately, they also reproduce pretty readily.

Anyway, when DH got home, we went back to look, and found the male on our side of the fence. Recognized his little crest for certain, positive ID as ruffed grouse, from size and plumage, both were half-grown juveniles. I was still hearing their occasional calls until about half an hour ago, along with other, adult grouse talk. Still not sure if they’re escapees (it is possible to buy ruffie chicks) or else migrated over from the Springwater Corridor. I know I’ve occasionally seen Chinese ring-necked pheasants in this neighborhood (nothing wakes you up quite like looking the window and going “Huh? WhAAAAT? Pheasant? HERE?”), but it’s really interesting now to see ruffies.

After taking grouse pix, I staked the Blue Lake beans, as they’re now trying to climb sunflowers, weeds, the lawn….brought out the old cross-country skis that you can’t get boots for any more and set them up. The nasturtiums are exploding, we have more Gravensteins than I thought we did, and one blueberry bush is loaded. One tomato has set on and the others are blooming.

Guess it’s summer. And this summer, I plan to ride, and write, and study.

Sounds like a plan to me.

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Some years the garden comes together.  This is one of those years:







This isn’t the whole thing (only 1/3 of the deck flowerbeds and not the climber rack).  But for once, we’ve managed to get things started in a timely manner, and the regular beds are such that all we need to do in early spring is turn the soil over, let it rest, then redig when we plant.

The timing of rain this spring and the way my schedule fell together allowed me the time to get out and muck around with the flower beds around the deck.  DH taking out the Norfolk Pine meant the trellis frame became usable again (it was blocking over half the frame):







Hard to see in this shot, but there’s sweet peas, California poppies, and Monarda in and around that framework.  Should be pretty rather soon.

The apples are looking right nice as well.  Here’s a Grimes Golden shot:







And a Gravenstein shot:







I picked about a quart of edible pod peas and took half of them to a sick friend.  The peas came off a patch that’s about 3 feet by 4 feet:







We also have a healthy batch of mullein plants growing by the deck:







In other words: we had a plan for the garden and now it is coming together nicely.  Planning to put together pieces like getting the garlic in the ground sometime during the fall, turning over the soil early in the spring to get rid of early season weeds and start working it loose long before planting, early weeding of flower beds and the like make such a big difference at this house.  Some places those maintenance behaviors aren’t a big deal.  But for this place…a bit of planning, a bit of forethought…and a nice garden comes out of it as a result.

I’m happy.  This looks to be a lovely summer to have a nice garden.

And now, time to go about the day.

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