Thursday, April 29, 2010

Growing out of house and home.

Everything inside the house is growing out of its container.

The cavolo/cabbage is entertaining the little piglets in the garden/sun room, used to propagate during the wet months.

Squash and cucumber have taken residence in the kitchen, a warmer place with morning sun now and then.

Lettuces and endives could be snipped already and end up in my salad today.

Notice the plastic utensils standing up to another job.  The permanent marker can stand the rains outdoors too.

The little ceramic houses are left-overs from Christmas, and will be around a few more weeks until the sunroom/garden room gets cleaned up and freshened up for its summer debut.

When guests spend the night in this room, under quilts and sleeping bags, they'll have a fabolous view of the ocean, the lake, the night skies.  Children enjoy this room the most. It's at the end of the house, with its own bathroom, close to the kitchen for late night fridge raiding.  They can run-around on the deck till the wee hours of the morning and grandpa and grandma will not hear a thing.  Animals love this room too, spying on birds and squirrels that land on the deck or nearby trees.  The room, however is too cold in the winter for anything but starting veggies.

You can see where my attention will be focused on in the next few months.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

One of these days...

We're doing a lot of wishing and hoping, checking the horizon, divining the wind.
We're looking forward to the sunshine
to times we can spend outdoors

I could be throwing a line and catching a perch
canoeing in these shallow waters
hoping to be inspired
hoping to coax the sun out
I could be taking my shoes off and waddle around
sinking in the cold sand
hoping for a good workout
to take my mind off
my goal

to plant
to weed
to encourage new seedlings
to create edible
and lush growth.

One of these days,
 I will have them.

p.s. Blogger has just blocked me from importing pictures from my documents. What you see here are recycled photos from this blog. I know, I must adapt and learn yet a new way to do my old thing. 

I was going to show you my Cime di Rapa and other new tiny growth, still in the sunroom, waiting to get big enough and strong enough to be planted outdoors.  
Visit Eleanor for her Cime di Rape  
recipe today!

Tell her you're waiting for my recipe!

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Nothing is just what you see!
Your eyes deceive you.
Your camera deceives you even more.

You see what you choose to see. You leave out what you don't like, what doesn't fit in your scheme of things. You edit all the time. Even when you don't do it on purpose. You are a merciless Editor!

And this brings me to Writing Your Life Story.
Which is my topic for this Sunday.
A meditation topic.
A heavy, crushing topic.

Let me explain.  I am reconstructing my life story. Some of you have actually followed along and read this piece or that.   ( If you are curious, follow this link). You have assumed, rightly so, that everything I write is TRUE.

This needs an explanation.

If one of my brothers or cousins were to write these same pieces, they would have a different story all together. First, because their life experiences have been different. Secondly, their emphasis would be different.  Their purpose in writing would be different.

Also, I wrote from the perspective of an old woman looking back, in time and space, and language.  How much do I really remember?  How much has been transformed by my home-sickness? How much are the rantings of someone who moved away when she was so young?

Your children and spouse(s) will have a different take of today than you do.  You might remember the meal you prepared, the flowers you placed on the side table, the weather outside. They will remember the comment you made about their hair, the rebuff they received from their sibling, the fight they had for the remote control.

We are singularly selective and unique in our perspective-the scenes we describe, the mood we paint, the words we string together.  We are storytellers.

Most of all, we are always changing lenses, depending on the mood of the moment.

It is this ability of ours that makes us so interesting.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cleaning House

When we moved here we left everything and everyone behind in California, except our books.
Our house was sold, and our belongings were divved up among our three children.
When we set up house here in our present beach cottage we purchased only what we needed, beds, chairs, refrigerator, etc...

Seven years later, we need to have a garage sale. How did we accumulate all this stuff?
We bought more dishes and more pots and pans than we could possibly use.
We picked up more living room furniture than we need.
Between our outdoor and indoor tables we have four dining experiences awaiting us.
Our file cabinets are filled with papers we might need any day now, when the IRS chooses to select us for a visit.
Our closets are vomiting  shoes, boots, assorted bedding, and suits and dressy outfits molding in the back corners.

The habit of buying is hard to break.

Anyone for slightly used computers, printers, toaster ovens? 
Anyone with extra space to fill?
The Goodwill will refuse somethings.  Somethings  will go to the dump, where we'll feel foolish and guilty for our wasteful life-style.

Maybe this time we'll learn.

Monday, April 19, 2010


This is Cape Arago Lighthouse on the Southern Oregon Coast, sixty miles north from where we live. The entire Oregon Coast looks like this, mountains jutting out to the Ocean, islands and stacks popping out everywhere. 

Ships need plenty of warning signs to avoid these waters.

The entire coast of Oregon is punctuated by lighthouses, most of them still working, day and night, offering respite and guidance to the weary mariners.  Nowadays, though, with so much better instrumentation, boats and ships have marvelous mapping opportunities to identify dangers, temperatures, fish finding sensibilities, and a range of other functions necessary for navigation.

If ships didn't have lighthouses, they would end up as broken carcasses on deserted beaches like this one, waiting years or decades to be discovered. 

This stretch of beach is full of driftwood and broken ships in an area that is still wild and natural and hardly ever trespassed by humans.

Lighthouses were built before many people moved to these shores, as ships traveled these waters to and from California, transporting lumber south to Eureka and San Francisco to fuel the big appetite for homes and businesses during the great California Gold Rush. 

Oregon has a relative small population, about three and half million in the entire state, less than the city of Los Angeles.  The biggest town on the coast is Coos Bay, about sixteen thousand people, founded by the Simpson family, a big lumber and shipping company out of San Francisco.

The oldest townsite is my town, Port Orford, founded as a military post, in 1851. Its population is almost twelvehundred souls, half of whom are year-round residents, mostly retirees and artists. 

The rugged coast of Oregon is mostly fog free since storms sweep through and clear the air regularly.

Everything is green.  Our rainy season is coming to an end, heralding a dry season.  Our temperatures range from 40 F in the winter months to 60+F in the summer months.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Volcanic Ashes and other Emergencies

There is a game I play before I blog: I begin by randomly selecting a picture and posting it before I know what it is.  Today's choice is an arch somewhere in France, in one of those mountain top towns that remind me of  places I knew as a child. 

That green arch at the end made me think of how we go through passages in life with confidence and faith because we identify the exit strategies, and are prepared for the journey.

The game is to relate the picture to an issue in the news.
 Here is my take: the volcanic ash cloud is stopping all air traffic in Europe and in other parts of the world. How do people cope with these things?

At any moment, in our lives, something can break, someone can be injured, something can be damaged beyond repair.  We must know what to do at those times, how to wait it out, or fight it out. We must have a backpack handy with exit strategies. 

At  school when the fire bell rang,  you lined up quietly, and filed out in single line.  You worried about nothing else except to reach the exit and the designated place of reunion.  Go, go! That's all there was. Survival mode. You didn't whine; you didn't call your mom; you didn't blame anybody for the inconvenience.

What if I'm caught under this structure and all exits are barred?
What do I have with me that I can use?
We must all think like McGiver: a bit of string, a bobby pin, a lipstick cilinder, saliva and credit card we will concoct a communication device or a breathing device until help arrives.

You see, the more emergencies situations you experience, the more ideas you will have accumulated to prepare you for the next one. I bet we all carry our cell phone with us no-matter where we go. But, what if that ash cloud interrupted all communication?

So, are you stuck somewhere in an airport waiting for that volcanic ash cloud to dissipate? You are bound to come up with lots of exit strategies in the next week. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Lazy Way to Garden

I must have mentioned  somewhere that I have two distinct gardens. This is my upper garden, in the front yard, an expansive area with mature trees and woodland atmosphere.  There are pines, oaks, magnolias, camellias,  rodies, azaleas, geraniums and numerous bushes, herbs and ornamentals.  There are sunny places, like this one, where hubby and I can sit side by side, or face to face, and soak in the sun whenever it chooses to grace our spaces.

Most of what grows here is native, or so entrenched that it does not need me to interfere much.  I can be lazy here, doing what I want, when I want. Do you see a hint of artichoke leaf by the bottom corner? I tried to enliven this area by putting plugs of thyme, rosemary, and this artichoke that is now chocking with weeds.  Weeds thrive in this environment where rain is abundant.

These gourds are not native growth, though some mushrooms grow this big and bulbous. These cultivated in my other garden, down by the lake. I brought them up here to "decorate" this strip in front of the house.  They become "talking points" with my neighbors, surviving all winter out here. In  a few weeks, as it gets warmer, I will cut them up, save the seeds, and eat or compost the flesh.
 Lazy and inexpensive decoration.

There is color from December on, ranging from the white of the Star Magnolia to the red of the camellia.  Yellow and pink and orange blooms are everywhere.  Whoever landscaped this place loved colors.

The only thing I have to do is gather spent blooms, trim errant branches, move the benches to follow the sun.  This garden came together after decades and centuries of selection and survival struggles.

All I do is enjoy.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Growing Your Food

This is what you need to start growing your own food:
1. empty egg carton
3. seed starter-soil

The most expensive item will be the seeds.  I choose different ones to try each year in a different plot, that way, I am excited about the results.  This is my hobby after all; it feeds us in more ways than one.

Usually, I plant Territorial Seeds, from Oregon.

I use what I have at hand to create my starters. This year, I crushed the egg shells at the bottom of the container to see if the extra calcium will do some good. I do not bother to poke holes, as the paper is porous and will leak out any extra moisture.  When the plants have grown out of them, I plant the entire pod, paper and all. 

Everything will fit and disentegrate in the ground.

You can use pots to grow vegetables.

I started my daughter with a couple of planters and a big black pot. In the planters I had spinach,lettuces and peas. In the big black pot, three kinds of tomatoes. She was hooked after that. Three things to take care of.  I showed her that an upside down water bottle with a single hole can continue to water her pot for days. 

This year, she is converting her lawn, building raised beds, and using compost she built all winter long. She'll save a few hundred dollars on food. Most importantly, she'll taste what food really tastes like when it is has not been contaminated and fussed over with chemicals.

Notice that I am trying some new Italian seeds because I was told these have not been engineered. Besides, they remind me of the special greens I had growing up in Italy: rapini, radicchio, finocchio. I even found Papaveri, poppies, that will grow to an enormous size. I'm looking forward to these experiments.

This beautiful hillside can also grow edibles for me. I have lots of herbs here and there: lavender, camomille, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sorrel, bay.

In my lower garden, I can grow peas, favas, artichokes and berries without any problems.
So, try raising something from seed.
Try including edibles among your ornamentals.

Find out what grows best in your area and indulge yourself. 

You will be rewarded!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Kitchen Literacy

I grew up knowing where my food came from. My dad grew most of our food, and our neighbors grew the rest. Few things were bought in a store, or imported from other parts of the country.  In my life time, I've seen many changes in the way we acquire food for our daily sustenance and the way we eat, all of which worry me and my neighbors.

Many small farmers have been replaced by mega-industrial complexes, on a basis beyond our imagination.  Most of our food comes from places we have never visited, handled in ways we do not understand. Only when a big medical scare erupts somewhere, we then question our relationship to our food; we demand regulations after many people die from e-coli or other food born pathogens.

Ann Vileisis has written a seminal historal account of how we have lost our relationship to our food with Kitchen Literacy. In this book, she traces the history of how food production and food consumption has changed.  This is not just another set of historical facts packed with footnotes and references.

"Kitchen Literacy goes to the heart of our disconnection from one of the most vital intimate aspects of our lives-how we feed ourselves and our families." Michael Ableman, farmer and author of Fields of Plenty.

Published by Island Press and available at your local book store or library, Kitchen Literacy

is a must read!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Spring Weather

Between the lake and the ocean are just a few feet of sand dunes. This last week we've seen waves pushing through, above the berms, roiling up the lake and adding foam and salinity.

From my deck, I can see each rivulet forming and snaking down from the dunes after each crashing wave.
This is the driveway, under constant barrage.

Yes, that's ice, hail accumulating on the deck, keeping us behind close doors.
Today's weather: wet, with possible snow showers and coastal flooding.

No egg-hunts for me tomorrow morning!
We just hope the winds don't knock out the power.

Happy Easter, everyone!