Thursday, April 30, 2009

Off For A Few

Fog covers the valley floor as patches of frost remain visible upon this morning's hillside. We are off for a few days, having been invited to join some friends and do a little biking.

But first we must gather and pack those planned menu items. Exciting is the first pick from our raised beds, a fresh garden salad which will accompany our evening meal: spinach, mesclun, black seeded Simpson lettuce, radishes and a touch of cilantro. The color, the shades of green, all magnificent! And as my brother would say, so good and so good for you.

Tomorrow will be May 1, a new month, and we wonder about the swiftness in which the previous four have passed.

Have a wonderful weekend and hopefully we'll have some fun photos to post next week upon our return.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pasta For Dinner

Let's have pasta for dinner tonight. That sounds great since we haven't had it in ages, but if we are wanting a basic marinara sauce with meatballs and Italian sausage, then that requires much time and preparation. Once we decide when we then ask who should we have join us, for it is a meal to share with family and friends.

The sauce takes 2-3 hours of simmering, and once that nears completion, the meatballs and sausage are prepared. The sausage is partially precooked in the microwave, then lightly browned on the grill, and I sometimes brown the meatballs prior to placing them in the sauce, all to finish cooking.

Allowing all the flavors to meld and marinate overnight yields much better results for the following evening's dinner. So many foods are much better a day or two later, and we do love our leftovers.

The weather forecast for this evening's meal was to be sunny and 60 degrees, but it was overcast and chilly throughout the day. As is usual here in the Pacific northwest, late afternoons will often yield the sun, and it did so this evening just as our friends arrived.

Tonight's dinner: An antipasto of salami, prosciutto, several cheeses, olives, roasted hazelnuts with rosemary, accompanied by an '03 Pfeiffer Pinot Gris and enjoyed outside in the gazebo, although with a light jacket. Delightfully delicious was an '03 Olssen's Jackson Barry Pinot Noir as we walked around the garden.

Linguini with meatballs and Italian sausage, salad (provided by our friends), a little rosemary bread, and of course a nice bottle of red wine, an outstanding '04 Sbragia Zinfandel.

A wonderful evening filled with fine food, good wine and much fun and laughter... shared with friends. It doesn't get much better than that.

Yesterday's Chase

Yesterday morning: there she was, bright eyed and cheery, standing below my studio window right there in the center of the garden and checking out what she had claimed as her domain the past four days. How in the world did she get in again?

As explained on Thursday, we had walked the fence line to find all intact and added a temporary section of netting above the one side section of the metal gate at our entrance, so she could not jump over it. Could it be she jumped across the main gate entrance onto the concrete, something we have not experienced in our sixteen years here?

So while Missy here decided to quietly take up residence, we had to persuade her she'd be better off elsewhere. Evidence shows that she has been bedding down inside the garden: a cleared area behind a large wooden structure in the shade garden is where she has slept unnoticed by us; many half-eaten plants seemed to have been to her liking; and areas throughout had been graciously fertilized. Six acres of rocky soil, steep hills and inclines, and two people (who are not spring chickens) attempting to get a deer out of a gated property is not an easy task. Thankfully we have a small four-wheeler that could be used to help expedite the climb in herding this creature out.

So quick, so smart, and much more energy than we had: up and down and around she darted. We would get her close to the entrance, gate open, but she would turn and run right back from whence she came, darting between us or circling to the opposite side of the house. Back and forth we went, pausing in order to place small barriers (a rope between 2 trees and she halted as she saw those) in hopes of restricting access to her favorite routes. But truly it was a comedy of errors.

Four hours later we heard one of the neighbors and went to ask for help. Now we had two people on the west side of the house and me on the east. My husband drove the vehicle on the lower road, while J walked the upper path and the deer was ushered from the southern corner to the north end, but then she looped around right past me. If I were on the upper side of the east slope, she darted below, and if on the lower side... well, you get the picture.

Here she comes yells J, and sure enough she was running down the path toward me. I moved toward her to force her in the opposite direction, but she wouldn't have any of that. Likely she was thinking and just who are you kidding as I stood in her path, for she darted and vigorously leaped into the air past me, as if to impress. She was beautiful.

On the next attempt from the south end to the north, my husband called to see if I saw her, for she seemed to have disappeared, maybe even gotten out somehow. Could we be so lucky? I began walking up the hill, and there she was in the distance, tucked beneath the branches and against the trunk of the large Lelandii, leaning, looking at me, and I at her. I called my husband to tell him where she was, and just as I did she started south again, but then turned, for she heard the roar of the motor. I quickly ran back down the hill to retake my position.

This time she headed toward the open gate, and rather than go onto the concrete and through the space, she literally forced herself through the narrow bars of the metal and took off to a boundary unknown. We cannot believe this large deer fit itself through that small space. An amazing feat!

It was a game of cat and mouse, but to say we guided her out, is likely not a fact, but rather, following 5 hours, she was finally tired and decided to get outta dodge. Happily, she is where she needs to be. Whew, thank you J for the help. We couldn't have done it without you.

You know what? We have guests coming for dinner tomorrow. I have to go in an make my marinara sauce and meatballs. Keep going, just keep going... you'll be okay.

I still marvel at her, the grace and speed, how often we looked at one another, how clever she was...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Today's Trek

We celebrated our first evening in the gazebo with a martini and an hors d oeuvre, artichoke tapenade with goat cheese on a multi-grain crostini. Several days ago we cleaned the structure of the dried leaves and winter debris, hosed the furniture, screens and deck, and it looks like new once again. We are now ready for the spring and summer season and meals overlooking the garden and coastline. Today we enjoy the lilacs as they begin to flower.

This morning while the yellow finches rejoiced atop the trees, I caught a glimpse of movement deeper into the garden, and again thought what are they doing here! This was the third day in a row, and I could not imagine why.

We are surrounded by thousands upon thousands of acres where the deer feed upon grasses and plants and roam freely and unrestricted. So why would they enter a 6 acre deer-fenced property?

Not a particularly easy task is to walk the fence line: the distance of walking is not an issue but where we have not created a path, the rocky soil and steepness of decline is quite cumbersome to maneuver, but we began at the northwest corner and walked slowly along the sloping hillside.

Quite arduous at times with dried leaves blanketing the surface, fallen branches, covered stones, a bit of slipping and sliding, but gradually we wound our way down, around and back up the ever-so-steep hill and to the east side and finally paused for a moment to enjoy the southern range.

There are a few barbed strands which will require tightening, but otherwise all seems to be intact. The final stretch past the pole barn shows a sign of weakness, but no deer tracks. One would think our neighbor's pasture would be more desirable for the creatures.

As we approached the gate at the main entrance, there was some evidence! There is room enough between the bars that the small one did squeeze through, while momma likely jumped the fence. Tonight's quick remedy will be to place some temporary wire atop that section in order to keep out, should she decide to do so tomorrow.

Two tired people tonight, but what a beautiful day it was!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Colors of Spring

Yesterday's temperature, 82 degrees F, was too hot, too fast, and a day for me to stay indoors. Today, back to a normal mid-60's, and that had me off to the garden.

I pruned back the old Marionberry vines and checked on the cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet peas... all of which seem to be doing very well.

The potatoes we did not plant, either this year or last, are seemingly healthy. Several years ago we planted seed potatoes and experienced such a small yield, we opted to not plant them anymore. But last year they decided to offer us an abundance nonetheless. If they want to be here, then who are we to argue? Such joy is found in the smallest things, especially when it is unexpected.

Onions and garlic are doing well, and oh yes, we have already had fresh asparagus, which we shared with friends the other evening. The green beans have emerged through the soil as have the beet leaves.

The raised beds closer to the house offer radish, spinach, mesclun, herbs. . .

while carrots begin to poke through, and we will soon experience that good ole fashioned Black Seeded Simpson lettuce.

Well it is time to head back toward the house, but first a pause to enjoy the vibrant color of the Spiraea and ground cover.

There is nothing quite like those colors of Spring.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Yesterday's Activity

Okay, I admit... my mind says you can keep on doing it, but my body says time to stop girl, and therein lies a battle. ;)

After yesterday's activity, admittedly, some Tylenol, Aleve, and a hot shower offered a bit of reprieve to all those aching areas I care not to mention. The worst was not the bending and stooping and digging, although that is cumulative, but add to that the heat of the day, and one must be very careful, and we were.

Our very dear friends' daughter K and her husband built a house last year, and we promised, when they were ready, to help put in a sprinkler system and add to their landscaping. Since last year we have been dividing plants from our garden and potting them up in anticipation of this effort.

So yesterday we gathered at 8:30, K's mom and dad, K and her husband, and of course, hubby and me. The girls unloaded the plants we brought and decided upon the first plant of attack: trimming the existing shrubs and relocating the roses.

K has been saving the roses used at her brother's wedding several years ago. As they had already been lifted from the ground, we could now easily cut them back, remove all the dead wood and plant them at the front of the property along the street. A small white picket fence will accentuate and border that area.

The guyz walked about the property, reviewed the drawing and parts list and evaluated their course of action. From one end of the grounds to the other, discussion and assessment made clear that all the parts were not there, and we all know about the best-laid plans... So off two went to gather more supplies while a third remained to do some prep work.

Six people and all with ideas could be troublesome, but it was not. We deferred to the property owners. The general course of action was you might want to think about this, and here are a couple of ideas, but you tell me what you want.

Except for this: git... of course I know what I'm doing! I am laughing out loud as I write this, for it did not occur. Photos are silent and therefore offer opportunity for captions and laughter. I even thought of a few for those two previous shots, but will leave that for your imagination.

Breaks in the shade, lots of liquid, time for lunch, good discussion, and so much laughter... made it a productive and fun day with friends. And we helped a fine young couple get a start with their new home and landscape. There is yet more to be done, but for another day.

And this morning, still a bit tired and sore, but refreshed and back to the coolness of our morning garden and thoughts of our landscape beginnings... when there was nothing here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Snow This Morning

Yesterday we had this. What an amazingly captivating cloud movement, a formation which stretched across the valley floor. Wouldn't you like to reach out and touch it?

Can you believe today? 14 April and snow covers the ground. Must be that global warming! Sure hope those early emerging vegetables are okay.

Take a look at Saturday's post and compare the photos.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

For He Is Risen

For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
- John 3: 16

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me. - Matthew 28:6

May we remember what it means to be of good character, to live a life of value with conscience - morality and integrity, and that we open ourselves to the power of good.

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and may your day be blessed.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Gardens of Spring

Clearly this is a time of rejuvenation, celebration... for it is Easter, Passover, and all the Gardens of Spring come to life. We rejoice in the creation!

Amazing is the intricacy and uniqueness of each and every flower, and as I look at the complexity of this delicate and gorgeous Frittalaria, one has to wonder... how can there not be a God.

The West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella), a brushfooted butterfly, has been nectaring upon the purple-flowered Rockcress (Aubrieta deltoidea) for three days in a row.

Colder than normal winter temperature in the Pacific northwest has held back the full blossoming of the Dwarf flowering purple-leaved plum (Prunus cerasifera), but the Rhododendron "PJM" was not to be inhibited.

On the eastern hillside below the main garden appears this ballet of blossoms among the gracefully arching branches of the Japanese Flowering Yoshino (Prunus x yedoensis),

and as we climb back toward the main garden, the colorful east side of the Magnolia stellata and Thundercloud plum come into view beyond the birch.

The Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus Atlantica 'Glauca') stands proudly within the garden canvas; tucked behind the Weeping cherry (Prunus subhirtella 'Pendula') is a variegated yellow and green Euonymous and to its side is the delicate white display of the Spiraea prunifolia 'Bridalwreath'. Continued structural support is offered by the Thundercloud plum (Prunus cerasifera) and Magnolia stellata, whose fragrant blossoms have begun blanketing the earth beneath it.

The garden springs to life! Rejoice!

Steak and Wine

Not all wonderful meals require spending hours in the kitchen... case in point, last night's dinner.

Should we be so bold as to say it was exceptional. Very simple, as it took about 20 minutes to prepare, and was accompanied by a wonderful and complex old wine we had tucked away, a 1999 St. Supéry Rutherford Red, Limited Edition (only 662 cases were produced). We purchased this nearly 10 years ago while touring Napa, and thought we might as well give it a go.

NY Strip Steak, my husband's favorite, with a tiny bit of my dry rub and lotsa fresh ground pepper, was charred quickly on the outside so as to maintain that moist flavorful inside. Once my husband removed them from the grill, I sprinkled a touch of Kosher salt, added a loose fitting foil tent and allowed the meat to rest for several minutes.

While he grilled, I placed some loose lettuce in the salad bowls, added just a touch of White Stilton with mango and ginger cheese, and a spritz of a wine vinegrette; brushed, cut and quickly sauteed fresh crimini mushrooms in a touch of butter, then added a sprinkling of kosher salt, placed the lid atop the skillet, and set it aside. 3 minutes for the fresh asparagus to microwave (just a tablespoon of water), and once removed, a little salt, for they were so new and full of flavor.

The wine had been previously decanted and frankly, there is no better meal in any restaurant. No, I did not eat all my meat... way too much food and a possible lunch for today.

Simple, but elegant, fresh, wonderful flavors and a complementary wine. The only thing better was the guy by my side!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

In From The Garden

32 degrees this morning and a forecast of 68 by mid afternoon, and that means that everything outside will be excitedly stirring, including ourselves. The birds already began their early morning rejoicing, singing, twittering from tree to tree, and the little hummingbird who frequents my window each day, did not disappoint.

Our plans are to weed, weed, and then weed. Why did God ever make artillery weeds? They look so innocent with a rosette of basal leaves, and from the center a stalk with a delicate white flower arises, but when it dries the seeds spiral in every direction when touched. And regardless of our effort, they are everywhere.

As I walked toward the Thundercloud plum, the noise above was as in an orchestra, the cacophony of warming up prior to a symphony. From whence they suddenly came, I know not, but the bees were hard at work and joyful in their duty. They are difficult to discern in the photo, but take my word for it, there were hundreds upon hundreds. We sure would like to find the recipient of that nectar.

Of course we did not accomplish all we had planned, but that's the way it goes. We had a change in our list of to-dos as wasps were attempting to lodge inside our screened-in gazebo. Now that won't work at all, so caulking some open spaces was completed.

An absolutely beautiful day, and tomorrow we head out to help friends cut and wrap lamb. I can already taste the soon-to-be-made Lamb Stew.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


As we walked about the garden yesterday afternoon we were pleased to see all the vegetables peaking their little heads above the soil: asparagus, lettuce, spinach, radish, onions, carrots and sweet peas; new leaves are growing on the cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli; and the transplanted strawberry plants have quickly found their footing as they are happily green and growing.

This morning we currently find 28 degrees and frost! Temperature is estimated to reach 55 today, and tomorrow is supposed to be 66!

Well, that just happens to be characteristic of the Pacific northwest and the fluctuations we experience.

We plan to have a wonderful day. Make yours the same.