November 16, 2020

Rain in the Forecast


[This less-than-spectacular picture is of the resident elk herd--our first sighting.]

So, we made it! Here we are in Oregon!
It is really good to be here.
Also, it is very wet.
Every single day.
That's what coastal living is all about, right? 
That's what brings all the amazing wildflowers, ferns, and gigantic trees!
It's just a huge change.
I mean, I knew it would be, going into this move, but there's knowing and then there's experiencing.

So here's an abbreviated version of the forecast for this week:
RAIN--every single day. Some days more than others, maybe.
If you're lucky.
Oh yeah, and WIND. Also every day.
That about sums it up.
In addition, right now there are 5, count them, 5 separate weather warnings for our area.
Let's see if I can get them all straight:
there's the storm warning for tomorrow--very very windy and rainy, stay indoors, and away from trees and/or windows; okay, add to that a high wind warning (see advice above); let's not forget the gale warning--I think it's basically the same as high wind, but for the ocean/rivers--they discus wind speed in knots in that one; what am I up to now? only 3. Hmm... oh yeah, two separate coastal storm or wind watches, in which you are strongly warned to stay the heck off the beaches and out of the water already! Basically a coastal jet is forming, which I think means really strong winds, going up the coast. 
So in other words, batten down the hatches, kids, we're in for a blow!

Is this normal for this area? 
I have no idea! We just moved here 2 weeks ago!
It is definitely not normal for anyplace I've ever lived!

In the middle of all of the rain and high winds, the sun will come out and it gets oddly warm for November. This evening it was positively balmy out there--60 degrees or some crazy thing--while lightly sprinkling, of course. 

I'm not complaining, really. 
I'm just...adjusting.
My decade of desert living has left me unprepared to be encompassed by water every day.
There's an old saying that goes something like this:
"In the West, whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting!"
It's so true! 
Well, I can't vouch for the whiskey, but water is a big deal!
People get so worked up about water rights and there's water ditch companies who divvy up the shares of ditch water. (Half a share may get you a 40 minute turn every 10 days, at random times of day and night.) Secondary water is a thing that you have to know about.
Water is a constant worry.
In the winter, you watch the news to see if this year's snowpack is big enough to make a difference in the ongoing drought. Every summer, you watch the reservoirs dip lower and lower with dread. 
Will this be the year the water runs out? 

And now we're here. 
1 mile from the Pacific Ocean.
1 river across the street and another between us and the ocean.
Countless streams and creeks every which way.
One of the biggest rivers in the U.S. just 30 miles north of us.
A puddle at the end of our driveway that has its own tides, based on the way it ebbs and flows on a daily basis.

So we are trying to adapt. We purchased rain coats for all who did not have them. We fixed the broken wiper on my windshield. We are learning that if you wait for the rain to stop to do something outside, you'll never go outside. 
Meanwhile, the lawns are green here. Still, in November! Flowers bloom in many yards, unaware that just 2 states away, they would be covered with now right now.
We go on hikes in woods so green and verdant that we can hardly believe it.

We are rich with water!
Now if we can just figure out to live in it.
Maybe we need to grow some gills. 

October 4, 2020

A Bit of Last-Minute Canning


We decided about a month ago that we weren't going to do any canning this fall. 
Nope, none. No time--especially not with trying to sell our house and pack. 
Just no.
Then we harvested 4 buckets of apples from our apple tree. 
Wormy apples, most of them, but good tasting despite that.
Then before frost hit, we harvested tomatoes galore--bins and bowls and strainers full. Also, 4 buckets of green tomatoes. Plus onions, peppers (sweet and hot), cucumbers.
I just couldn't stand to see all that produce go to waste!
I made some comments about giving it away, but deep down, I didn't want to! My kids had worked so hard on their gardens this year and we were blessed with this abundant harvest. 
I just had to do something with it.

So. We had already packed all of our empty bottles, and some of the canning equipment, like the Vittorio strainer for applesauce. 
Moms to the rescue! I knew my mom still had her Vittorio strainer, and bless her heart, she also had bottles that she just gave to me! 
I had stocked up on lids last year, which was a good thing, since they are very scarce this fall.
So last week we did our homeschool Monday through Wednesday, then we were off to Grandma's Wednesday afternoon.
Thursday was applesauce day! 
It was so fun to can with my mom! It was actually the first time I've been able to do that.
She has a pretty slick setup for canning in her new house, let me tell you.
25 quarts of applesauce, done!

Then Friday we went down to my mother-in-law's to take care of the rest.
She had offered to just do it for us, but we couldn't let her do that.
We came bearing all of our tomatoes, onions, and peppers, several spices, and various other assorted canning things we could round up.
I think we all underestimated the sheer amount of tomatoes we had to process.
She kept pulling bottles out of her garage--by the time all was said and done, we had used up every last bottle on her shelf, except for the extra small half-pint sizes.
We did 28 quarts of regular red salsa on Friday.
Saturday we did 14 quarts + 7 pints of green tomato pickles.
Since we can't even open those for 3 weeks, we won't know how we like them until after the move.
We finished up the day Saturday with 21 pints of salsa verde, also using the green tomatoes.
In addition, I have a big batch of barbecue sauce that I need to finish up here at home tomorrow, and get it canned. It was way to vinegary for my taste, but we ran out of bottles, so I didn't finish working on it. We will have to pull a box of pint jars out of storage to put the BBQ sauce into!

It's ironic that we made so much salsa this year, since I haven't made it for several years.
I hadn't found a recipe I liked, so it seemed a waste of time.
I am happy to report we all tried the salsa--both varieties--and liked them.
That's a relief!

So after I can BBQ sauce tomorrow, then I'll really be done. For real, this time.
No, I mean it.
Second wave of packing up starts this week! 
We are a little more than 2 weeks out from moving truck.

September 20, 2020

Utah Home, Then and Now

 As we're getting ready to move to Oregon (by the way, we're moving to Oregon!), I thought it would be fun to do the same Before and After series that I did for our Pullman home. 

When we moved in, everything was brown, dead, and dry. There were very few flowers, and a lot more fruit trees. Our outbuildings have changed quite a bit. Are you ready? Here we go!

Front of House



Not a huge difference, except the lawn and the little maple tree are both alive and green.
For those with very sharp eyes, you may notice that the swamp cooler is also no longer on the roof--we switched to central air!

Front Flowerbeds


Admittedly, this bed is chock full of bindweed.
I should have taken a picture after the last time we weeded it!
It has a couple of rose bushes, a peony, some irises, and lots of spring bulbs.

I do enjoy this front corner bed. It's got all kinds of things in it these days: sedum, daylilies, asters, roses, peonies, irises, scabiosa. It makes me happy all summer long.

We also added these front flowerbeds all the way down the fence on either side.
I still feel like I was just getting started with those, but what's in there is pretty.

Front Shade Beds



A little more greenery in there. 
I meant to put matching hydrangeas on each side, but ended up only getting the left side planted with those. I also added lady's mantle, feverfew, heuchera, and hostas.

Back Yard


Garden spot, orchard, and the woodshed there on the right.

Woodshed, fire pit, garden shed

Looking back towards the house.

Far back corner


Garden with greenhouse

A much more sparse orchard, unfortunately.
Chicken Palace in the background.
Our fruit trees have died off like crazy!

Our new fire pit area, and the shed we put in.

Woodshed and garden tool storage add-ons to the shed.
The inside essentially became my husband's workshop.

Garden area, from the back deck.

Looking back at the house. New deck.

Toward the far corner.

Back Flowerbeds



This bed doesn't look all that different than before, but the surroundings are much nicer! :) 

We did finally get this corner flowerbed put in.

This is another flowerbed full of good stuff, and also full of bindweed.
It has been a losing fight on my end with the bindweed here.
This bed also holds 5 peonies, coreopsis, yarrow, daisies, a couple of sickly rosebushes, and several spring bulbs.

Oval Flowerbed



Well, this is not the glamour shot by any means!
Also, I had this bed completely weeded a month ago and now it's full of grass and bindweed again.
So from 6 lonely rose bushes, it now has a pie cherry tree, several roses, a peony, lots of spring bulbs, 2 ninebark bushes, bachelor's buttons, asters, phlox, and coreopsis.

Here was this bed back in May:

A little better representation of the goodness!

I am proud of what we accomplished in the 3 years we've been here. 
Now we're headed off to a rental home, with a tiny little yard, and no landscaping duties at all.
I wonder what we're going to do with our time? 

September 28, 2019

Plant Files: Sedum 'Autumn Joy'

This plant is the star of my front flowerbeds right now!

Scientific name: Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy'
Common name: Stonecrop

Cold Hardiness: USDA zones 3-9
2 feet tall and wide
Full sun and prefers sandy/well-drained soil.
Very drought tolerant.
Blooms in fall and florets stay colorful through until killed by hard frost.

Much loved by pollinators.
If you go out on a warm day, these blooms will be just covered by bees and flies. 

Sedum, particularly this variety, is great as a cut flower as well.
You can cut the fleshy stems any time from when the florets first form and are green, all the way through the last color change.
They last practically forever in the vase and sometimes will even start rooting or growing in there.

I love the colors of the blooms!
They start this dusty pink color and then keep deepening until they become a rusty red.
They also bloom and provide long-lasting color in the late fall, when color can be hard to find.

They will die all the way down to the ground in the colder zones, like mine.
Don't worry, though, come spring they send back up little rosettes, and they're off and growing again in no time!

This is a tough plant! 
Let me tell you a little story.
One time in Washington, a friend of mine gave me some sedum starts from her garden. 
I neglected to plant them and alas, they sat out on my front garden wall in their tiny 4" pots the rest of the summer...AND fall AND winter. Yep. I'm not proud, but it's what happened.
Come spring, I was going to just throw them away, because any other plant would be dead and long gone by that point. Guess what? I saw green shoots coming up! 
Well, you'd better believe I took those starts back and got them planted that very day!
They each grew over the next few years into sizable clumps of beautiful plants.

I have 3 clumps out front, and just added 3 more to my back cutting rows.

This one is a winner!

August 15, 2019

August Bloom Day

I have got to start out this Bloom Day post with a couple of things I'm proud of.

As you know, if you've followed this blog, seed starting has not been a cakewalk for me. 
I have killed so many baby plants over the past couple of years! 

So, behold--2 plants that actually made it! 
(That's right, TWO! Can you be humble and proud at the same time? Humbly proud. 
It's a complicated feeling. Layers.)

First up:

The 'Frizzle Sizzle' pansy.

Isn't she a beauty? 

And here we have the New York Aster!
[Vigorous clapping is entirely appropriate at this point.]

(Give me my moment, alright? Remember, 2 PLANTS that made it?!)

The seeds for these plants are super duper tiny--specks, is all.
And now just look at it! It's almost 3 feet tall and about read to start flowering! 
(I think--it's a fall-flowering plant, apparently.)
This survivor right here gives me such a happy feeling whenever I see it!

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, here's the rest:

Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'
Very pretty, but very short stems for cutting.
I need some mini bouquets or dance flowers to put these in--they would really shine!

Same, plus a China aster.

This front pot--you can't go wrong with geraniums and sweet potato vine.
It always seems like the fancier I try to get with my flower pots, the worse they do.
This couldn't be any simpler, but I have been enjoying it this summer!

My 'Limelight' hydrangea is finally getting some blooms!
I'm wondering if it could actually use more sunlight.
This seems awfully late in the season for hydrangea blooms.
We've got frost coming in a month. 
Go Limelight Go!

'Fragrant Angel' echinacea, above and below

I have absolutely loved these, especially the green centers before they are all the way mature!
Love. I will plant a whole bunch more this fall if I can find them!

Let's see, roses haven't put on their fall blooms yet, sedums are still green (but coming), and I do have some sunflowers blooming out in my flower farm/cutting garden patch.
A handful of other stuff out there too.

What's blooming in your garden right now? 

August 7, 2019

The Year Of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes

What can I say? Another Newberry Honor book. Still plugging away at that goal, even though I have officially given it up.  This one was great!

The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes
Newbery Honor 2014

4 stars: Warm hearted and simply delightful!

Billy's Papa is an artist and his Mama is an High School English teacher. Unlike most other kids he knows, his mom is the one who goes to work every day, while his dad stays home and takes care of him and his little sister Sal.

Billy's going to start 2nd grade soon, and he has some worries. 1--Is he smart enough for 2nd grade? 2-Is it babyish to call his mom and dad Mama and Papa? 3-Will his teacher like him?  In the introductory letter his teacher sent home before school she said it was the Year of the Rabbit, but his Papa says it's going to be the Year of Billy Miller. He's pretty sure his Papa is right!

* * * * *
I didn't know what to expect going into this one, and to be completely honest, I had been putting off reading it a bit, because it just didn't catch my eye. It was a happy surprise to find how much I enjoyed it. It reminded me of a Beverly Cleary book, in that the situations are all everyday stuff that every kid goes through. The family is generally happy, even though the father is struggling with his art ("looking for a breakthrough".)

Sal made me chuckle a couple of times, and Billy's worries and the resolutions were like a window into my own 7-year-old's world. Things that seem small to the grownups loom large when you're 7. It's good to remember that. There was so much that made me smile. Billy is surrounded by loving adults--even the babysitter! You know that he's going to get all this stuff figured out.

I'm encouraging my boy to read it. I hope he does, because I think he would find a lot in common with Billy, and a lot to like about the story.


Have you read this one? What did you think? My favorite were the Drop Sisters.

July 31, 2019

Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson

I've had a stack of books checked out from the library for 3+ weeks now. This is the first one in the stack I've gotten to--partly because I knew it would be a quick read due to format. It was the perfect length for a little sit-down rest between lunch and afternoon projects.

Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson
Newbery Honor 2016

4 stars: Troubles associated with growing up, plus ROLLER DERBY!

Astrid had never even heard of roller derby, until one night her mom takes her and her best friend Nicole to see a bout. Astrid loves every minute of it! She wants to do it so bad! She is very excited when her mom points out that they are offering a camp for girls ages 12-17 over the summer, and even more excited when her mom signs her for the camp. The only damper to this fun time is that her bestie Nicole isn't doing it with her. You see, Nicole actually likes ballet and wasn't really into the whole roller derby thing. They have been attached at the hip for years now, so this is going to be a big change.

Despite her dreams of instant success and stardom, as it turns out Astrid isn't very good at roller skating, and also, she is way out of shape compared to everyone else. What she lacks in skills, however, she makes up for in determination. She is going to do this! Make way for this girl!

* * * * *
Roller derby ladies are like, 1000x cooler than I will ever be, but I think they're awesome. Also, it doesn't sound fun to me at all in reality, but reading a book about it was great fun. One of my favorite parts were all their roller girl names. I'm not going to lie--I spent a good portion of the book trying to come up with a name for myself. Haven't thought of a worthy one...yet. I may or may not get back to you on that.

Like so many middle grade novels, this one was about changing friendships, and discovering yourself. The roller derby itself made for a fresh take on the age old topic, and the graphic novel format was a perfect fit, keeping the narrative moving at a fast clip. Astrid's growth was satisfying and realistic. I liked her as a character very much.

I don't read very many graphic novels, but this one was a hit! Glad it got some recognition. Oh, also my 9 year old daughter told me that it was "a really good one." So there you go.

Content: One swear word, mentioned as something Astrid was called by a bully.