Tuesday, July 22, 2008


This has been kicking around for awhile, but I’ve had trouble bringing all the threads together.  I’ve a got a picture. Now if I can just fit it in a frame
Harking back to my entries on canning and stuff.  It was work, but it wasn’t. There was time between batches to kick back, read a little, harass a little sister (or be harassed), pull a weed or three, to just be. That’s how I was raised. That’s what families do; or did. And that’s what they did for generations. What really bugs me is that when the work gets entered in the balance sheet for gross national product, all that ends up in the final total is the cost of the materials. There’s no line in GNP for the creation of the ties between friends and families.
The work was done within the family or with friends. Think back on all those stories of barn raisings and quilting bees. The work got done, but no money changed hands. More than likely everybody went home with tired bodies, full stomachs, the satisfaction of a job well done and enough juicy gossip to keep tongues wagging until the next get together.
No income was recorded. No taxes paid. Well, in our case, dad got paid by Pope and Talbot for managing one of their cutting crews, but that information got put on a different line on the balance sheet.
I’m sure it wasn’t some sinister conspiracy, but somehow we’ve been convinced that it’s more productive for both parents to work outside the home and pay someone else to provide the things we did for ourselves. Or try to squeeze all that “unpaid” work in around the edges.
And no, we didn’t do it all. No family could ever provide everything they needed from within the family. They always had to fill in with what they couldn’t do themselves. And no, I don’t want to live in a country where the only job for woman is in the home. I like having the choices.
But, I get the feeling it’s a giant shell game. The same work gets done. But, now the national economy recognizes the value of the work because a dollar value can be attached to it and taxes get paid. And somehow the parent that stays home is seen as being less productive than if they were in the paid job market.
And I guess you need to push to have both parents in the job market while the pressure keeps building to turn pre-school into kindergarten and kindergarten into the first grade. Can’t have those pesky children taking too much time to become employable for the jobs we’ve decided are worth paying for. There’s very little room anymore for clowns, dreamers, contemplatives or other square pegs.
I truly believe we’ve lost even more. There’s a knowledge that comes from having to manage things. You don’t learn that in a class room. There’s a knowledge that comes from knowing you won’t always get what you want the way you want it. You just might have to settle for something else. You may have to wait awhile. And you just might find out that what you get is so much more than you expected.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I’ve never seemed to hear the music that most other people hear. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually felt the presence of God (whoever or however you define “God”) inside the walls of a human built sanctuary. My spiritual search sometimes feels like I’m hiking towards that glow on the horizon with a herkin’ great pebble in my shoe and no matter how many times I shake out that shoe the pebble won’t come out. The darn thing moves around. Its size and shape seems to change with every step. So I keep marching along; stopping every now and then to shake out the pebble that magically finds its way back before I have time to take the next step.

I have a shelf of books on various flavors of Christianity, neo-paganism, pagan reconstructionism, Wicca, shamanism…..you name it; I’ve at least looked it up on the internet. There will be one or two pieces that speak to me and the rest leaves me cold.

And then I find this:

My Lord God
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really understand myself.
And the fact that I think I am following
Your will does not mean I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.
And I hope I have the desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the
right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may
seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear for you are ever with me and
you will never leave me to face my troubles alone.

by Thomas Merton

And then I think that maybe someone else heard the music I hear.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


That last entry triggered some other memories of summers gone by. And it sort of grew like Topsy. This one sort of looks like the first chapter of War and Peace but, there was no good place to break it up.
Dad worked for Pope and Talbot as a logger and mom ran the house. Part of running the house meant ensuring that there was food in the pantry during the winter. My folks bought two things right after they got married. One was a sewing machine and the other was a pressure cooker. We still have the pressure cooker and it still works.
In a small logging town, actually any small town of the times, that meant keeping track of the garden, canning the produce and keeping an eye on the toddler (me) while you were doing it. Later, as sisters got added to the mix I got drafted into toddler watching duty along with mom. But it wasn’t all work. There was time to read. There was time to check out the dry creek bed down the street. When we moved to another place there was a culvert that ran under the rail road tracks across the street that just beckoned the imagination. There were also plenty of trips to the park at the other end of town on those hot summer afternoons. Oh, and television. Yeah, we had TV. Two channels, black and white, and if it blew a tube between paychecks it might not get replaced for a week or three. Imagine the horror these days. LOL
What we didn’t grow ourselves meant a drive into Eugene/Springfield and trips to the local orchards. The usual shopping list included corn, cabbage, cucumbers, apples, cherries, peaches and pears. The really good thing is that these don’t come on all at once. Cherries first, then peaches and pears, and apples anytime from August to November.
Funny, nowthat I think of it, they go in order of ease of processing. All you have to do is stem and wash the cherries. And they are canned pits and all. Peaches are scald, slice, pit and can. Pears are the hardest. Those little beggers are slippery. Apples will keep a couple of months if you keep them in a cool place. Oh, and fruit you can just do a half hour in a hot water bath. Pressure peaches and you get sauce. It still can behot and steamy work even if you aren’t keeping a weather eye on the pressure gauge.
And the corn, oh the corn. That was a trip. You blanch the corn in boiling water and then you cut it off the cob, pack it with a little salt and process it. We finally got smart and just moved the whole operation out into the driveway. We took the cutting operation outside because it’s a lot easier to hose down a driveway than get all those little corny bits out from under the cupboards. Corn flies.
The cabbage went for sauerkraut. That was usually the last up because the gal we bought the cabbage from wouldn’t sell kraut cabbage until after the first cold snap. Claimed the cabbage made better kraut that way. And who were we to argue. We may still have the kraut cutter. It looks like a washboard with blades.
The cukes went for pickles. I used a fork to poke holes in more cucumbers than I want to think about.
 And did I mention that the garden in Oakridge included strawberries, raspberries and boysenberries. They all went into the freezer or the jars. The neighbor kids were welcome to sample as long as they ate the ripe ones and didn’t mess with the green ones. About ninety percent of the time the kids went along with it. That’s good odds anytime. And there was always someplace around the edge of town where you could pick blackberries. With luck more berries went into the buckets than into us. They went into the larder, too.
There was a method to our madness. Once word got round in the family that we made good kraut, pickles, jams etc. guess what got passed around at Christmas? If all else fails, give goodies.
Some years when times were good in the summer the folks would order a quarter of beef. That’s literally one quarter of a steer folks. There isn’t a lot of steak on a quarter of beef but I don’t remember eating a lot of hamburger when we were kids. I think the tough cuts ended up being trimmed, cubed and canned.
You want tedious? Try nursemaiding a canner full of meat. Two hours at ten pounds pressure for each batch. It’s not like you have to watch it like a hawk just make sure it stays above ten pounds. Worth the trouble at the time though. It was fully cooked and ready to use; just open the jar.  And most important, it was there in the winter when the budget was usually pretty tight.
 Dad had coworkers who’d go to the coast in season and come home with a limit of salmon or other fish. Into the jars it went.
Oh, and the freezer was a full size <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Kenmore chest style freezer from Sears. Now that I think about it, just about every appliance came from Sears.  That monstrosity was about three years younger than me and it was huge. It was really something when I could finally get into the darn thing without having to use a chair, much less get at the stuff on the bottom without standing on my head.. It was big, clunky, and defrosting it was an all day operation.
Not thatyou spent all day on that job. We chipped, pried, wiped and dried between doing other things. I was in my mid forties before that sucker gave up the ghost. Something necessary finally crapped out and we couldn’t get parts for it. Heck, by then my sisters were married, raising their own families and we didn’t need something that big anyway. But, for heavens’ sake never give up on something while it’s still running.
I don’t want to make things sound better than they were. We didn’t get a dryer until Roberta (middle sister) was nearly out of diapers. That means the laundry got hung out winter or summer, sunshine or clouds. If it wasn’t quite dry, it got hung over chair backs and the like until was. If it was too wet it got hung on a laundry rack by the stove. Try drying heavy duty work jeans on a laundry rack. It takes awhile. I think we finally replaced the wringer washer when we moved back to Springfield when I graduated from high school.
There were times when dad’s clothes were so muddy mom had to hang them on the line and wash them down with hose before she could wash them. A fun job in the middle of winter.
Logging is not a life for a man going into middle age. It’s a life that wears you out, and it does it fast. If and when there were discussions about tight finances or fears for the future; and I know there were; they didn’t happen where we could hear them. Nature finally took any decisions or fears out of our hands when one of his knees went out. We moved back to Springfield, dad ended up on disability and mom ended up cooking for other peoples’ kids in a dorm kitchen at the U of O. I’m sure there were times when my sisters’ weren’t sure if I was their big sister or a substitute mom. Somehow we managed to get through it all.  We weren’t always smiling about it, but we did manage.
It isn’t and wasn’t a perfect life. It was just…..life. And it has never been boring. And if you were bored? You didn’t say anything where mom could hear you. She had sure fire cures for boredom. LOL Now that I think about it, she still has cures for boredom

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


For those who may have wandered in recently. My original journal can be found here. I just had to blow off some steam this morning and the results fit better over in Pixels.

I got into journaling writing about politics. But, I haven't been writing much about it lately. Frankly, I got tired of repeating myself. There's only so much you can say about the current (and future) crop of elected hired help: very little of it good. Outside of voting, there's not much I can do to change things at the national level. So, I've been sticking closer to home with my writing.

My head's been full of garden stuff. When you're just learning the cycle of the season you spend a lot of time trying to get your head around a load of new information. Sometimes I think I need earplugs to keep all the new info in where it belongs. I was sort of familiar with the very simple basics. This summer has been a whole new world.

Gardening and canning could be considered radical actions the way things are going. Who'd a thunk it?

So, the gardening stuff will stay here. And the politics and just about to blow the pressure gauge off the canner entries will be in Pixels.

Monday, July 14, 2008


It’s finally summer in the southern Willamette Valley. Boy, is it summer. The couple of years we get to oh, say the middle to end of June and the universe flips a switch. After a long, cloudy spring where we were lucky to hit seventy degrees we can’t get below eighty.

The garden is going absolutely freakin’ crazy. One day the radishes were great, two days later it was “fire in the hole.” Bye, bye radishes, hello compost. The lettuce, spinach, and chard are all growing together in one great, green square. The onions are past the little green onion stage and well onto the “take me to your leader size.” By the way, spinach, chard onions and mushrooms are really good steamed together.  

The bean vines have grown three feet in two weeks. Well, maybe not that much, but it sure looks that way when the vines reach the top of the strings and start waving at you. We should have beans before the end of the month.

At least with our own beans we won’t be faced with canning twenty five pounds at once. Having them on the shelf is great. But, trying to do them all at once is a real stretch. It’s not the canning; it’s the processing. Wash, put in jars, add a little salt, add hot water, put on the lids, repeat.  That’s fairly easy if a little messy in a small kitchen. It’s the processing after they’re in the jars that takes time. Beans take one half hour at ten pounds pressure and the canner holds nine pints at a time.

Twenty five pounds will yield about forty to forty five pints and you can figure about an hour per batch. Because when you’re done timing them you can’t just open the lid. Youcan do other things, just don’t leave home and keep an eye on the pressure gauge. Chick flicks are probably out, catching up with the laundry is in. Working on that carefully researched journal entry probably won’t be a good idea; organizing your e-mail for future reference should be safe.

Half an hour at a temp that’s just a hair too high can yield “impressive” pressure results before that thirty minutes is up. And when the thirty minutes is up you have to let them cool to below two pounds of pressure before you pull them out. It sounds worse than it is, really. I’ve been doing this What you have when you’re done is so much better than the commercially processed beans that it’s well worth the trouble.

I know it sounds messy, sweaty and a little complicated. The thing is I don’t remember learning these things. I suspect I absorbed it by osmosis before I was old enough to really realize what was going on. I don’t remember learning how to snip beans. Note: unless you’re really into arty canning and keep the bean whole; you have to snip off the stem end, the pointy end and break them into three or four pieces so it’s easy to put them in the jars.

I suspect that for mom it ran along the lines of: small child (me) is curious about what you’re doing? Let her pull a few beans out of the bowl with her slightly grubby little hands. With luck she’ll copy what you’re doing and more beans will end up in the bowl than in the kid. And don’t worry about kid germs; they get washed before they go in the jars and ten pounds of pressure will take care of just about anything.

We have a mutant strawberry tomato bush that I swear is trying to take over the south end of the garden. Frankenvine was less than a foot tall and one stem when mom planted it. It’s now two by four……feet. We trimmed back some of the vines yesterday and it was like “ok, where do I start?” We’ll probably get far more thanwe can eat fresh and I’m thinking “bring on the mason jars.” It least we won’t have to chop them before they go in the jars. The three Roma vines are doing very well, if they can just be rescued from their over enthusiastic neighbor. And most of the Romas will probably end up as diced tomatoes too. If we get that kind again it’ll probably be given it’s very own corner of the garden. And it’ll probably die of loneliness. Hmm, I may have to rethink that.

For what you can’t grow. A side trip of say twenty minutes north of town with get you this.

Six of the twelve quarts of dark cherries we put up. And we use everything but the pits. Save the juice when you serve the fruit next winter, add unflavored gelatin and you get something that doesn't taste anything like "black cherry jello."

If we’d had the time we could have knocked about thirty cents a pound by picking our own. Even with the full price I suspect the end result is about the same for cost. And I know what went into these and where they came from. The fruit was in the jars before five and the cherries were still damp and cool from early morning when I stemmed them out.

And I didn’t take pictures but there’s about fifteen pints of blueberries in the freezer from the same trip. We have blueberry bushes but they don’t yield enough to keep up with us. We’ll freeze what we don’t eat from our own bushes, but between baking and just plain eating them we’ll probably be out by the time the new season rolls around.

Ithink I went back to work this morning to get some rest. LOL

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Here I thought these were flowers and they're really a hotel of sorts. Not that anyone is paying for their "rooms" except by just being who they are.

I honestly thought these purple cone flowers didn't make it through the winter. None of the others we planted last summer did. Note: we've had this one for several years and it's been moved more than once. So, either I forgot exactly where this one was, or it did the natural division process and the new half came back like gang busters. There are at least three dozen blossoms on this plant ranging from almost full bloom to a gleam in Mother Nature's eye.

Warning: spider alert.

Granted, it's not much of a spider. It looks like a good stiff wind would blow it away. I was out early this morning. The sun was just starting to move into the yard and the "neighbors" hadn't started to wake up yet.

Including this little yellow lady bug type visitor. I love coneflowers as much for the "cones" as the petals. Get me in the right mood and I could stare at the patterns in the center until I'm almost hypnotized. Granted I wasn't quite awake yet. It was just a little after six when the did it's famous boot imitation. LOL Now that I think about it, it was six on the dot. Arrrrgh!


Monday, July 7, 2008


Well sixty/forty for the holiday weekend. Didn’t get out of Dodge, but did get a lot done in the garden. Didn’t get out of Dodge because we had unexpected company. Sis and her family came over from Umatilla for the last couple days of the track and field trials. That is, the guys came over for the track meet, sis came over to do some connecting. Honestly, I think she was checking for sure that mom was doing ok. And yes, mom is doing really well. At this point about all she can’t do is sign her name on a check and use a can opener We don’t get to see any of them nearly as often as we would like and any excuse to get them over here is a blessing.


Made to two trips for new plants. Partly because my bright ideas needed some fine tuning. Got home with what we'd bought and well, they just didn't work with what I had. And then when I went back I fell in love with something else too. At least this time I got enough the first time around.



I didn't think to take a picture when I started. There used to be a couple of very homely nandinas in that empty space.



I know, I know they look pretty small right now. The one in the back is purple fountain grass. It could get as tall as five feet tall plumes included. The littler guys are a smaller grass known at golden toupee. The should get about a foot tall, plumes included. It should look a lot lighter and more interesting than the extremely boring nandinas I took out.



Two very nice lavenders, you can almost tell the difference between the two. The shades of the two bueshes are just about three shades apart. The yellow shrub in from goes well with the light purple lavender.



More work on the front side. The grass is called Elijah Blue. It's about as big it's going to get. There will be plumes later. The lighter clumps are a rock cress with variegated leaves. There will be flowers in the spring, but to be honest I'm not sure what color they will be. It'll be a surprise.



A close up of the little pink one in the corner. The latin name is Rhodohypoxis. Damned if I know what it means. But the plant originates from South Africa and is very popular in Europe. The are a lovely little plant and I hope they do well in their new home. I just fell in love with them at the nursery. They were totally unplanned, but they sure are pretty.


I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to go north to see a good friend, so the weekend was about eighty percent successful. But, the summer ain't over yet.


Friday, July 4, 2008


Blue oat grass and lavender. Shot from the front yard this morning.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


This is Misty of the many names. Depending on her mood......and mine she may be Misty the Beady Eyed sister pouncer. In this case Bandit is just out of the picture on the receiving end of the "stare."

She has also been called Velcro and Misty the Magnificent.  Velcro because there are days when that's what she does. She's follows you around and claims a piece of your lap as often as possible. Misty the Magnificent because she has the greatest set of whiskers and eyebrows I've ever seen. She's also the hardest to cat to get a picture of. I guess I can add "Greta 'I want to be alone' Garbo" to the name list.

Sometimes when I'm sitting down she likes to get on my shoulder like a little kid. Unlike most toddlers she can be totally relaxed and then she literally launches into space. And she isn't too careful what part of me she uses for a launching pad sometimes.

And she's another one we basically got for the cost of getting her fixed and her shots. Sara, the kitty we had before Misty joined the crew, came down with a severe repiratory infection and just couldn't shake it so we had to let her go. Since these things always happen on the weekends this involved a trip to emergency vet. My question about how the local Humane Society was as a place to adopt a new kitty was answered with "we have kitties too."

The little furball of a Siamese kitten was already spoken for. As for the just out of kittenhood gray tabby who'd already had her first litter? She tucked her head under my chin and held on for dear life. It took a few days and the "I swear on a stack of holy books she'll be spayed" to get her home, ut she settled right in and has been harrassing Lucky ever since. It took her awhile, she's learned that if she can back Bandit into a corner, the Bandit will give way, even though she's helf again as big as Misty.

As for the name, her coat reminds me of the fogs and mists we get in the fall and winter at this end of the valley. So she bacame Misty.