Monday, June 29, 2009


I want to acknowledge my 100 follower:


100 :That's more than I ever anticipated. How did it happen? What makes people jump in and follow you?
Now, you'd think I'm the only one out there surprised. I bet those of you with two-three-eight hundred followers are just smiling.

To my followers: thank you for adding your name and face to this blog. I hear from you now and then, sometimes never. I try to follow you also. We meet in places frequented by mutual friends. We begin to exchange comments, leave tokens for each other, begin to recognize patterns. Soon, we could finish each other's sentences.

Thank you for reading my thoughts, leaving me thoughts, sharing your lives with me. I wish you success in what you are pursuing at the moment.

We are all pilgrims here, making our way through brambles and clumps and tall grass that could hide dangers and disappointments. Some of us will retreat, too old, too tired to go forward. Some of us will scratch our way through. We will encourage others and show by our example that the road can be forged by anyone. It takes courage to share. It takes stamina and grit to continue doing something if nobody else cares about it.

So, for caring, for following, for leaving comments, these awards are yours to take, one and all.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A walk in the park.

We took a walk in the park this weekend, at Cape Blanco, where the Sixes River meets the Pacific Ocean. All around us the forested hills, pines bent from the strong winds, grass as tall as deer, the river meandering slowly to its end.
Our aim was to walk along a path by the river. We had taken this path before, and we knew it took us to the ocean. A quarter mile into our walk, the footpath disappeared. The spring grasses had invaded the path and erased all signs. That didn't stop us. It should have.
We kept going, pushing through among blackberry brambles, sharp edged sea-grass, pollen-laden rye grass. When our steps pushed our pulse-rate, when our sneezing and scratching could not be ignored, we changed direction and returned to the car, noticing Canadian geese enjoying their day on the water. I hope you can see them with a bit of enlargement.
We'll have to return and finish our walk as soon as the park rangers weed-whack the path.
You see, sometimes nature is a bit daunting.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

"I get high with a little help from my friends..."

This post is dedicated to my writers' group and my blog-world friends who constantly amaze me with their support and encouragement. The awards above came recently to me, courtesy of Cheryl and Shadow. Thank you ladies, these symbols of friendship will support me for many months.
The Bandon group, pictured above in an unclassical pose, is the group that knows me best, knows my frustrations, my limitations, my ambitions. Each of us has gained immensely from participating in the group; and in turn, we have influenced others too.
My friend Lilly Mars presented a long essay to the group, in response to a prompt about what we learned from each other. Here is an excerpt from her essay, with her permission.
"What I learned in Monday School.
"In his book, The Courage to Write, Ralph Keyes claims: 'The esprit of good writers' group resembles that of neighbors battling a hurricane. Everyone is in equal jeopardy. Shared danger forges a bond...Writers' gatherings of all kinds are, or at least ought to be, settings where we learn not so much HOW to write but how to DARE to write. No single task is more important to the process of becoming a writer.'
"...I have arrived feeling doubtful and hopeful and anxious and proud. I have skipped aerobics class because I did not want to show up sweaty. I have been late because of the nocturnal pestilence of words, words, words. Emily Dickinson has shown up at 3 A.M. accusing me of plagiarism and demanding a credit line. I have laughed and cried along with members of the group. I have listened to many pieces of noteworthy writing, and also some gobbledygook. I have watched many lovely people come and go, three of whom have passed away. This is the only place I know where I can be with people who get passionate about semi-colons. These are the only folks who call me Lilly."
Lilly's words, (not her real name), reflect much of my sentiments. Every Monday I feel doubtful and hopeful and anxious and proud. Yet, after those two hours hearing others' words, sharing my thoughts, struggling to learn how to improve the output, struggling to keep my ego tucked safely away, I return home exhausted and elated. I have never felt more alive, more understood.
Thank you Lilly for capturing that feeling so well.
I wish for all of you who aspire to write, to have friends like these.

Monday, June 22, 2009

150 Years of History-Oregon Celebration

This year is Oregon's 150th birthday. The World and The Oregonian have run a series of articles identifying significant milestones.

Oregon Coos County Women led the way for the nation to allow women to vote in the November 1912 election. In addition, the election committee debated on the need to suspend smoking in the precinct in deference to the many women who would cast their ballots. The votes were 1,864 for, 1,255 against.

I am sure those men who voted against had to contend with the lack of services around their abode for the rest of their living days. Since most of them worked in the saw mills or shipyards, they probably had lots of conversation and solidarity with other fellas.

Notable among the ladies was Mrs. Burns, the lady barber of North Bend, who was the first to register to vote, followed by a long list of well-respected ladies of the county.

In "Women Hurry to Register" the local paper reported that the city recorder planned to keep the office open late , as a long line of women had filled the office and the hallways by 3:00 p.m.

Since North Bend and Marshfield competed for businesses and commerce ever since they were founded, a local article back in 1912 chided North Bend for not having registered as many ladies as Marshfield. Marshfield was the old name for the present Coos Bay.

The women of Oregon: "After long and patient effort, have persuade the men of the State to place them upon a footing of political equality by granting to them the right of suffrage." ( This quote is from the World Newspaper.)

Oregon along with Michigan, Kansas, Arizona passed this new law in 1912. Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah paved the way.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The rest of the family: The Comforters

The Comforters is an indie singer/songwriter group, husband and wife team, Pia and Jason, here in a live music performance in Portland. Pia is our daughter, the middle child, between S and B, the boys you met in my previous post.

Besides writing all their own songs, The Comforters perform and record at their own music studio in Eugene, Oregon. Whenever we can, hubby and I like to take in the live performances, the intimate settings of their music making, appreciating their work and artistry. The two of them are inseparable.

Should you wish to hear their music and see more pictures, visit their website:


Crossing the Bridge for the Reunion.

The minute we entered San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge I began to tense up. This was Saturday morning, and the bridge was lined up with tourists. If there are delays, this is the place. Fortunately, the day was clear-usually it is foggy and drizzly-and sunny, with perfect visibility.

And now the reason we went down to visit: my grandchild-teen beauty J, her sweet mother T., her husband and son S. with a bag of goodies, and our youngest, not married son B. The old man is my teddy bear hubby. They are all taller and louder than I.
J is thirteen going on thirty, and will end up taller than her mom. She speaks three languages, but not her mother's native Burmese, or my native Italian. She chose to study Chinese and Spanish, practising with no one in particular. In my memoir-yes, you heard correctly, and it is finished and on ice for a while-I am conversing with my grandchild and using a sprinkling of Italian just so she gets the flavor and sound of my language and the lives of her ancestors.
I want her to know how amazing her life is, two worlds, the East and the West had to meet in order for her to be born. It is the story of America, and our family is a prime example. My husband brings the story of the West, the pioneers, grandparents from Denmark and Sweden, treks across the land on the Oregon Trail, growing up on a ranch in Montana.
My daughter and her husband are not pictured above. They live closer to us in Oregon and will be appearing in one of my posts one of these days. Some of you know that they are singers/songwriters/producers/music teachers. Whenever I want to feel uplifted, I go listen to their tunes.
For all the men and sons out there, Happy Father's Day. Share your stories with your children and grandchildren.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day Tripping

Last Friday we left our green scape and blue scape to go visit our sons in California. We drove 900 miles, staying overnight in Northern California wine country, then in Central California wine country, and then down to Los Angeles where we stayed by the airport.

Every time we visit our family down in California we look forward to the shopping and the restaurants. This last item includes fancy places as well as simple fare.

On my list was a stop at In-and-Out Burger. It is the quintessential burger, in my book: pure beef, grilled on demand, layered on a toasted bun with special sauce, leaf lettuce, beefsteak tomato, onions. McDonald's burger does not come close. I added fries that had been freshly cut from Idaho potatoes bigger than my hand, and freshly fried. We found our first burger joint in Salinas.

Before that, we spent a half a day having lunch in Healdsburg, in the Sonoma Valley, north of San Francisco, at Dry Creek Kitchen, a Charlie Palmer restaurant at the Hotel Healdsburg, where we had the sit down chef's tasting menu that included different wines for different courses.

The first course was pea soup with minty creme freche and a sauvignon blanc to put us in the right mood. The second course was house-made fusilli with a creamy sauce and a variety of zucchini squash, paired with a lovely rose. By the time the third course arrived, pork tenderloin on rapini served with a robust cabernet, we were ready for a nap. But, we forced ourselves to sit through the dessert course as well, with yet another drink.

After all this we needed a nap for sure. Fortunately for us, the shops in Healdsburg are filled with distracting objects and clerks dressed right out of Vogue. We chatted, we strolled, we bought a couple of cook books. (As though I needed more!)

When we got back on the highway and crossed San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge, we swore we would never eat that way again.

After we arrived in Salinas, and we settled for the night, I spotted the In-and Out drive-through an easy walk from the hotel. I couldn't pass that up.
Living in Oregon has taught us simple, green living. But we have muscle memories that have not disappeared.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The fauna and flora define us.

This is scotch broom, an invasive species here in the Northwest. It looks fabulous in the sandy shoreline, between the water's edge and the road. It was not planted here; it found its way by some clandestine back road, driven by wind, crushed into the sand by eager teens playing soccer.
All around this area we are surrounded by Douglas fir, Madronas, Rhododendrons and gorse. Yes, gorse, the same gorse that grows in Ireland and Scotland. During pioneer times, and for the last 150 years of statehood, Oregon coastal pastures were planted with gorse to support the dairy industry.
If you look on Google Map you will see a ring of yellow around this area, miles and miles of gorse and scotch broom punctuating open pastures. In the coastal range you'll see mountainous areas all in green, snakes of rivers and receiving lakes in blue, and lights around the cities on the I5 corridor, the main commercial highway connecting Washington State to the north to California in the south.
At the entrance to each state there are agricultural stations preventing plants and backyard fruit from entering another state. We can't take our weeds and dump them on our neighbors' back doors. We're stuck with them.

Waiting for the Sun.

I'm sitting in this quiet spot, waiting to gather enough strength to return to my garden chores. I can sip coffee here, watch the ocean in the distance, admire the work that is slowly progressing. The trouble with having a vision is finding the perseverance to achieve that vision regardless of intervening events.

Like weather. Weather that is still too cool and too wet.

It has been so cool that my bean starts and pea starts are barely growing. I could show you; but then, you too would feel discouraged.

So, I'll continue to weed, pray and sing out loud for the sun to show its face:

The sun will come out tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
There' ll be sun.

If the ground doesn't warm up, nothing will germinate.
Now, those of you living in lush tropical areas will take gorgeous pictures of your veggies and flowers and make me feel better.

Please, please, tell the sun to spend more time on this side of the planet.

I have a major investment here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Please excuse this interruption...

A series of thunderstorms have interrupted our work down in the garden; so I'm surfing around blogland, popping in and visiting some new sites, following back doors from my familiar haunts.

I'm noticing a few things about my habits and yours too.

I space/try to space my copy. It is not done for aesthetic reasons, negative space, illustrating importance, subsets, etc.. None of this. It is done for the simple reason that even when I enlarge the print, I have trouble reading it with my present spectacles. At the end of three lines, my eyes blurr.

Not your fault.

Not my fault, either. It is the fault of Medicare. Yes. And my supplemental insurance. Neither will cover new glasses. They will cover a trip to an eye specialist if I have some putrid stuff lodged in the eye and must be hospitalized. But, no new glasses. I must first get cataracts removed before new glasses appear on the horizon. (And I do not do surgery voluntarily!)

So, with that background, you can guess that my present glasses are limited in what they allow me to read comfortably on the computer. Some of you have so embellished and framed your
blogs that enlargement is out of the question.

So, ask yourself, do I want to discriminate against the poor, the old, the four eyes?

And another thing: some of our computers are ancient devices, with little memory. If you load your site with gadgets that need to be opened through other gadgets, you cause our poor devices to squirm and retreat.

Not your fault, either. Now, go on, do what you were doing. Don't mind me. I'm just taking a short break.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The call of the wild...

Roadless Rules: The Struggle for The Last Wild Forests,

Out here in Oregon, with big swaths of forests and unspoiled beaches, the biggest controversy on our politicians' table is how to balance the need for economic growth with responsible maintenance of our environmental resources.

The link above is brought to you courtesy of Island Press, an environmental group that keeps a pulse on these issues. Enjoy.

As for me, I'm playing in the dirt.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kitchen Gardens-A-la-France.

Here is the plan: gravel or grass paths; neat rows of vegetables and espaliered fruit trees and berry bushes; lots of herbs, vegetables spanning a couple of seasons; lots of flowers to attract beneficial insects and provide the biodiversity for eco-balance.
How does that sound? Perfect. Formidable. Hard-breaking work. Expensive.
First the plan. The neat rows are easier to cultivate and to irrigate with drip tubing. Because we are not building up the rows yet-it takes a lot of soil amendments-we are planting right on the ground with wider plots because that's how wide the expensive poly cover is. Our poly cover will suppress everything except the seedling positioned in a small hole. We do have a miniature version already which has worked well for the last two years; we are expending in the same way.
Second. As far as what grows in this cool zone I have to make some changes, but not much. The most interesting thing are the seeds I can get from Territorial. I can plant varieties of cool crops such as peas, favas, chards, lettuces, spinach, broccoli, beans, cucumbers....................................
Third. My husband's job, besides supervising the assistants when they dig, till, remove debris, use heavy machinery, is to design and build a grid of drip tubing. He has had good results from past experiences too. This job is a bit more complex, but within our reach.
Lastly. When my spring-summer crop begins to grow, I will utilize all that spinach-there will be gobbling up of that stuff, and lots of presents for the neighbors-and freezing the abundance- and freeze the rest for those grey winters. I'll be busy with the fall-winter plot as well, all through November when the fall rains will have chased me back inside.
Stay tuned. I know some of you will enjoy watching me sweat.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Back in France...

When we visited France last year, I learned a few things about kitchen gardens. In this photo, we are posed attentively to listen to our guide tell us how everything that was on the menu that day was grown in kitchen gardens right down the hill.

After that trip, I have become obsessed by the idea of cultivating a proper kitchen garden.

So my plan began: the lawn in the deer-proof fenced area was dug up, amended and prepped for major food production.

The plan was to have three areas, a spring - summer, a fall-winter, and a fallow area with cover crops. By rotating each area, I could enrich the soil naturally and not spend a fortune in amendments. On the first go, I bought seeds from Territorial, an organic seed producer right here in Oregon. In the following seasons, I will collect and use my own seeds.

I am the attentive short lady in the middle of the picture. My husband shot this photo to emphasize my compulsive attitude with lectures. I listen well, take notes, put plans into action. He, on the other hand, can surmise the entire talk in two seconds, can walk away and do other things, then return and summarize what he hasn't heard. Frustrating.

He did visit the kitchen gardens and knows what it is that I'm after.
Stay tuned to the next stage.

Now, as a side note, I took off the list of blogs I follow because it was not updated regularly and automatically. I will post about other blogs that pop up and inspire me. There is much goodwill and talent out there.

This week, please visit Angela Regada at