Food We Grew

Harvested the first big batch of warty pickles cucumbers this evening.

Yummy slices are chillin' in an ice water bath right now in the fridge.

Can't wait to dip the chips in garlicky hummus and munch the sweet, salty, crunchy snack.

I'm on a crunchy binge right now. Last night I polished off the better part of a box of Life cereal while I was reading Ivan Doig's autobiography of growing up in Montana, This House of Sky.

Sheep ranching is hard work.

I don't want a sheep ranch in Montana. Just a cozy cabin.
With a garden. Where I can grow pickles cucumbers in the summer.

Did you know that I once lived by a lake in Montana?

For three glorious days.


OK, well, I don't live on a sheep ranch, so I don't have to feed orphan lambs or shear wooly sheep or herd animals to better pasture, but I do have chores that I've got to get done tonight so we'll talk more about Montana another time, OK?

OK. Bye-bye.


Garden Bloopers

Just to dispel the myth that I am Green Goddess of the Garden:
This is the DEAD Dragon's Paw right outside my front door.
And this was the replacement for the first Dragon's Paw I killed in the same pot a few months earlier.

I'm not gonna put a third Dragon's Paw in this pot. I'm pretty sure this poison pot has a drainage issue or the soil is unhealthy. I'll dump it out and refill with rocks and cactus.

They'll look cool in this concrete container.

Until they die.


So...remember the lush, fragrant gardenia hedge I planted with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head a few weeks back?
Yeah. Here it is today. Not just ONE dead gardenia plant. Three.
(left of the stepping stones)

Epic fail. I paid a pretty penny for three very healthy and glossy gardenias. Not gonna do that again.

I think the soil needs some preparation first. I didn't loosen or amend it at all. Just removed the sad iris patch, dug holes a little bigger than the pots and plopped in the gardenia. I know the dead plants look dry and crispy, but it is not from lack of water. 

Poor drainage or poison soil is what I'm blaming, but are you starting to sense some lazy gardening techniques here? A gardener with a lack of attention to detail? Weak commitment to doing the hard, slow work of building a proper foundation for a healthy, lasting landscape?

I can have pretty plants for a price, but instant gratification is starting to bust my budget.


Hey! This third photo looks beautiful. What could possibly be the blooper here?
Well, the zucchini in the foreground is producing, but the tomato forest is a huge disappointment. Only one plant is setting any fruit. A couple of green marbles and lots of withered blossoms is about the size of it. So much for my pantry full of tomato sauce.

Again, we spent some moola building these raised beds, figuring they are well worth the investment when amortized over five or ten years. But we also figured we'd get mountains of tomatoes every summer. Mountains of zucchini were not the return on investment we had in mind, really.

They say gardening is cheaper than therapy...and you get TOMATOES! But they lie. Sometimes you just get tomato plants.

I don't think we'll struggle with the tomato box a whole lot longer. Maybe a few more weeks and then pull them to put in the fall veggies.

There's always next season.

I'm not giving up. Just keepin' it real.

If you imagined me as Green Goddess of the Garden (oh. you didn't? I'm the only one who imagined that? well...), please revise your image to regular old garden variety Blooper.

In overalls.

I do look fetching in overalls.


Christmas in June

It's true, you know. There is NO place like home.

It's a sentiment many of us share.

I was delighted to receive this hand-stitched booklet at Christmastime
from Mr. Last's globe-trotting firstborn daughter.

And today the filling for the booklet arrived so
it's like Christmas all over again!

My last international travel was over 30 years ago,
and my passport lapsed a long time ago.

I've mumbled about it for years and the sweet
Christmas gift was just the impetus I needed
to finally get myself together and apply for a new one.

I have no immediate plans for international travel,
but you can bet your sweet bippie I'm gonna make some
now that I am free to move about the planet.

Look out world! Oma's comin'!


You Say I'm A Repurposer Like It's a Bad Thing

Some folks enjoy the luxury of travel to exotic destinations -- and I've been fortunate to do a teeny bit of that myself. But mainly I've been an explorer of my local environment which contains some world-class adventures that people come from all over the world to experience: California's Pacific Coast and the High Sierras, to name just two.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse 2010
On Top of Mt. Whitney 2006

I was born near California's Central Coast and raised in Northern California. I was grown before I stepped foot outside of the Golden State, and I've lived my whole life except for five young adult years, for better and for worse, here. In this place. California.

Those five young adult years away I lived in the Intermountain West. It was then I lived for the first time in a smallish western town. It was then I visited for the first time Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City, and Yellowstone National Park, and The Grand Canyon, and I fell utterly and completely in love with the American West.

That love affair has only deepened with time so that I now keenly feel the urgency of one limited lifetime to explore the reality and the mystery and the romance and the mythology surrounding the time and place that we refer to when we talk about the American West. The geology, the history, the vistas and stories of desert and mountains and aboriginal peoples, the cities and towns peopled with descendents of pioneer settlers. This summer I'll be revisiting various corners of the Intermountain West and I need a place to document my trip(s).

All this is to explain the first photo at the top of this post. It's a magazine page of a early photographer set up to capture his shot in the Grand Canyon. I have repurposed the page as end paper in a handmade pamphlet-stitched journal made to take with me on an upcoming travel adventure. Here's the cover:

I cut security envelopes saved from junk mail into strips and wove them into a 8x10 sheet that I adhered to a manila folder. I used red lace-patterned bargain packing tape from the dollar bin at That Big Craft Store That Real Artists Despise to seal the ends. A length of embroidery floss was used to sew the pages inside the cover. Then I folded it up and stretched hair elastics above and below Winston (the Red Elephant) to hold everything neatly in place.

So you can say I'm a Repurposer like it's a bad thing, but it gives me the freedom to do as I please. Nothing about this little journal is precious or irreplaceable. Or entirely original, really.

So if I lose it or if I make a mess of it I can always make another one.

And the second will undoubtedly be better than the first. I know for sure it's value will increase as I add my photos and impressions and mementos of my travels to the Red Elephant Security Envelope Journal.

But you can be sure you will not find me hanging off the edge of any canyon with a tripod just to capture a scenic shot.

Only Extreme Scrapbookers go to such lengths.

I'm just a Repurposer.


The Parable of the Fledglings

*New blooms in the Sunflower Forest this week.

*Tater Tower is a success. We're no threat to the economic stability of Idaho, but our first harvest tonight yielded enough to feed us a meal or two and to encourage another try at growing our own spuds.

*The baby robins have fledged. We kept a respectful distance and watched 'em all fall out of the nest late one afternoon. Numero Uno never actually hit the ground but grabbed a twig and held still as a statue for the the entire twenty or thirty minutes we observed the unfolding drama.

Numero Dos flopped and flapped and landed in a fluffy tuft of grass before he hopped right over to me and asked, "Are you my mother?" (much to Mama Robin's consternation).

"No. How could I be your mother? I am a snort," I said, and Numero Dos quickly hop-hop-hopped away. I was touched and surprised.

Numero Tres wobbled on the edge of the nest and then tried to hop to a nearby twig. He tumbled down to the next level but grabbed a twig there and gathered his ruffled feathers and looked around as if to say, "I meant to do that."

The bravery of the little birdies was fairly inspiring.

A little later I found myself a wee bit depressed.

Because, dang-it, they grow up so darn fast!

Stoopid empty nest.

Ah, me.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all, Helen Keller said.

I guess sometimes you have to risk falling in order to learn to fly.

This post was titled "Farm Report" when I started, but I see now that it needs a different title, so I'll just fix that and press PUBLISH.


What Mixed Message?

It's meant to be a welcoming entrance, but I noticed this morning that our front door is guarded by a variety of plants that sound a bit ferocious:

**Snap DRAGON**

I particularly love the elephant bush. It has a more musical proper name, but it is commonly called "elephant bush" because it is thought that in Africa elephants enjoy eating it. As soon as I get my elephant I'll let you know if that is her favorite food, or if she prefers chocolate chip cookies.

UPDATE 1:30 p.m.: Look who I found in the elephant bush!
Turns out the rare blue-eyed yellow elephant of Central California, Toby Johanes, LOVES elephant bush. I can't get him to come out.

And even though the sunflower forest casts intimidating shadows, how can you really be afraid of this? It is our first bloom in the forest and it says, "Hi! Hello! You are welcome here," don't you think?
'Cause you are. Welcome here.

Don't let the gardener's choice of plants confuse you.


They Rock in the Treetops All The Day Long

Hopping and a-bopping and a-singing a song.

Look! Here's the proud Mama:
All photos courtesy of Mr. Last

See what's pokin' out from under her belly?

It's a hungry baby bird!

With two siblings! Three baby robins! In our tree!
Tweet-i-lee, Deet-i-lee, Dee!
Rockin' Robins.


Imaginary Train Trips: A True Story in Three Acts

Maggie to me
Jun 6 (1 day ago)

The kids are playing "Moving to California".  They've packed all of their essential toys in plastic boxes and loaded them onto the train (couch).  Ian even made sure to stop by the "Book Cart" to load up on reading material for the trip.  They're going to Oma's now and it takes a long time to get there.  That's why they have so many books.  Oh and water bottles.  Can't forget those.  Now they want to watch a movie on the train because it's such a long trip.  Funny boys.
<3 Maggie

Julie to Maggie
Jun 6 (1 day ago)
My heart is throbbing with LOVE.

Have you guys seen the movie "Hugo"?  I watched it Monday night and very much enjoyed it. It made me think of your entire family, though some of the story is a little serious/scary for little boys. Great date night movie for you and Sean. I grabbed the book from the library yesterday, but it might be one of those rare stories that I like better as a movie.

It's about an orphan who tends the big clock tower in the Montparnasse train station in France.

I'll text you now, and if the boys are still playing you can tell them you've received a special message for them from Oma.

Love you lots.



Julie to Daryl
Jun 6 (1 day ago)

Daryl!  I love that the Boys are playing "Moving to California". 

I realize they have other family besides us in California, but our GrandBoys are entirely too far away. I sent a text message to Maggie to tell the boys I am pretending I will meet them at the train station and we'll have a picnic and play ball with Jager when they get here.

 You and I might have to play "Moving to Utah" right away.

<3 Julie


In a Dream State

Sometimes my mind wanders when I am awake and wild imaginings seem like reality until I come back to awareness of the here and now.

Sometimes when I sleep I dream crazy, vivid scenes that I remember in great detail when I awake. Other times I can only vaguely recall small bits or disconnected details.

I have dreamt of Wild Things in the living room.

I have dreamt of living in a little cabin in The Big Woods.

I have dreamt of peace on Earth

When I open my eyes in the morning this is what I see:

It is my Dream Catcher that lets the bad dreams pass though the holes while the good dreams slide down the feathers into my mind.

It was handmade especially for me with love and care
and turquoise leather and rusty red feathers. 

Thank you, Sweet Daughter.
Every detail is just right.

I have been the recipient of many good gifts that I
will share and acknowledge here in coming days.


The Moon in June

It's true. I do love Science. But apparently Blogger thinks differently about it. Or about me. Anyway, I will try again another time to tell you all about my love for Science.

Let's just talk about the sky for now.

Do you EVER look up?

Moonrise Over the Mulberry Tree - 6.3.12

There was a solar eclipse a couple weeks ago.

In a few hours there will be a lunar eclipse.

Day after tomorrow a Transit of Venus passing across the face of the Sun occurs.

Perhaps the Mayans are/were on to something, because the heavens are certainly putting on a show for us right now. What does it all mean?

It means we are fortunate to be at a particularly good vantage point from which to view some of the cosmic gyrations that happen all the time whether we are looking up or not.

Granted, conditions are not such that we see a solar eclipse, or a lunar eclipse, or a Transit of Venus as frequently as our daily sunrise and sunset. But my point is -- skywatching is not much of an activity most folks engage in these days. Too many other things to watch: YouTube, Netflix, Twitter, Facebook, Oh My Oma's Blog, etc. I enjoy watching all those, too.

The Avid Skywatcher in my world was my father. He was an amateur astronomer. Built a homemade observatory in our back yard. Telescopes were ever present in our family life. He made them by hand, too. I grew up thinking most fathers did the same. 

Dad's nocturnal cycles were all out of whack from years of stargazing in the middle of the night.  

The regularity of the movements of objects in the sky is comforting to me, even the path of the sun across the sky in daylight hours, but especially the cycles of our Moon, and the planets and brighter objects.

I never got very good at identifying constellations, but I learned to distinguish the visible planets pretty early in life. Some of the learning came out of my native curiousity, but much of it just happened by osmosis or magic due to the rich environment at home. Perhaps I was born to love Science. But I like to think some of the love was handed down to me from Avid Skywatcher.

He read all kinds of astronomy books and magazines and star charts, but my father mis-pronounced the word "gaLAXy" because he had never heard the word aloud. EmPHASis on the wrong sylLABle. If I could hear him say it again -- aloud, not just in my memories -- I would laugh for joy and kiss his face.

"Avid Skywatcher" sounds a bit like a relative of Luke Skywalker. It's silly, but I kinda like the thought him having an adventure as Avid Skywatcher in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.

I won't be getting up in couple hours to view the partial lunar eclipse. Need to keep my nocturnal cycles in whack. But I will be checking the Interwebs first thing to see photos and read reports. 

See you in my dreams Avid Skywatcher.