Friday, July 30, 2010


The date on this post is a little off as I started to write about peaches last week. I finished the post on the Monday morning after the Friday it is posted as~

We picked out first peaches Thursday. We set off to pick at one farm and were told they hadn't started picking yet. Then- synchronistically- we ended up at another farm with the same variety of peaches (Red Haven) as well as some phenomenal red raspberries. These red raspberries had the best flavor of any of the raspberries I have picked this season. It was definitely a case for unfortunately/fortunately in action. (Unfortunately, the farm we had planned to pick peaches at was closed for picking. Yikes! What to do? Fortunately, we ended up at another farm with the same peaches for picking AND some of the best raspberries I have ever eaten!)

I am planning to can some of the peaches we picked. Perhaps we'll pick some more to can once others start ripening if I feel up to it. Sometimes the enthusiasm runs a little dry and I have to decide if I really want to do something or if I want to want to do something. In which case, as in this case, it's better to find something else to do with the fruit. I *am* going to buy a food dehydrator and am excited by the prospects of drying so many pints of blueberries, at least. And maybe some peaches? We'll see how exciting the dehydrator turns out to be before making any predictions. I am planning to can pears this year as I noticed we did indeed miss them last winter.

Close up of peach clafoutis I made last night. Definitely a keeper. I highly recommend clafoutis if you haven't already tried it. It's like a custardy pancake with fruit that you bake in the oven. And so versatile. I was thinking today of apple season and putting cooked apples inside. We'll see.

We did some chocolate covered raspberries for a friend's birthday on Saturday and yesterday Eva did a whole bunch more in both milk chocolate and dark chocolate. She wants to do more today, but of course. I guess we will go buy some more milk chocolate to fuel the chocolate fire. What I love about this is that there is more than one way to chocolate a raspberry. I love watching Eva play around with all the different ways she can think of. And then eating them. That's fun too.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Took off for the upick today without anything in particular on my mind to pick, except maybe a few pints of black caps (or black raspberries, depending on where you grew up). We ended up picking more raspberries (and two pints of black caps. Eva also picked two pints of currants, unbeknownst to me. I am pretty sure we will be making more currant-raspberry granita. The first batch was eaten up lickety split, even if it was a little sweet!) which I intend to cover with chocolate at some point. At least some of them. I haven't been paying attention to how quickly (or slowly) the month of July has been moving. Trying to focus on the present {and all that} lest I be consumed with panic over the passage of time when really it turns out fine in the end. The woman at the upick started talking about their summer berries coming to an end and I knew that was why I had a peach picking session planned tomorrow with Ellen. It never fails, just this time of year, the berries I have been picking come to an end and there is a berry lull of sorts. I have plenty of blueberries, thanks to the two trips to pick and the abundance in my own front yard. So it's to peach picking and canning until the blackberries and fall raspberries ripen in August. And then all sorts of goodness with pears and apples and tomatoes. It's times like these summer tastes so sweet.

Tonight I made my first clafoutis- inspired by the book I just read, Five Quarters of the Orange. I'm waiting for it to finish cooking in the oven. It looks tasty and was incredibly easy to concoct with loads of blueberries, boysenberries and, of course, red raspberries. I was going to serve it with turkey bacon and some chard with zucchini and garlic, but all of that has already been consumed. I'm sure it will stand up well on its own with a little Harry Potter this evening. We've finished book two and are well on our way with book three!

And here it is- blueberry-boysenberry-raspberry clafoutis. I used whole spelt flour and almond milk rather than cows milk, cream and white flour.

dragonfly encounter

click click. silence. buzz. more clicking. i look up. someone- some bug or some such or other- is caught in the patio, buzzing and clicking at the plastic roof over my head. i squint. a dragonfly. of course i will help him.

over the years i have given up on helping certain creatures who find themselves trapped in the patio. as much as it drives me crazy to think of being trapped like that myself, some of the creatures are less likely to be helped than others. birds can be helped. definitely. although sometimes, depending on the species (take juncos, for instance), it can take some time. the time i helped free a hummingbird who had his beak {actually} caught in the screen was memorable. flies are a no. they don't cooperate. rarely. i help some queen ants- something about them being caught in there, unable to fulfill their destiny, gets me. then it wears thin when there are so many. some bees, honey bees or some of the native bees, can be helped some of the time. wasps. yellow jackets. of course. bumble bees, though, no. they are far too angry and beside themselves with their predicament and i can rarely get them in a container safely. they fight it until they wear themselves out. then i can come in and lend a hand.

dragon flies often find their own way out. if they don't, i can usually help them, one way or another. take this one, for example. he avoided the container i tried to use to contain him and it wasn't until i went and found the net that he got serious about getting free. he actually- and this is very common with dragonflies- climbed onto the edge of the net and let me walk him {on the net} outside. once outside, he stayed put while i set the net down, propping it up against the sandbox, ran inside, set up the camera, came back outside and {voila!} took a picture of him on the net.

but just one picture. once i started fiddling around with lighting and angle, he was gone. out of there. flying off to wherever it was he had been going before his path crossed with mine. caught in the screened in porch. one summer day. i wonder if he'd been there before. did it seem as familiar to him as it did to me? drat. this plastic ceiling blocking my way once again. when will i remember not to fly this way, this way that always seems to find me caught? trapped. on my way to where i need to be. unless this is where i need to be. or simply where i am.

and as always, for me, it is a perfect encounter, giving me food for my thoughts, for this writing, for my day. i wish i had been able to catch the glint of his wings in the sunshine- although the way it looks, you can almost {almost} see how he is holding on tight, keeping an eye on me, waiting for just the right time to fly off.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

wahclella falls

We took off for the woods yesterday after I decided that was the only cure for my restlessness. I took a lot of photos- mostly of water and children. Children in water. Or near it. And especially children near a majestic waterfall. In many poses. From far away. We had a glorious good time and I left feeling much more connected than when I started, both to myself and my kids. Samuel even gave me the- "Hey that turned out better than I thought it would!" talk at the end. Surely there isn't a better way to end a hike than with a few dozen pictures of my kids smiling at a waterfall, at me and even {once or twice} at each other.

Just getting started.

Eva found these little rock-shells on some rocks in part of the river. They reminded us of the little rock-shelled-river-creatures we saw in the Washougal River last summer. These were definitely creature-made as well. And, as always, I am inspired by flowers growing out a rock in the middle of a river. Life-living-wherever-it-can and some such.

Eva jumping from rock to rock and climbing up from the water to where Samuel and Jack and I were already eating.

Where we ate lunch and- finally we see the big Wahclella Waterfall. It was tricky getting Samuel to climb that last big hill in the hot sun before we reached it, but it was so worth it once we saw the falls and were able to spend some time there.

Wahclella Falls.

More falls majesty and- heading back across the bridge to begin the hike back.

One last bit of waterfall magic near the end of the hike.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Death has been hovering about lately, keeping me primed and focused on living. Maxwell is a good teacher in this respect, waking me up at 4:30 in the morning, even after having such a hard time breathing the last few days. I get up to let him out and question him- don't you want to stay resting, go back to bed, stay still? Take care. In the way I think of taking care. He looks back at me, clear. Certain. If I am going to live, I am going to live. And I understand. Why bother staying alive, doing this living business, if he can't enjoy things as he does, enjoy his catness. Being. His time prowling about in the back yard, sleeping in the tall grass, checking on the squirrels. Trying for one last bird. Mouse in the shed? Even just getting up to greet the day, lounge in the shade while I sit outside to meditate in the morning. Sit on my lap. Neck scratches. Head pats. Plenty of time to rest and breathe easy. Breathe hard. Live. Such as it is. I actually saw him jump the fence yesterday. Focus on that as it comes. As it goes. And not throw it away even though it is not as it was. As it used to be. I think of our life. How really it is never quite as it used to be. Because it is now. Not then.

I take him snacks in the yard now, hoping to coax some eating from him here and there. This food toting thing has worn off on Eva, who found him in one of his resting spots near the side of the house, between two large patches of daisies, in the sunshine. She now takes him tasty plates of beef and salmon or lobster and chicken each day to keep him enjoying his time here. Licking his lips one last time.

At night he sleeps with me. Or he doesn't. I keep wondering when he will pass, hoping his time will be peaceful and easy. Close to home so that I know. He pushes on with living, taking what he likes, living life {as fully} as he can. As he always has. I laugh, remembering his high jinks from years ago. Opening doors on his own. Ringing the bell to be let out. His strange fascination with every printer we have ever owned. Sleeping on the neighbors' couches. Opening the yard up to other cats, much to the dismay of Agnes.

The other cats treat him well. Magoo still asks to have her head washed. Agnes still eyes him warily. Both are enjoying the greater variety of food entering the house these last several weeks.

I imagine what it will be like when he dies. How I will miss him. But {honestly!} (surely) that's cheating. After all, I will not really know what it is like to miss him, be without him- not really- until he is really gone. Really. I keep this in mind as he sits purring on my lap. I try to be like him. Focus on living. Purr. Enjoy. Be. I feel his presence, as it is now, as it has been for the last 13 years. My cat. My friend. And I know that if he's going to go about this business of living, the least I can do is go about living with him. And set death aside, as it always is, for the time being. And be.

And other times? I cry and know how much I will miss him when his time surely comes. And I let that be as well.

fun and games

Eva set up a river today for leaf races and then a game with her favorite erasers that she is collecting these days-

Swimming at the mouth of the river. Guinea pig on his own rock island.

Frog keeping watch. Elephant and penguin slide.

Samuel is heavily immersed in Harry Potter and Transformers these days.

Optimus Prime- who, by the way, had us both pulling our hair out a few short weeks ago. Has that much time passed already?

The kids have both been enjoying the fresh sand and water in the sand/water table. I thought there was a hedgehog family crossing that bridge when I last looked but I see that the army guys wanted a photo of their own.
Samuel took apart one of our small etch-a-sketches a few days ago. I took some pictures because what was inside was so curious- the tiniest balls of what we found out later to be aluminum. We also discovered these tiny aluminum balls are fragile and easily crushed by human fingers. (Later, we saw some of our local "small" ants carrying away some of the balls to their nest. Building material? Housing supplies? Who can say.)

Sorry- nothing to properly give them scale, but you can imagine if one of the smallish ants could carry two at a time in her mouth.

And here is some of the smashed aluminum immersed in water.

The rest of the contraption consisted of two knobs, the purple, plastic shell, and glass for the screen. There was surely something more? Something else set aside with the test tube of aluminum Samuel saved. Some small, nifty, gadgety piece of goodness, no doubt, to preserve and treasure and remember the experience by.
We picked marionberries and boysenberries for the first time yesterday. I made a mostly-marionberry cobbler this morning with a few boysenberries thrown in for good measure and between Eva and I, half of it is gone. I am planning to make marionberry jam either later today or tomorrow and hoping to pick more of these berries to freeze and enjoy either Tuesday or Wednesday of this week with some blueberry picking thrown in tomorrow to keep things balanced.

Eva picked up some more currants and yellow raspberries from the u-pick's farm stand after we had finished picking. I told her I would make currant-raspberry granita if we had enough. Which we now do. Yum!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

finished shawl

I'm so excited- last night I finished the shawl I've been working on. I tried it out this morning and it really is the perfect summer weight in Rowan summer tweed (70% silk, 30% cotton. I used color 537, summer berry.) The shawl is a Vine Stitch Wrap from I-can't-remember-which-book-from-the-library. {Sorry.} It measures 22 inches by 55 inches. I used size 10 1/2 needles.

Friday, July 9, 2010

This post could read Cats Keeping Cool-

Samuel took this picture of Maxwell sleeping in the tall grass recently. And here is Magoo resting on some dried leaves.

But then I couldn't resist throwing in one of Albert looking extra cute. And he doesn't seem to be keeping cool here, although who can say really but him.

Albert snuggled between two blankets.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

berry lore

A few berry related events. We went to the upick on Monday before the heat struck and Eva ventured off to pick currants on her own. She had been practicing doing various errands around the upick the last couple of times- going to the bathroom, going back to the car for an umbrella, going for some water, that sort of thing. And this time she was off to the currant section. We're not sure what we are going to do with them but I have some ideas about jelly I am investigating.

The first jam of the season has been made and consumed in great quantities. Raspberry! I decided not to make strawberry jam this year and am planning, at least for the time being, to make at least some boysenberry jam, if not Marionberry or even black berry. I would love to make a cobbler as well but since I have frozen all of the excess berries at this point, I am waiting for it to cool off a bit before I head back to the upick to pick some more. I'm wondering if this heat will be enough to jump start some of the other berries who start to become available during this particular berry time.

I picked the first pint from our blueberry bushes out front the day before yesterday! Obviously, this is a very exciting event and I am looking forward to picking more. They are big and blue and perfect out there. I feel a little trepidation about going out this evening to see if there are more but may check on them if it cools off later.

Blueberry transition.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

zen and the art of summer

We three- Jack, Maxwell, me- sit outside together in the morning brightness. Jack, on the patio, in the shade. Me, on the patio, in the sun, a little further out. Maxwell, in the grass, in the shade, furthest out of all. I sit in the sun for hmmm ten minutes, maybe less, then move to the steps in the shade. The animals knew it was too hot to begin with. I sit in the sun {initially} because it is probably the only time today- the only time for the next couple of days- when it will be cool enough to sit there.

Yesterday I sat in a field at the park in the shade, undone by the heat {for the time being}. Looking around me, I noticed literally dozens of blue dragonflies flitting about among the patches of dried grass left by the lawn mowers. They sat still long enough for me to look closely, then buzzed off to greet others. Two flew together, ran into a third, split into singles. They flew parallel. They flew alone. I was- stunned? pleased? rapt?- and kept watching. This going on around me shook me out of my summertimefunkwiththeheat and reminded me {again and again and again I see the beauty in all seasons but have the hardest time with the heat of the summer, even as the beauty is obvious} of the many ways of summer.

I thought about picking blueberries in my front yard last year in the 100 degree heat, drinking water, wearing a hat, not-staying-out-too-long-but-long-enough to save the berries from the heat and focusing on what it felt like to be in that heat rather than pushing it away or hiding from it as I so often do. I don't do this often, so fragile to the heat do I feel. But sometimes- some times- I will embrace it. I will sit in it, like today, in the morning, with the cool breeze tricking my skin. It feels at once the heat from the sunshine, not yet fully warmed up for the day, and the cool of the wind. I reach for a fleece even as I know it will be too much just now to put on. And I think about this summertime feeling, of bringing a sweater, but never really using it, except indoors in the air conditioning. I let goosebumps rise on my skin in the cool air more readily than I would during the other seasons. There must be something to this, the knowledge that it will warm up, it is warming up, and the goosebumps will fade away at last.

And of course there is so much to love about summer. It ranks first among favorite seasons. There is the heat. The time outside. The light. The greenery. The growth. Abundance. I walked home from the park yesterday, bowing my head to the powerful sun and thinking about tomatoes. Tomatoes, after all, love the heat. And I very much look forward to my first fresh tomato of the summer. It can't be long now. It looks as if the sun and heat are here to stay. I repeat a little mantra in my head as I reach home, "Tomatoes love the heat. Tomatoes love the heat." And then I enter my house and bless it for the air conditioning within.