Spring Inspiration

I talked to Baby Girl today. She told me that while the rest of the US is experiencing a warmer than average winter, Oregon (her home) is simply average, and Washington (my home) is colder and wetter than normal? I’ve heard tell we’ve had more snow in Seattle than in Chicago this year. The MR noted that the river is flooding when he got home from work last night, and they’ve added a stoplight to where the road washed out a few weeks ago. It just doesn’t seem fair.

Maybe that’s why our visit to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in February felt so right; we are longing for spring around here, and the smell of the flowers and beauty of the scenes took me to a happy place.

I loved the profusion of bulbs in front of this fountain. The delicate daffodils stood in sharp contrast to the square stone tower.

I don’t think we really have a good spot for a fountain, and I can imagine Cocoa frolicking in any water feature we might put in—every mudpuddle she meets calls her name—but it’s fun to dream.

Speaking of dreaming, do you think this statue would keep the deer out of the orchard?

It might be a little pricey for a few plums and apple. I did see a giant metal chicken that might scare the wildlife; it scared me.

I loved the tone-on-tone colors of many of the show gardens. hey make such a great impact when grouped together. I see a fall bulb-planting session in our future. I have a love-hate relationship with tulips. They’re beautiful and graceful, but so fragile. When me and the MR bought our first house, we watched with anticipation as the tulips came up that first spring. It took weeks, but the buds finally opened, they were beautiful. The next day we had a windstorm, and they were gone. Left with leaves and stems after all that waiting, I tend to go for heartier stuff.

The theme for this year’s show was “A Taste of Spring” so most of the gardens featured seating areas. I enjoyed the diversity of past years more when they showcased their takes on romance and America. With the beautiful view from our deck, we’re not often found in the yard. We’ve talked of a fire circle and benches down near the woods, but it’s hard to beat the sunset and view from above.

Perhaps I can gather a few ideas for the deck from this modern patio with chairs and stools and all that vibrant orange. I wouldn’t mind a little girl talk seated on those pillows.

These carvings and outdoor fireplace where stunning. It feels like they grew up out of the forest.

Between the show gardens and the plant marketplace, I was amazed to discover these beautiful cakes— skill, beauty, and imagination.

Sadly, we came home with few in the way of purchases. I was looking for kiwiberry vines to climb the chain link on the tennis court. Apparently, they grow well in Russia, so I’m figuring they’ll thrive here. I found more varieties online, so I decided to place an order.

We did find plastic risers to place under the pots on the deck. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Spring is just around the corner. I hope until then these pictures bring you a little sunshine.

What says spring to you?

(By the by, today would have been my parents 55th wedding anniversary—oops I was off by one. Make that 54—if my mom were still living. Don’t worry; we’re still keeping on eye on Dad. I hear tell he just got back from a road trip around the midwest in a camaro. Miss you mom.)

 

Winter Storms & Prepping for Spring

The snow and rain this past month has brought its share of headaches. 

The MR spent a few days straightening posts and redoing the netting over the orchard. The weight of the snow had caused it to collapse. 


We got by with just a few broken branches. Taking a closer look, the MR noticed that the critters who tore up our grapes last fall had also damaged the vines. He took the opportunity to remove the bottom wire of the grape trellis, so the grapes wouldn’t hang on the ground. 

Although it snowed every day last week, it was sunny by afternoon. So the MR did some careful pruning to the fruit trees and bushes, fertilized the trees, and applied a dormant spray. The orchard is ready for spring. 

He also began work on a French drain for a low spot in the driveway which sports a puddle half the year. In his preliminary digging he came across a large rock just shy of 12-inches deep. After a lot of hard work, he decided a 10-inch drain would be the better choice; it’s on order. 

The big news isn’t on our property; it’s on the one road leading to the 60-plus homes on our hill. With the heavy rains this month, the road began collapsing into a deep ravine. I did mention that this is the ONE and only road leading up the hill, right?



The county has added some drainage, filled in, and paved over the uphill shoulder. During the week, they posted half hour waits, and this past weekend it was one hour waits to get through the construction zone. 


I’m hoping we’re safe for the moment and thankful that no one has been hurt. Over the weekend, the county was taking core samples. Maybe they’ll show that our hillside is going to stay put. 

Any storms headed your way? How are you preparing for spring?

Fall Harvest

My garden has been a bit neglected with our recent trips. It’s hard to keep up with the weeding and thinning when you’re on the other side of the world.

I’ve spent a few hours the past week snipping the flowers off all the tomato plants. I planted three marzanos down in the kitchen garden. They were lush and full when I removed the Walls-O-Water, but they’ve been late to set fruit. We’re expecting mid-60s to low-70s for the next 10 days, so by removing the flowers, I’m hoping to encourage the fruit to ripen. So far, they look nothing like my idea of San Marzano paste tomatoes. I’ll be happy with whatever we get.

Worms can’t process the tomato seeds, so when I add the castings to my garden, I get tons of volunteers. Since many of my sowings didn’t produce anything, I decided to let these plants grow. They’ve set quite a bit of fruit, so far. I also have a canteloupe peeping out from amongst the tomatoes (another seed that worms don’t process). I may wind up with more than I bargained for.

The beets have actually faired pretty well after the early problem with predators, and my onions (that were meant to scare away pests) are also looking good. I even picked a few blueberries this afternoon.

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You may be wondering what I have in mind for all those tomatoes. Well, I really like Putting Up with Erin’s Smokey Tomato Jam. (I’m having trouble with the link, so here’s where to go:  http://www.puttingupwitherin.com/2014/09/19/smokey-tomato-jam/ .) Sweet Miss has requested a jar, and what mother can refuse a food request from her kid?

The recipe starts with six pounds of tomatoes, so I may be headed to the farmstand or market. Until then, I’ve been enjoying tomatoes on toast with an Italian flair.

fh-tomato-truffle-oil-toast

It’s just toasted bread of a good quality, spread with cream cheese, sprinkled with sliced tomatoes, and dried thyme. (This is what happens when I forget to water the thyme plant in the kitchen window, and it dries out all by itself.) And then this is the final part, the kicker, the piece-de-resistance, drizzled the whole thing with black truffle oil.

On our trip, we visited an olive oil factory outside Sorrento. They had around 70 different types of olive oil that were so tatsty. We dipped bread, dipped bread, and dipped some more. I was able to drag the MR and Baby Girl away after buying five cans of olive oil, some basalmic, and some for Sweet Miss. She used her lemon olive oil on pasta—amazing.

Sometimes that little extra step makes a world of difference.

Are you enjoying a fall harvest?

Inspiration and Disappointment

I wanted to call this post the Grapes of Wrath. Not because it has anything to do with the Dust Bowl, starving displaced families, or Steinbeck, but it does have something to do with grapes and wrath. Alas, I thought better of it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Earlier this month, me, and Baby Girl, and the MR traveled to Italy. We started in the beautiful city of Florence, a truly, lovely place we’d never been to before.

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After wandering the streets our first day and checking out the Uffuzi Gallery Museum, we had scheduled a Vespa ride in Tuscany beginning and ending at an ancient castle turned winery. This was the home of the Pazzis who tried to assassinate the Medicis in 1478 and were summarily executed.

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After a history of plotting and rebellion, it has turned into a family home and winery in recent years. Wandering through the barrel room and other areas of the production, we were reminded of our own wine-making efforts at home.

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Sure we only made one small bottle last year, but the MR said the grapes looked great. He thought we might be able to make up to three bottles with our banner harvest. After visiting the winery, it was time for some beautiful scenery.

Not everyone was born to drive a Vespa, so I became a passenger on the MR’s scooter. Just a short drive from an ancient and densely-populated city, we wound up in the rolling countryside the hills speckled with grape vines and olive trees.

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This was at the beginning of two weeks of adventures, and the ideas of wine-making were put on the back burner till we got home. Unfortunately, just because we’re away doesn’t mean the rest of the world stands still back home. We had visitors. The MR thinks it was probably raccoons who came, climbed under the netting, moved boards holding it in place, ate the grapes, and tore up the vines.

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Oh well, there’s always next year. Now you understand my grapes and wrath.

Any tips on getting rid of raccoons?