Monday, May 28, 2012

Flowers in My House

I've met a few people in my life who did not like cut flowers or bouquets. A longtime family friend and neighbor once told me, "I like my flowers like I like my children. NOT with their heads cut off and stuffed in jars." While I would advocate strongly against kids' heads in jars, I love having fresh flowers in my home. Since I was a little kid, I've loved cutting and arranging flowers, and I love how the bouquets change through the seasons. First there are the daffodils and tulips and hyacinths (which sadly we have very few of at our house), then there are the irises and lilacs, then the roses come on (and in Portland they bloom till Christmas), then the peonies and calendula, then the summer flowers- cosmos, daisies, zinnias, and sunflowers. Growing up in the country, there were wildflowers all season, plus the flowers from the flowerbeds. Here in Portland, I miss the wildflowers but love living in the Rose City and am thanking whoever planted the umpteen rose bushes on our property and decided to landscape with lilacs and dogwood and peonies. I have planted multicolored yarrow, marigolds, cosmos, small sunflowers, zinnias, pansies, and calendula to enjoy both in the garden and on my table.
Right now:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Something a Little Different

I recently stumbled across this, which I wrote some time ago. 25 things about me, which you may not know. It made me smile, and since you only see a small piece of my life on this blog, it seemed worth sharing.

1) 2008 was the first year that snow ever bothered me. I usually love snow and can't wait to get out of Portland to go play in the snow. But that year we all got trapped in Portland by "Snowpocalypse" and then when I finally got out for Christmas, I ended up where there were over three feet of snow. Can you say cabin fever?

2) I have an ambition to learn to play the fiddle well. I took lessons for awhile, and could play several traditional tunes. Someday. Someday maybe I will manage to get back to that point.

3) I am addicted to bright colors. I wear them, decorate with them, and thrive off of them. I just don't understand people who only wear and decorate with black, grey, and beige.

4) I grew up without a television or a shower with a water heater, and no flush toilet. As my mom says, composting toilets are way more civilized than mixing our poop with drinkable water and flushing it away and then spending millions of dollars to clean it up again.

5) Whenever I fly on a plane, I always order ginger ale.

6) I am absolutely terrified of caterpillars. There is no real rationale for this, my mom has theorized that it has to do with their "squish potential." I am completely unsqueamish about almost every other potentially squeam-inducing critter.

7) I learned how to sing harmonies by singing them to songs on the radio. It worked really well!

8) I went to Space Camp for a week when I was 14. At that point, I was 100% planning on being an astronaut. I never laugh at it, because it was totally real for me for a long time. It was a life-changing experience for me, the first time I ever connected with peers on a kindred spirit level.

9) I love to write letters by hand. There is something so much more satisfying about writing by hand, as well as receiving a letter in the mail instead of an email.

10) Before I decided to get my MPH, I considered both the Peace Corps and a Masters in International Service that would have taken me to universities in both England and Mexico.

11) I have been to the following countries: Canada, Mexico, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Italy, Australia (ok, just the Sydney Airport), and New Zealand.

12) My levels of exposure to sunshine and time spent on my bike each day are directly correlated to how positive my mood is.

13) I go into a shopping center maybe twice per year, and only if coerced.

14) My great-great-great-grandparents on my dad's side emigrated from Tomintoul, Scotland, in the mid-19th century with numerous children. My great-great-great-grandmother carried all the family's money in a leather belt under her dress while on the ship, and when they moved by wagon from Canada to Iowa, she was the only one who could swim, so was in charge of getting them across all the rivers and creeks, swimming beside the horses.

15) My parents celebrated their engagement not with a ring, but by buying what became known as "The Engagement Pump" so they could have running water in their house.

16) Included in my unusual skillset: driving a stickshift, the ability to eat unfathomable amounts of peanut M&Ms in one sitting, the taking of 30-second power naps, and the imitation of a perfect British accent, but only after a couple pints of cider.

17) I am ridiculously organized. I re-arrange and sort through my belongings every several months, know exactly where everything is stored, and have inexplicable systems of keeping track of things in all aspects of my life.

18) I really love loud knee-socks. I own at least ten pairs. Rainbow stripes, owls, bikes, stars, bright argyle, etc.

19) I weighed 10 pounds, 11.5 ounces when I was born. No surprise then, that I am almost six feet tall and wear size 12 shoes.

20) I love learning historical trivia and feel a strong pull towards 19th century events, artifacts, and traditions. The Oregon Trail fascinates me, and I love any book, movie, or museum exhibit concerned with that era.

21) When I was 13, I wore leggings, baggie shirts with buckles, slouch socks, and big earrings. I had extremely thick bangs and long hair that was tied back with scrunchies. I had braces and absolutely no hips or boobs. I was a straight-A student, a know-it-all, and a teacher's pet. Boy, was I popular.

22) Scotch + chocolate = yes.

23) My first kiss was drunk in a nightclub in London. I hear there's a long tradition of this among American college girls.

24) Most of my memories of childhood summers are from my grandparents' summer place on Black Lake in northern Idaho. We spent most of every summer there until they sold it when I was ten. I have vague but happy memories of fishing off the dock with Grandpa, spitting cherry pits off the deck with my brother and cousins, eating delicious bbq and corn on the cob in a screen tent to keep off the bugs, running into the screen door with my face and splitting it down the middle when I was 7, taking bubble baths in my grandma's tub (a luxury we didn't have at home), falling off the dock when I was 4 and looking up through the water at my father reaching down to pull me out, falling asleep while hearing my mom and her sibs and parents all playing 3-13 in the kitchen, and watching my mom and her two older sisters trying to paddle across the lake in a rubber raft and the whole thing deflating suddenly and them laughing so hard they could barely tread water. I also remember that to get to the house, we had to drive the road all the way around the lake, and Grandpa would always sit on the deck and wave to us when he saw our yellow truck go by from the other side of the lake.

25) I know the words for bagpipe player and flamethrower in German, and can tell you to kiss my ass in Gaelic.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Around Here

Around here, I am heading into the final few weeks of the quarter, and summer vacation is so close I can almost taste it. I really love my program, and all of my classes, but it is really hard to focus on schoolwork when so much is happening outside! This is one of my favorite times of year in Portland, when everything is green green green, rhododendrons and iris and roses are blooming everywhere you look, and we wake up to birdsong every morning and the air just smells so flowery and fresh. We've had a two-week stretch of absolutely beautiful warm weather, and this morning it is still warm, but gray and drizzly.

I am taking a little break from the usual pile of homework--right now in addition to my regular weekly heap of readings, I am writing a plan to use community organizing to improve opportunities for physical activity for older adults in East Portland- an area of town that has very poor infrastructure and resources and has generally been neglected by the city. For our Mass Communication & Health class, my friend Laura and I are putting together a media advocacy campaign aiming to get the city to change zoning laws to restrict fast food restaurants near schools, with an accompanying anti-fast food social marketing campaign targeting school-aged kids. This is the kind of stuff I want to do in my career, so it's really exciting, even if it means many hours spent inside rather than outside.

Since the weekends are the only chance I get to spend some time in the garden, I put in a couple hours yesterday, weeding and planting and watering- but really, by now the big rush of spring planting is over and it's mostly just maintenance until we start putting in the fall crops. I am so proud of our garden, it's where I've been putting all my time that isn't focused on school (or Matt, he's a priority :), and while I am missing things like cooking and sewing and knitting SO much, it's nice to see how much my efforts in the garden have paid off. I have done most of the planting, and Matt has been working hard doing most of the maintenance while I'm away at school, and has been taking care of the community garden and the animals too.

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)
This bed contains onions, green onions, a tomato, carrots, spinach, lettuce, and Alderman (Tall Telephone) peas. I love the yarn trellis Matt built- I think it looks like a suspension bridge. I gave this bed a thorough, and much-needed, weeding yesterday- now the wee carrots won't have to duke it out with a million little invaders.

From now on, I am only ever planting out brassicas with floating row covers over them- that month spent under cover means that we're going to be eating our own broccoli by the first of June! (The broccolis out front that weren't covered are small and stunted, and have tiny heads on them but are essentially bolting). 

The garlic is super tall and thriving. We should be seeing scapes sometime soon. The only real issue with this bed is convincing the peas planted along the back that they should use the fence as a trellis, not the garlic!

We have tomatoes! This is the first tomato I planted out, probably earlier than I should have- it's a Green Zebra, I believe, and is putting on fruit and flowering away!

Kale. Glorious, glorious kale. 

We've trained our marionberry all over the fence, and it's going apesh*t. It was a two foot tall cane when we planted it less than a year ago.

We've planted nasturtiums around the trunks of the fruit trees, they are excellent companions to apples and pears- aphids love nasturtiums, so ideally they'll go there instead of to the trees.

Little parsnips working their way up in one of the beds at the side of the house. They were getting really shaded by our overly enthusiastic rhubarb, so yesterday I cut the plants down to half their size, and they're still big!

Like the rest of the garden, the peppers are thriving. This bed also contains basil, cilantro, and a new planting of lettuce (you'll notice I have marigolds dispersed throughout the garden- they are the workhorse of all companion plants, to quote Carla Emery, and do a fantastic job of keeping the soil healthy and attracting the slugs away from the veggies).

By the front steps, two lemon cucumbers in a pot, and a hot pepper. 

I think we're going to have a bumper crop of berries this year. Last year we had tons, but we were just moving in and this whole section of the garden was massively overgrown. With all the pruning and fertilizing we've done, plus our very sunny spring, I think we might just get the mother lode this time around.

I wish I could take a photo that captures the entire front yard garden, but it's too big! This is just one side- potatoes, tomato, pepper, and along the roses at the back is a row of beets. 

The dogwood tree in our front yard is in full bloom right now- I love this peachy color! One of the really fun things about this time of year is that we had no idea what our trees would look like when they bloomed- we moved in in late June, so this is the first time we got to see the lilacs, apples, Asian pear, rhododendrons, and dogwood bloom! We also got surprise tulips and lilies.

 Look closely- Matt and Maggie are in the doorway.

 This is what our rhodies look like- beautiful, no? We had no idea what color they might be.

Another addition to our backyard- Matt built this fireplace out of bricks salvaged from a demolition site nearby! Looking forward to trying it out.

We've been eating a lot of rabbit! Someday I will write a post that is only about our rabbit experiences, but for now I will tell you that the entire second generation has been successfully butchered, both does have been bred again, and homegrown rabbit has proved itself damn tasty! (Tastewise, it is very similar to chicken, but there is a different quality to the meat- richer, maybe?). So far we have tried it braised with sage and rosemary, and also dredged in flour and fried. Both are delicious, but the frying is labor intensive (and not as healthy). Either way, though, it is incredibly satisfying to eat meat we raised from the very beginning.

This week is an anniversary- one year since Matt and I returned home from our Big New Zealand Adventure. It's hard to believe it's been a full year since then- and what a year! Full of tenuous or nonexistent employment, good friends, the stresses and joys of graduate school, our first forays into the world of urban homesteading, lots of eggs, the bunnies, and many ups and downs. We've been poor, but productive, and pretty darn happy overall. And it has been a year spent in this house that is more home to either of us than anywhere we have lived since leaving our childhood homes. We truly love our home here, and everything we have done with it. It is comfortable, just the right size, affordable, and we are lucky enough to have good neighbors, a really excellent landlord who lets us be in charge of everything on the property, and a roommate who we are extremely compatible with, and who came with a cat that keeps us constantly entertained. Back on the road in New Zealand, camping in a different place each night and enjoying the itinerant life, this is what we dreamed of in the back of our minds, and now we have it.

In just a few weeks, I will have time to do more than write one big post every weekend- I can't wait to be able to settle back into domestic tasks, read something that isn't a textbook, and build some new householding habits like soapmaking. Until then, my friends, thanks for reading my big long summaries of the week!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Weekend Away

As you can probably tell from my extended absence from this blog, things have been busy in these parts. Matt and I finally got a mini-vacation this weekend, driving up into Washington state to meet my family for a weekend of camping and hiking at the Klickitat Wildlife Area, a place none of us had ever been before. Only a 2.5 hour drive from our end, we drove up Friday after work and came back this afternoon. We had a really great time, fantastic warm weather, an undeveloped campground all to ourselves, and hiking through a really unique landscape of open oak and pine forest, with wildflowers everywhere. Our drive home today was spectacular, winding river canyons and some amazing views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. It was really great and much needed time spent with my parents and brother, and I'm so glad we did it- I finally had a weekend where I didn't have to think about homework! Just sad that my sister-in-law Lisia wasn't able to come. Here are some photos from our weekend:
(Click on Photos to Enlarge)

Can you spot the lizard?

Lunch stop.

 Mom crossing a creek on a log.

Massive oak gall.

Shooting Stars, one of my very favorite wildflowers.

This is what happens when you give Tighe a butterfly net.

Mt. Adams peeking over the oak trees. 

Driving towards Mt. Adams on our way home.

Camas flowers.

 Mt. Adams from Glenwood, WA.

Mt. Hood from White Salmon, WA.

Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks, where we crossed back over into Oregon. This is the narrowest point in the Columbia River Gorge. 

What a weekend.