Thursday, May 18, 2017

Sunshine, and the beauty of simple nature


Spectacularly bright and beautiful day at the ponds this morning. Not the first sunny day we've had, by any means, but the first day of any kind that I've felt like walking down there for about 6 weeks now. Whatever that virus was, it was a doozy. But I began to notice the return of energy and the departure of malaise and depression a couple of days ago, and it continues. My legs still feel weak, and I don't walk fast, and I begin to feel tired before I get home, but still..... progress! I'll take it. So soul-satisfying to be walking these favorite paths on such a beautiful day and not ONE human encounter the entire time. They will be out in droves as the sunny days progress, but this morning the ponds were all mine. Mine and the birds, that is. Lots of those, too!






Lupine blooming everywhere, in great clusters like this and swaths of sunny hillside. One of my favorite wildflowers.


Then there was this. Way over on the far side I noticed these tracks and scratches in the gravel. I put my foot in there intentionally, to show the size of that print. Could be a big dog, I guess -- a really big dog. There's a matching one in the shadows to the right. Seems like too much of an urban area for big cats, as in cougars, even with all the acres of wetland and nature. It also seems possible that the one nearest my foot could be a human hand, so maybe not so mysterious.

So -- a wonderful walk to start my day. I see more to come, as my body continues to recover from the onslaught.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The garden grows

My garden, taken yesterday afternoon. The peas are growing! Put the 4 new stakes in, but didn't get the supporting twine in place until today.

It's really looking good, though I noticed this afternoon that the chard is suffering from the mysterious leaf-wilting issue I've had before. Not sure what causes that. Planted some nasturtiums around the edge, and some creeping rosemary in the corner beside the regular rosemary. I hope it'll all cascade over the sides, though we're not allowed to let it go very far over the sides.

Temp got up to 90 today, and it was sunny all day until late afternoon. Gotta say, it was glorious. Repotted my orchids, outside. Hung around talking to people, or just walking around. Random and possible thunderstorms moving through tonight. Kind of odd, unpredictable spring weather, which includes cooling off a bit. And that's ok -- happy to have ONE really warm, sunny day, for now.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

A walk in the park


Hard as it is to believe, it's been about 10 years since I last spent any quality time in this beautiful local park -- Hendricks Park, with its fabulous rhododendron garden. There was a time back in 2007, between jobs once, when I'd walk up here 2-3 times a week for a few weeks. From where I lived, downtown Eugene, it was about an hour's walk, largely uphill, to reach the park. Once here, I'd spend another hour walking the various paths, stopping to sit and enjoy some places I found particularly delightful. Then I'd walk an hour back home. These 3-hour walks are among my best lifetime memories. From start to finish, walking through campus and quiet neighborhoods and into the park and back home, it was one long, productive meditation. They were magical in a way I've never been able to re-create, anywhere. And I've tried!


This morning I was drawn by the promise of warm weather and sunshine, plus many local news reports that the rhodies are in full bloom at the moment. I found that to be not quite true -- many are in bloom, but many are also just budding out.  Sun was fleeting, at best, while I was there but it really doesn't matter. It's beautiful and peaceful and serene with our without sunshine.


The 'top' of the park. Parallel paths are terraced off to the left and right, with many smaller trails that connect and lead to hidden corners.



From the entrance I headed -- unerringly, as it turned out -- toward where my favorite little nook is. This fountain sits off the main trail and is a lovely place to just sit and contemplate. I was surprised, but not really surprised, that after 10 years I could still find this place so swiftly.


I didn't sit for long -- too anxious to wander all the trails and see the place once again. I've been up here at least once since my return to Eugene, but only for a few moments, never took the time to wander all the paths as I once did so regularly.





Another favorite 'off path' sitting spot, though this one is not so private as the first one.


This is -- or was -- another of my favorite places to sit. Looks as if some recent step construction has interfered with some of the old charm, but I suspect that'll return in time. Those big rocks in the foreground were home to many (and constantly changing) balanced pebble stacks and maybe a stray gnome or two. People leave little things all over the park, as gifts, and the maintenance people leave them be.


Rhodies aren't the only things blooming up here, ever.  Azaleas, too, plus lots of low-growing groundcover and trees of all kind. Dogwood is blooming up there at the moment, tho not in this photo.




So that was my walk. This entire property is maintained by volunteers, and they do a fabulous job of it. Some of you might remember that I went up there one day a couple of years ago to work with them, and it wore me out. I'd planned to become active regularly with the weekly maintenance, but that just didn't happen. I still love the place however, and still appreciate all the work done by others.

Hope you enjoyed this walk, too. I sure did!

By the way -- I guess I've officially entered the digital age. A few days ago on Woot! I saw some Amazon Fire kindles for $30 -- reconditioned, but in good shape. I couldn't resist. It arrived yesterday and I was instantly addicted. Spent many hours playing with it. Wi-fi enabled, so it works without a service fee. Worst thing about it is that I spent so many hours with it that my eyes hurt, and still hurt today. I have to say, I can understand why people are so easily addicted to these things. 😉

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fruit kimchi

Since the kimchi is doing my body so much good, and since I'm almost out of it, I started a new batch today.

While I was at it, I decided to try something new from the bible: Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. This is a fruit kimchi. Half veggies, half fruit (pineapple and strawberry in this case).

It still has all the spiciness of regular kimchi -- lots of garlic, ginger, hot pepper flakes. It's also meant to be eaten young, rather than aged, while the sweetness of the fruit is still strong. Should be an interesting combination. After 3 days, I'll let you know.

Won't have much probiotic development after just 3 days, but that's ok. I'll let the main batch ferment for 3 weeks, so that all the good lactobacillus bacteria have a chance to develop. This was just an interesting experiment, a branching out, if you will. Trying new things.

Clearly, the old batch that's almost gone has done me a world of good. I feel better every day. Almost back to normal today, though I discovered yesterday that the body still isn't ready for the gym just yet. And that's ok. Still no word from the doc about what he found in my gut, but he did say that if they found anything bad they'd let me know, so if I didn't hear anything I could just assume it was a virus or something that the kimchi is already taking care of. I'm going to go with that.

All hail the power of probiotics, people! Never doubt it. Last week I thought I was going to end up in the hospital, but a little aged kimchi started taking care of the issue within a couple of hours. Went in there and gobbled up a lot of those bad bugs, whatever they were. That's what probiotics are for, and they do their job well. But you do have to eat them, not just look at them in the fridge.

We have at least 10 days of mostly sunshine in our future, so I removed the white netting from my garden bed today and cleaned the bed up a bit. So nice! I've been eating radishes, lettuce and parsley, and there should be enough swiss chard for a meal soon. I found some blossoms on the peas. The carrots are growing, if slowly.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New toys and record rains

Before I explain the photo, I have proof that my whining about rain this year has not been unfounded. Local TV station today tweeted out that since the rainy season began on October 1st, we've had 143 days where some rain was recorded. The previous record was 138 days, set in the 1920-1921 season! And it's still raining.

So there. I feel vindicated.

About the photo -- what I'm going to say is going to sound really weird. It sounds weird to me, but it's true.

I've needed a larger skillet (only a medium size cast iron one that wasn't good for all uses), and really wanted a good triple- or five-ply stainless. Only problem there was cost, of course. Sometime back in March, I think it was, this little jewel popped up on my favorite shopping site (Woot!) for $30. Triple-ply. Cuisinart. 12 inches. I felt a warm rush and ordered it immediately, because things come up there generally in limited quantities and if you snooze, you can lose.

When it arrived, I really thought it was much larger than 12 inches -- it's huge! But I measured it and yep, just a fraction over 12 inches. And heavy. I've used it for all kinds of things, and it never disappoints. I absolutely love this thing. 

If you know me, you know I have a soft spot for nice kitchen goodies -- including a few pieces of pricey Le Creuset which has previously been the stuff that made my heart twitter. But with all my moves I'd winnowed down to only the one skillet, plus my previous larger skillets were commercial aluminum, and like a lot of people, I'd opted against cooking with aluminum. Back to just one skillet. Limiting. With all the nice goodies I have or have had, this one is absolutely the best, far and away and I can't tell you how much I enjoy using it.  The insane pleasure I get from using it.

I used it today for the first time in almost 3 weeks (I've been sick!), and once again I got a warm rush of joy the entire time I was using it. I love it, love it, love it. For an inanimate object, it has a strange way of making me want to live just so I can keep using it. Not that I'm planning on checking out anytime soon, but an illness will make you start having thoughts like that, at this age.

So there -- weird. Unapologetically.  I think that's a word.

Finally went to the doc this morning -- after the worst of it has passed and I'm feeling better, of course. No word yet, just a raft of bloodwork and three different stool tests unlike any I've ever seen before. Something should show up for all of this!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hallelujah!


Anybody living in the Pacific Northwest, including NorCal, should be overjoyed to see this graphic that just came to me via twitter. Can it be? A real respite from the constant rains? Oregonians are used to rain -- comes with the territory. But this year has brought much more than normal, more than most of us were happy to see. Some sunshine will be very welcome, indeed.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Battle Osprey vs. Eagle


Brian Davies does it again! There are not enough words to describe the photo envy I have when it comes to this man. This is a tweet from this morning. More photos here in Tuesday newspaper.

Bald eagle chasing an osprey 'over Eugene', determined to snatch the [very small] salmon from its talons. According to the newspaper article, the eagle eventually won.. But the photo is just awesome.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Osprey nest


Went for a walk down to the ponds yesterday and for the first time, noticed this platform on the side of the main road that holds an osprey nest. Not an unusual sight around here -- there are others along the river, including one that's close-by. I am curious, however, why I never noticed this one. I'm sure it's been here. I have a tendency to look down, rather than up, when I walk.  This time of year I find myself looking up, trying to spot nests for the eagles that I see flying about, as well as the herons and yes -- this platform that I initially saw from a distance, looking up.

I don't know if there are chicks in there, but when I walked past it I did hear a rather loud, rather insistent noise that sounded like a hungry raptor chick. Mom and dad were flying in and out of the nest from the river direction, presumably bringing fish to hungry gullets. I tried to get a cool photo of one of them taking off or landing, but the only opportunity I got came up so suddenly I didn't have time to react. I got this one:


Not the cool shot I wanted, but the best they were willing to offer while I waited on the sidewalk. This was just coming in for a landing.

I know where the herons nest, of course, and have heard that the eagles nest along the river, though I haven't seen them personally. Maybe it's time to go for another walk on the river path, see what I can see. They fly over the house, headed east for a short distance, though I'm not sure what's over there that draws them. The far end of the ponds? Grassland? Some of both over there. Nice to look out and catch that flash of white head and tail, the graceful flight, even for a few seconds.


The ponds were quiet and a bit dreary yesterday. I haven't been back to the gym yet, so felt a need to just get out for a short time and walk, regardless of weather.  It wasn't raining, just dreary.


Lots of mushrooms flourishing out there, too. Saw numerous patches like this one. Exciting, right?


A few wildflowers popping out, sun or no sun. But things are indeed getting green, and that's nice.

So, that's the excitement around here.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Springtime in Eugene

Brian Davies wins the best photo of the day award again. Springtime in Eugene!

Storms blowing through, high wind gusts, downpours, with a lengthy sunshine break in between. And that was all this morning. During that break, he found this. Note all the little daffodils reflected in the raindrops. Guy's a genius with a camera.

Just after daylight this morning, during a period of strong winds, I began to wonder how the fabric 'wrapping' on my garden bed was holding up. The weather has been warm enough that while I've been putting the 'skirts' down every evening, I've done it loosely. So I went outside and sure enough, all the skirts were undone and the whole thing was blowing in the wind, attached to the tops of hoops by only a few clothespins. When I reached the garden, I could see that all the corner stakes had blown out, and that the bamboo hoops that are the framework were also bending badly and ready to follow the corner stakes.

So, with the wind still pretty strong, I started trying to bring some order to the chaos. It wasn't easy. Hard to even hold down one piece of it long enough to pin it down. But eventually I won, bit by bit, using all the extra clothespins I had out there, and all the hoop stakes along the sides. I still wasn't sure it was enough, so I decided to go back inside and get the rest of my clothespins.

While I was standing there contemplating this, I heard a loud crack and, knowing what it was, started toward the parking lot. A quick look told me that the tree was falling away from me, onto the roof of the apartment building on the other side of the fence. I think that's the 3rd one that's fallen into one of their buildings this spring. It didn't crash against the building, though, just rested gently. I went back inside, got the rest of the clothespins, made it all as secure as I could, and hustled back inside. There were no more trees within striking distance of me, but I was spooked enough not to want to take the chance. I was out there again a short while ago, and the skirts are all still tied down nicely and the sun is shining once more. Maybe we'll escape further harm around here, and power outages!

I spent all of yesterday cooking, which is of course fun, for me. Went back to baguette shapes for this batch of sourdough, but neglected to score the dough deeply enough to do the job. Those slits give the dough a place to expand as it rises. Two of them blew out the side at or near the seam, solving the problem for themselves.

This one was, I think, one-quarter whole wheat and while it's healthier and all that, I think I'm gonna go back to plain old unbleached white flour again. Because I want to taste the sour without having it clouded by tasting the whole grain.

Still, I was happy with the way the dough expanded nicely and how the loaves had a nice round shape, rather than the flatter ones I've tended to get in the past. I'm figuring this thing out, one batch of dough at a time.

I also made a wonderful Spanish paella yesterday, which I neglected to take a photo of. That's too bad, because it looked pretty good and I'll probably never make it again. Or, maybe I will, who knows! It was delicious, but a lot of work. However, if I left off the mussels and shrimp and just had chicken and some good Spanish chorizo in it, probably wouldn't be quite so bad. If I'm going to spend that much time cooking something at this stage in life, I want it to be something different -- not something I've done before.

I hurt my back in the gym last Friday, and though I rested some, I also have been following my usual treadmill schedule all week, which I think was not a good idea. Standing on my feet most of yesterday didn't help, either. So, with some wisdom and insight into the idea that I'm not as young as I like to think I am, I've opted to rest until the damn thing has time to heal.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Springtime in the garden

Not exactly my garden, but this is what it's like on the Oregon Coast today, in Newport. Alas! I really need to get over there soon, on a sunny day preferably.

The scene outside my living room window, reflections and all. The beautiful white clematis and the weeping cherry tree. Not bad -- especially with a little sunshine.

Took this of the clematis a couple of days ago, on a less-sunny day. Really pretty!

My little garden plot, real time. The sun is shining and I've raised the 'skirts' to let the sunshine and fresh air reach the plants. May well leave it this way all week, since we supposedly have a dry spell on tap.













I couldn't decide which of these to photos I liked best, so you get both. Clockwise from bottom center: sugar snap peas, radishes, romaine lettuce, swiss chard, rosemary, parsley, thyme. Tiny carrot sprouts in the center, little daikon radish transplants scattered around the parsley. Put those out yesterday from a pot of sprouts I bought to eat, was curious to see if they would grow. So far, they look  pretty good.

Below, a slightly different view that shows the tiny carrot sprouts a bit better, and the radishes, which are growing like crazy. The romaine is doing well, too. Much better than the chard. Pests got a couple of the seedlings, but that's ok.



Seedlings just in the ground, radishes already sprouting, March 1st. They've come a long way in a month!

So, that's what we have right now in the way of spring. Oh, there are flowers and fruit trees blooming all around, and there's a tinge of green showing in the hardwood trees here and there. But this may be the first day it really feels like spring to me. Funny how warm sunshine will do that!