Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Morning Mist Rising

We had a visitor today, but only for a brief period. As I sat at this computer and glanced out over the valley, I watched the dawn's morning mist rising, ever so gently, slowly rocking in its sea of expression, nestling into the cranny's of the hillside, changing the landscape before us and hinting of what is to come. . . that time of year for an altered state is before us.

Although we will still have temperature in the 80's, the days of light are becoming shorter and the evenings cooler. . . a welcoming time as the chill in the air precipitates bringing out an extra wrap.

A shadow crossed, and as I slowly turned my head, there he was, perched outwardly facing on the tricolored beech. Was he ready for breakfast or was he too enjoying the view of the valley? I sat very still as I watched the slight breeze ruffle his pale colored underbelly; the light and dark striped tail flitted as he turned toward the house, surveyed the territory around the deck, but finally flew off.

He comes on occasion and sits atop the weeping cherry, but today he appears to be cautious in his movement and surprisingly is quite close to the house. I have not been able to identify the type of hawk he is, but should I run across it, I'll be sure to convey his identity.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Weekend

Our past several days offered a reprieve with lower temperature and a bit of rain, but with the weekend upon us we must yield to 80 degrees and an increase tomorrow to the mid-to-hi 80's. Although we prefer the coolness, mother nature has something else in mind, so work in the garden will be limited to a before noon status.

The fruit and vegetable garden has kept us busy and our daily diet has been filled with that very fine and healthy food group. Long gone are the snow peas, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, lettuce and broccoli, but we are now blessed with an abundance of tomatoes, green beans, peppers, squash, onions, eggplant, zucchini. . . oh, yes, and zucchini. Amazing what one plant can produce. And potatoes! We grew some last year, but decided not to plant them this time. . . they came anyway.

Marionberries are finally gone, but the wild blackberries have now shifted into position, and strawberries continue all summer long. Many marionberry crisps were made and shared, as well as fresh strawberry and marionberry bran muffins. As the freezer now contains an adequate supply of muffins for fall and winter, I have begun to freeze the strawberries. Peaches were quartered and frozen today, as well as some fresh tomatoes, blanched, skins removed, and placed in quart size freezer bags, with just a little bit of salt.

Pears, apples, and figs are well positioned on their branches, and the fruit fairy is temporarily granting me a stay.

There is nothing quite like it: the freshness and full flavor of it all and with little or no seasoning in the preparation. And when we see what grocery stores are charging for these items, how thankful are we that our preference is to grow our own?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Reds in the Garden

Reds and pinks are not colors I generally use either in our home or on my person, but in the garden, well, that's another story.

From pale soft pinks to the radiant and passionate and on to the boldness of a deep red, there is plenty of room for this vast range of color. And from flowers to foliage, it offers a dramatic dimension to our outdoor space.

Early spring yields welcome combinations as this bearded iris mimics the pink of the Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor', while the distant Allium hoist and peak their heads in balance.

The June time frame finds the garden falling all over itself as these peonies play gleefully among the evergreens, sedum, lilies and beech tree. In the distance and below the slope of the hillside, the Gleditsia triacanthos 'Sunburst' casts its golden rays above and about the landscape.
Yellow leaves of the Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Worcester Gold' complement the climbing Rosa 'Summer Wine'. The blossoms emerge as deep coral and gradually transition into a softer hue of coral-pink with shading to a gold center. With age, just like wine, she continues to evolve, but onto a cooler pink. . . one plant with a remarkable 'kaleidoshow' of color.

This sweet and charming old-fashioned Phlox paniculata 'Robert Poore', which graces the edge of a pebble path, stands over 3' tall with Clematis 'Ernest Markham' as it's backdrop, a vine that offers flowers of magenta for most of the summer.

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diablo' (Ninebark) unfolds a rich maroon foliage in the spring and darkens to an outstanding burgundy that is steadfast through all of summer's ray. Clusters of pale pink blossoms yield to red fall berries, a bird's delight. Daylily 'Lavender Deal' (Hemerocallis) and the electric yellow-green leafed shrub, Hypericum androsaemum, enjoy the companionship.

A supporting formation for R. 'Queen Elizabeth' is this easy-to-care-for shrub, Spiraea x bumalda 'Anthony Waterer'. Give it a hair cut once a year and its gifts provide a spectrum of burgundy, reds and orange from early spring to late fall.

One final thing: walk with me to this section. Can you smell it. . . that seductive fragrance you are experiencing right now? It is this exotic Stargazer lily. A garden should not be without it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hot One Today

It is going to be a hot one today, an estimated 96 degrees, with tomorrow at a sizzling 98, which means we will likely see over 100 both days. Our weather has been consistently hot and dry for the past month, and without even stepping out into the heat of the day, the plants tell us it is so.

I have begun to see a few signs of stress, some curling of leaves on the dogwood and the hint of color beginning to form at the tips of the blades on the ornamental grasses, signaling that something is taking place, that the process begins to unfold as it senses fall.

Looking at the plants from inside my studio window seems appropriate.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fresh Garden Medley

Friends came for breakfast several weeks ago, and as Ray and I were discussing preparation of various foods, I told him about the stew (for lack of a better word) I had just made. He tilted and tucked his head with a slight shrug to his shoulders, smiled and meekly asked, "But can I have at least a little piece of meat?" as he gestured with his thumbs and index fingers touching.

We laughed, and I said, "You don't miss it in this. Honestly. It is so flavorful and filling, very satisfying, and oh so tasty."

This is a meal I came up with last summer as we expanded our vegetable garden, and it went gangbusters. It is not your run of the mill stew that includes meat or poultry and a thick or heavy sauce, rather a cornucopia of color, simple, and with a little spice that delights in every sense. Any liquid comes from a few tomatoes and the vegetables. Serve it with a nice slice of a heavy multi-grain bread and a slightly chilled glass of your favorite Sauvignon Blanc, and it is . . . umm! As my brother always says, it is so good and so good for you.

Fresh Garden Medley


2 Tablespoons olive oil (or canola oil)
1 medium sweet onion, cut into strips (we grow Walla Walla)
1 sweet red pepper (seeded and cut into pieces)
1 eggplant, quartered and cut into 1 ” pieces (we grow * Ichiban)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt (tiny bits, in increments... likely no more than 1/2 teaspoon in total)
Fresh ground pepper (according to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil, then chopped (or if you don’t grow basil, 1/4 cup dried should do)
3-4 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into 1” to 1 1/2” pieces
1 yellow medium squash, quartered and cut into 1” pieces
1 - 15 oz can diced tomatoes, plus
1/4 can cold water

Note: When the green beans are available, I may add some of those.
* Ichiban are very tender, and I do not remove any skin.

Directions: Prepare all vegetables and set aside.

Place the oil in a large Dutch oven, heat and add onions. Cook for about 2 minutes, season with a touch of kosher salt and some fresh ground pepper, and stir. Add red pepper pieces and eggplant and sauté for a few more minutes. Add fresh garlic, a little more fresh ground pepper, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and basil. Stir and cook for another minute or two. Add tomatoes; then add cold water to the can to about 1/4, gathering any remaining juices and pour into pot. Add zucchini and squash and a few more sprinkles of salt and pepper, according to personal taste. (It takes so very little salt to bring out the fresh flavors.)

Stir until all vegetables are coated and heated through. Place the lid on the Dutch oven, slightly ajar, and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. We like our vegetables crisp, so be careful not to overcook. Vegetables from the garden to the table require so little cooking.

You know what else: since you made so much, tomorrow, this dinner is still exceptional.

Sure hope you enjoy the recipe.

Updated: 11 Aug08 with a little more detailed explanation

Monday, August 4, 2008

Last Night's Dinner

I must tell you we had the best dinner last night! It was simple. It was quick, and it was simple-y outstanding. Grilled salmon, zucchini, and salad, accompanied by an inexpensive but very nice Pinot Noir, and it was all prepared in less than 10 minutes. Move over Rachael Ray.

The fresh Pacific northwest Sockeye salmon was very lightly oiled with the Extra Virgin stuff, placed on a piece of foil (punctured), sprinkled with some lemon pepper, and grilled for about 7 minutes without turning. Of course, you should adjust your cooking time depending upon the fish weight and the grills BTU capacity. We cooked about 1 1/4 pounds on high. When it is removed from the grill, we cover with a piece of foil for several minutes, then slice and serve as it easily comes off its own skin.

At the same time, a fresh zucchini - picked from the garden that morning - was split lengthwise, also slightly oiled on both sides, sprinkled with the lemon pepper and grilled along side the salmon for the same time period, however, turned once to brown.

Salad: fresh lettuce and tomatoes from the garden with balsamic vinegar.

Last year we were introduced to Mirassou, a Pinot Noir that is under $10, and one which is quite palatable for our taste. Slightly chilled and served with the moist and sweet peppery salmon and freshly picked garden produce, it is a fine complement to the wonderful flavors of the entire meal experience.

Wow, writing about it makes me want that dinner again this evening.
Nah. . . we have some fresh Ahi that deserves the attention tonight.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Let us begin a new month with something exciting.

A Beaver dragonfly! That's right. If you wear the orange color and live in the Pacific northwest, then it must be a Beaver.

Isn't he handsome? He held perfectly still while I took several photos, likely knowing that he would be featured on this blog!

How sad is it that the dragonfly lives only several weeks to several months, and the damselfly even less. Enjoy them while we can.