Saturday, October 27, 2012

From summer netting to winter frost

I think summer has officially left this part of Georgia, as of today. I know, officially it left awhile back, but we've had a beautiful fall that was summer-like. Warm. Sunny. Dry. Nice. No surprise seeing it end today -- it's been in the weather forecast for the last week or more. Still doesn't mean I have to like it....

As a result -- I went out just now and transformed the greens bed from it's summer netting to its winter frostgard -- supposed to get down to freezing in a couple of nights, so I thought I might as well be proactive, even though the plants are all cold tolerant.

I also hung out three suet cakes for the birds yesterday, although I expect it'll take them a couple of days to find them. It generally does. This year, I put one on that wooden clothesline support, so I'll be able to watch them better. The others are way in the back, under the trees, for a little protection.

I tore out all the mustard plants yesterday. I just don't like it! It has a hairy, almost spiny texture, which doesn't make it fun to handle or to eat raw in a salad. And I don't like the taste. Not sure why I planted it again this year, other than that I had the seeds. The lettuce, kale and chard are terrific, however. And the leeks are doing well. Garlic is up and growing like gangbusters -- no cover needed, as it's plenty hardy.

Mexico is looking better every day! Still -- it's rainy and cold in Eugene, so it could be worse. Lousy day for a football game! Not that the Ducks fans will care or notice. They're a hardy bunch, particularly when well-fortified from tailgate parties and hip flasks. Particularly when the Ducks are winning.

Speaking of rain in Oregon -- can you believe this photo is from a webcam? I stumbled across it quite by accident this morning. It almost looks like a painting, probably because of the mist. This is Silver Falls, not far from Salem.

And no, I don't regret leaving Oregon. But I sure don't mind being reminded how beautiful it is.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My latest food addiction

I love Mexican food -- real Mexican food, as opposed to the more Americanized versions available at chain restaurants where everything tastes pretty much the same. Good, but not inspired.

When I was in Bucerias, MX about 5 years ago, the American owners of the little hotel where I stayed sent me to their favorite breakfast place on my last morning there, and told me what to order. Tiny place, lots of cop cars outside (apparently also a favorite of the local gendarmes), patrons a good combination of locals and tourists. I cannot remember the name of the dish I ordered, but it was eggs cooked in a really hot sauce -- your choice of red or green sauce. After I ordered it, a man who I assume was the manager came to me and asked if that was really what I wanted, as if  he wasn't sure I knew what to expect. Guess not a lot of gringas order that dish. I assured him I wanted it and when it arrived, it was delicious, and yes, the sauce was rather spicy, but I love spicy foods. Naturally, refried beans were also on the plate.

Lately, as part of trying to seriously cut back the cost of food, I've been cooking and eating a lot of pinto beans, which thankfully I really like. One morning a week or so ago I decided to semi-replicate the above breakfast, although without the hot red sauce because I've never seen anything in the stores that would fit the bill, other than possibly enchilada sauce. But, home cooking in Mexico is the same as home cooking in this country -- you use what you have and experiment.

Now, I'm just addicted to this, although I don't have it every day because I'm also trying to cut back on eggs. Since it's cool here in the mornings now, I turn my oven on low, put the dish in there to heat. Then, I take pintos I've cooked, toss them into a skillet with a little sunflower oil, make good use of an old-fashioned potato masher and in mere moments I have refried beans. I try to get the egg to come from another skillet at the right time, but don't stress over it since it all goes back into the oven anyway. The red sauce is a jarred casera salsa that works, but isn't right. A few more moments in the oven to melt the cheese and heat the refrigerated salsa, and it's ready to eat. I don't always use cheese, and don't use much of it ever. Sometimes I even have it for lunch or dinner. Yum.

I've got the stuff to make a real Mexican sauce, courtesy of my online 'friend' Rolly, at his wonderful website. Maybe I'll try it today, see how it works. I'll be using a combination of the salsa recipes on this page, to get a smooth sauce that also has some good heat to it. These recipes are the real deal -- from his landlady, I believe it is, in Lerdo, MX. Maybe I'll post photos of my own experiment with this sauce. Juggling the peppers to get the right amount of heat will be the big test.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The birds will like it better

Another change in the garden....

This is the second time I've had to move the birdbath in order to see it. First, it was put in the center of the young rosemary and lavender, but in due time the rosemary took over. So, I moved it back by the blueberries, but now the rosemary has once again grown so tall that I couldn't see the birdbath from the house. It seemed easier to just move it, and the birds will probably like it better here anyway, where they can have a good view of creeping predators. I did it right this time (imagine that!). Took a level out there so both the base and bowl are actually level, or at least mostly so. Still need to move those perennials.

You can't see it, but the garlic is coming up quickly and strongly in the left rear bed, and the greens are doing just great in the left front bed. In fact, I need to harvest some of those soon before they get out of hand. The white cover on the right is over the compost bed, to keep it warmer during the winter. And, that's covered with chicken wire to keep critters from digging at the cloth. Everything is covered with chicken wire or netting, to keep the cats out. I dug up lots of weeds from the walkways on Sunday, but you'd never know it from this photo. Obviously, still lots more to be done.

That's it for excitement today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My neighbor calls it a groundhog...

I first noticed this guy last summer -- or was it spring?

I think he was a good bit smaller then, but wouldn't swear to it. Don't know if he was an orphan or what, but for some reason this critter, which I believe my neighbor calls a groundhog, has made his home under the house of the neighbor on the other side. These entrance holes are under the back stoop/stairs. I haven't seen him there for awhile, thought he'd moved on. Looks to me like he's taking a snooze in the warm sunshine. I saw him (or one of his kin) out in that neighbor's backyard yesterday, looking for food. There's an old apple tree back there that nobody makes use of, so the apples fall and these critters always enjoy that bounty. They apparently nest in the tangle of trees and brush that separate our back yards from those of the neighbors on the next street. Pretty good detail for full zoom, hand-held, cropped and enlarged! Sometimes I like that camera.

Life is slow and dull around here. Cold night last night, but the sun is warming the house nicely and that seems to be a pattern we can expect for awhile. I'm good with that.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Saturday doin's

Look fast -- all that shine will be gone by morning.  I gave the car one of its usual twice yearly washes this morning. The bugs on the front have been bothering me. Remnants of my 3 weeks in South Georgia and coastal South Carolina, the things made the front of the car look pitted and ugly. Now it's all nice and silver again. You'll have to take my word for that because I was flat out too lazy to walk off the porch and take a photo from the front. That would have required shoes.

Aside from that, I've spent time today making a variation of the winter squash soup with lemongrass and coconut milk that I learned to love last winter at Bhavana. This is probably the 4th time I've made it since I returned from that trip. This time, instead of winter squash I used sweet potatoes, because it just sounds good, and will use almond milk instead of coconut milk. He'd made it with almond milk at Bhavana, and it was unbelievably delicious. However, I think I also made another discovery today for added flavor. The stock for the soup has all kinds of spices and herbs and savory stuff like onions and garlic and ginger and cinnamon, plus trimmings from the squash/potatoes. Usually, I do what the recipe directs: let it simmer for 30 minutes, then use it. Today, I opted to just let it simmer for awhile, maybe an hour or so beyond the time when all the stuff was put in, so all those flavors could seriously cook out into the stock, and having just tasted the broth as the soup is cooking, I can tell it made a big difference. Yummy. With almond milk still waiting in the wings. I'd offer up the recipe, but it's a lot of words and I'm too lazy. And, for the first time I now understand the descriptions I'd heard of the wonderful scent of lemongrass. What I've bought in the past didn't have much of a scent -- probably because it had been harvested long before I ever saw it. This time, I harvested some from my own pots, for the first time, and the smell was indeed wonderful as I cut it up. No doubt, that's also adding to the flavor of that broth in a new way. I'm looking forward to dinner, for a taste.

About done, I'd say. Now the question is, to puree or not to puree. Recipe says puree, but at Bhavana they left the squash pieces whole, and it was super. Milk gets added after it's pureed, if I go that far. Or before serving, if I don't puree. Aside from being delicious, this soup is super healthy, filled with nutrition and highly anti-inflammatory. About 10 cloves of garlic, a big piece of fresh ginger (about 3 inches long), 2 jalapeno peppers, plus the other goodies. And fresh lime juice at the very end.

Postscript: pureeing won! And it tastes wonderful. I think I like this variation.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Little by little, winter is creeping in upon us. Not in major ways, despite the little cold spell that's passing through at the moment, but in smaller ones. This morning I lowered the storm windows, raised the upper sash in the back room. Left the kitchen window open, since I'm not yet ready to close the house up completely. Some warmer weather will return, surely, before frost hits.

Out in the garden.....

The results of my work over the past couple of weeks -- all four beds cleaned of weeds and/or summer plants, fertilized, planted or made ready for planting or..... read on. There's plenty of more work to be done out here, but my energy is pretty much limited each day, so progress is slow.

Things are rather dull, I'm afraid, but it's all in transition, one way or another. Yesterday I pulled all of the basil plants and the tomato from the bed on the front right, trimmed the thyme and lemon thyme way back. The bed on the front left has little greens seedlings and a few leftover (but still good) leek plants. The winter frost-gard cover is waiting in the wings to cover the hoops when needed. The left rear is ready, waiting to be planted with garlic again. I wasn't going to plant garlic because I felt I would likely not be here to harvest it, but then who knows -- so I'll plant it anyway.

The right rear -- to be left vacant but with a twist. After years of piling kitchen waste in bins far in the rear, I've decided upon a layering compost experiment in this last bed. Dug all the weeds out, have started dumping my indoor compost into that bed one small hole at a time, covering it, moving on to another hole each time, and letting nature take its course. The earthworms and other soil critters should love it. Basically, it'll be one giant worm bed. And I won't have to walk so far or work so hard to a) dump the compost bin in the first place and b) make use of the resultant compost if I desire to do so next spring. The process can be rotated from bed to bed each year, if I'm here to do it.

This lone echinacea plant keeps putting forth new buds and blooms, making a welcome but somewhat incongruous sight amidst all the colorless surroundings. I have a vague idea of moving these perennials into the center of this bed soon, then transplanting some oregano and chives from beneath the runaway rosemary and eventually turning this into a strict herb bed, surrounding the perennials.

Winter also means that I'm going to start needing to think about bringing these lemongrass plants inside during the cold weather.  Where to put them, what to put them on for drainage, and such stuff.  I plan to harvest some of them soon -- but they'll just grow back.

So -- tis a bit of a dreary day here, inside and out. I was planning to attend my monthly half-day meditation session but had to cancel because I just don't feel so hot. That makes two months I've missed (last time because I was out of town). These are some of the only friends I have that are close by, and it would have been good to see them.

Monday, October 1, 2012

When a picture says 1000 words

This has to be one of the saddest photos I've ever seen. The great, beautiful Yosemite Falls with no water! I've seen it with a mere trickle -- in fact the first time I saw it back in 1976 the flow was pretty meager, unimpressive. I've been seeing this on the website for weeks now. This is the upper falls. Compare this with the following photos taken by me on different visits.
Mother's day, 1979 or 1980. A surprise overnight dusting of snow coated the whole valley. It was spectacular. Pretty sure this is also the upper falls. For some reason, it's hard to get a shot of both the upper and lower falls together. Or, it must be, since I don't have one and the Conservancy camera also only captures one.

These two were both taken in 1996, on my slow, scenic and meandering trip back to the west coast from Georgia. On the right is lower Yosemite Falls. On the left, a close-up of upper Yosemite Falls taken from somewhere near the top of the lower falls. I hiked to the top of the upper falls that day -- lengthy, hot and steep. This side trip into the misty shade was a welcome respite, as well as being spectacular. As you might imagine, the views from the top were spectacular. Most surprising to me was the narrow width of the stream that produces all this water. You could have hopped across it, and some did. Personally, I opted against that, too well aware of the hard landing far, far below. I'm not afraid of much, but I also try not to be totally stupid. 

Better days will return to Yosemite, I'm sure. Droughts, like floods, don't last forever. But it's sad to see in a place that, to me, is utterly magical.

Here in north Georgia, we have rain. Started yesterday, rained all night and has rained most of the day, so far. Looking at radar maps, it's not going to stop anytime soon. But, it's a nice rain -- soft and gentle, the kind that (supposedly) sinks in, rather than running off. No storms along for the ride. I say 'supposedly' because when I went out to my car this morning to go to Curves and the library, the sidewalk was standing in water so I moved over to my lawn and that was even worse! Lots of standing water everywhere, mostly in low spots. The seedlings in my new greens bed will love it -- and so will the earthworms and other critters that live out there.