Thursday, June 29, 2006

Saving The Squash.

After spending several days in California and enduring heat in the 100's, I am enjoying the wonderful, 70 degree days that we are having here in the Pacific Northwest. In only four days my garden has sprouted, flowers have blossomed, and it truly feels like summer is here. I've spent the past two days cutting back, deadheading, mowing, etc. This afternoon I finally took some time to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the sunshine's warmth. How wonderful it is to have such an opportunity!

In my garden, we have been having difficulties with cutworms eating the squash plants before they get a chance to grow past their first emerging leaves. My DH had a brilliant idea which I'll share. We had some old black perforated drain pipe that was about to be sent to the dump (what a waste--but nobody wanted to take it home...) Instead, he got out the hack saw and cut it into six-inch segments. We placed each segment around a baby squash (and beans, and the list goes on...) and pushed it into the earth. The edges are jagged, which keeps the slugs at bay, and they seem to keep the nasty little cutworms away as well. I think that there will be the additional benefit of the black plastic keeping the heat in, which the veggies love. Perhaps they'll grow more quickly as a result. Now I'm hoarding my perf pipe for next year's use.

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While out watering, I noticed Eli stalking in the strawberry bed. Ironically, there was a lovely blue dragonfly sunning himself (?) on a little iron dragonfly lawn ornament. Yup, you guessed it--Eli pounced, caught him, and walked off proudly with the dragonfly hanging out of his mouth. After crawling into the beds, he proceeded to do his best to gobble him up, but he must not have been too edible, as I found his sad little remains later. You know nature--red of tooth and claw.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Reasonable Life

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Someone whose blog I read frequently asked for nonfiction book ideas. She's wanting to read something more challenging than the latest romance or thriller. Since we have similar interests, I made a recommendation. The book "A Reasonable Life--Toward A Simpler, Secure, More Humane Existance" by Ferenc Mate is one of the most thought-provoking books I've read in a long while. If you are interested in simplifying your life, moving to the country or a small town, or just getting out of the rat race and getting a life, you might enjoy it too.

Mr. Mate was born in Hungary, escaped at the age of 11 and has lived all over the world.

Some of the blurbs on the back cover:

"A sane and exciting vision of a happier world."

"The most powerfully damning, inspiring and hopeful call for a fulfilled life you can imagine. Now if only we'd just listen, for the sake of our children." -- Country Journal

"A Reasonable Life is wonderful! This fast-paced book is just what we need to make us slow down and thing.--Pete Seeger

"A masterpiece. Ferenc Mate writes brilliantly with Runyonesque humor and poetic prose. He satirizes our modern society driven by greed and mindlessness, and in its place he recommends the ultimate sanity. I love it. Highly recommended."--Dr. Helen Caldicott

Here's an excerpt that really struck me--enough that I've marked it and come back to it again and again. (This is a bit long, but worth it I think.)

"No one has to tell us about the pleasures of a small town. We know them well, if not from reality then from the old Andy Griffith show, or It's a Wonderful Life. But the small town we know the best is the one deep in our heart, with its elm-shaded streets, little clapboard houses and picket fences,and gnarled fruit trees and run-amok vegetable gardens, where doors are never locked, and where shopkeepers stand in front of their shops and greet you, and the cop greets you, all by name, and you stop and chat with them because what else is life for, and when the bells toll at noon the shops close up, and you all go home for lunch, a nap, then to hoe the melons or to do a little fishing; and everyone you liked in fourth grade is still your friend, and it's a swell place to be a kid and perfect to be a family, and it's a humane place to grow old, and, when you have to go, it's a good place to die.

If such a town doesn't exist, the big question is "Why?" If we all dream about it, if we all long for it--and recent surveys found seven out of ten of us would live there if we could--then where in damnation is it? When all it takes is a few good-natured people; a few to teach school, a few to own the stores, some to farm the land, some to mend the sick and a bar to tend the healthy, then why isn't there such a town behind every tree? I mean only a few of us dream of having missiles, tanks, and bombers, and rockets to the moon, yet the world is littered with them; hardly anyone dreams of pesticides and freeways, yet they're choking us to death; no one dreams of junk mail, yet we're drowning in the stuff; no one I know dreams of stripmalls and fast-food chains, yet there are a hundred to the mile! How the hell did it happen that the things hardly any of us want are burying us all, while the simple town we all dram of we can rarely find?"

This simple argument/question still haunts me. If people truly want this simpler, kinder life, then why aren't they taking the steps to achieve it? Why are we still commuting hours to a life-sucking job where we perform meaningless tasks? Why are we killing ourselves in order to buy the bigger house (that's always empty since we're working to pay for it), the newer car (so we're more comfortable driving hours each day back and forth to the meaningless job), the better clothes so that we can impress the people we work with (people that we might not even like and would never associate with outside of work)?

Does anyone "see" the insanity of this approach to life?



We've been enjoying fresh strawberries on our ceral and ice cream for the past few days. Yes,this pile of beauties was picked this morning from the strawberry plants that I was ready to toss out as old and probably unproductive. Surprise! They must have felt my evil intentions towards them, because they bloomed with such profusion this Spring, that I took pity upon them and let them live. We've been rewarded with the wonderful, rich, deep flavor that you simply can't get from berries bought from the store.

Try sliced strawberries combined with ripe peaches or nectarines over vanilla ice cream for a tasty treat. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Catching Up In The Garden

Eli is relaxing in front of the geraniums on the last day of Spring. We've had rather nice weather lately--cloudy and cool in the morning, but sunny in the afternoon. Lots of time for working in the garden. I've weeded buckets and buckets of weeds. Argh. The fireweed is everywhere. No matter how much you pull it, it just pops up elsewhere. (At least it's pretty!)

I finally got an opportunity to see Julie Child (2006 AARS floribunda rose) in bloom. The really beautiful thing about this rose is that when all the blooms on a stalk are blooming at once it's like it's very own bouquet. I'll update with a new photo once that happens.

Julia Child

Also, Westerland is in full bloom. It's absolutely wonderful. Now I am not normally a big rose fan. (I have a number of them that are on death row. I'm waiting one more year for them to prove to me that they deserve room in our garden before pulling them out and dispatching them to plant heaven.) But the roses that I've found lately really are providing a payoff. This one just glows in the landscape and is very disease resistant.


Other than that, we just finished carting off all the old, rotten, termite-ridden wood to the landfill.'s a shame to have to contribute to the local landfill, but it's illegal to burn here, and we simply can't have insect infested wood around the house. It was just too far gone to be of use to anyone.

That said, we have enjoyed ourselves lately with listing other goodies on our local Freecycle site. We've been able to share old hog fencing with a local woman looking for something to keep chickens out of her garden. We've also been able to share some tools, and some household items. It feels good to pass things along that still have some good use to them yet.

We also had a big community garage sale. (That's the same as a jumble sale, rummage sale, etc.) We had lots of things that were taking up valuable space. They were in great shape, but we simply did not use them any longer. We were able to provide a neighbor with a whole set of camping equipment. She was thrilled and planned on giving it to her daughter as part of her wedding gift. They like to camp, but can't afford the campstove, coolers, etc. So now they have them for very little money! Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 12, 2006

Gardens, Animals, Knitting, & Wise Words.


The Garden: One of our projects this spring was redoing our raised beds in the vegetable garden. The wood was old, and wet. We even found Pacific NW wetwood termites in one board. (These bugs can only exist in wet wood and aren't a threat to your home--unless it's soggy--so we were relieved to learn that.) My dear husband tore out the old boards and replaced them with these brand spanking new ones. Now we are ready to go for years to come.

The Animals: I couldn't resist this photo. The quality is poor, since I had to shoot it from inside the house. (My digital camera makes noise when you turn it on, and that always destroys my animal shots. Once they hear it, the cute pose is always lost!) Eli is king of the "face plant". I find this sleeping pose to be quite delightful and it never fails to amuse me greatly. I guess small minds have simple pleasures!

The Needles: Finally, on the knitting front, I'm attemping my first Baby Surprise Sweater. A design created by Elizabeth Zimmermann. It can be found in her book The Opinionated Knitter, or at It's a cute baby sweater that is done all in a single piece and then folded, origamie style, with minor stitching, into a sweater. It can also be done as an adult sweater (which I hope to try), but I'm practicing on the wee size with some old yarn that's been lying around for quite awhile.

In Summary: I found this little quote that seems appropriate today, so I'll stop for the day and leave you with this.

"Talking is like playing on the harp;
there is as much in laying the hand on
the strings to stop their vibrations as
in twanging them to bring out their music."

--Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Autocrat Of The Breakfast Table, 1858 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Even When It's Raining, It's Heaven.

We just returned from our first long stay at our little place by the lake. The weather could hardly have been worse--rain nearly steady for three days. But even with the rain and the clouds obscuring the lovely mountain views, it was still wonderful. We were gone only four days but it seemed like we'd been away from it all for a very long time. Nothing to do but read, nap, hike with the dog, talk, drink wine with our neighbors, sit by the bonfire, and eat. (Maggie thought she'd better keep close by the grill in case there was a terrible steak-dropping accident.)

The bird watching here is incredible. We sit so high that the birds are at eye level. We saw so many different and beautiful species. Plus, we have the added bonus (?) of having a Steller Jay build a nest right outside the door of our little trailer. No baby birds yet, but Mom and Pop are busy sitting on those eggs!

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We also had a great time at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island. Please pay them a visit if you're in the area. It's a beautiful, rural island with great views whereever you look. The inn is charming, and they serve wonderful breakfasts and dinners that utilize their own organic produce, eggs, and locally caught fish. The owners are members of the Slow Food movement, which focuses on eating locally produced, organically grown food that is cooked in a healthy manner.