Friday, July 29, 2005
I just found my dream house.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Back on the Home Front
Thanks to my father-in-law, Victor, my garden survived my two-week absence. He had to do a lot of watering while we were gone, thanks to the drought-like conditions. I'm hoping to return the favor when he goes on vacation this August.
Jane from Horticultural mentioned that her garden looked "wild" when she returned from vacation. I noticed the same crazy, overgrown weeds in my garden, too. Before I left, I gave all the garden beds a really thorough weeding. Man, that didn't stop a lot of weeds from exploding into giant-sized beasts while we were away. I guess that little bit of weeding I do most days when I'm puttering around the garden does keep the worst of it down.
Some of the flowers went a little wild while we were gone, too. These petunias are over three feet tall. They are some "leftover" petunias that I threw into a bed in the back yard after I'd filled up the beds in the front. These leftovers have totally taken over with exuberant purple and pink blooms.
The veggie garden is chugging along. When we came back, all the lettuce plants had turned into these ragged, towering monsters. They'd obviously gone to seed. I've pulled them out, and this week I plan to start some new lettuce seedlings under lights inside.
While we are now out of salad greens, we have plenty of other veggies to enjoy. The Sun Gold cherry tomatoes just started this week. The little yellow fruit grown in grape-like clusters. And they do taste like bundles of sunshine. The other tomatoes are getting close to having ripe fruit, so I'm hoping to have lots of tomatoes from here into Autumn.
The Little Leaf cucumbers have also started. This is a dwarf vine that produces small cucumbers, the perfect size for my square-foot garden. I worried that the cucumbers might only work for pickling, not for eating fresh. When I picked the first few cucumbers, I was really worried, because the little guys are covered with spines. But once they're peeled, they are very tasty and juicy. We're also have a few bush beans, beets, and carrots left. I can't seem to get my carrots to germinate as well as I'd like. I could eat carrots every day, but my garden hasn't kept up in the carrot department.
Oh, and did I mention broccoli? I started broccoli plants inside back in early March, and two plants made it outside. They quickly became huge, beautiful specimens. We harvested one head before vacation and the second head after vacation. Delicious! I've left the plants in place, and I'm hoping side sprouts will form so we can have second helpings of broccoli.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Don't Forget the Knitting
There's one more vacation item I've forgotten to cover--the knitting! While on vacation, I went to not one but TWO family reunions. That is a total of seven days of camping. I haven't camped that much since my college days. So somebody tell me, when did the ground get so hard? Anyhoo, we held a family Knit-Along that spanned both reunions.
Most of my sisters and my mom joined the knitting fun. We're a large family, so there was a lot of knitting going on. We all knit a kid-sized version of the "Wonderful Wallaby" sweater. Wow, my family can knit! By the end of the reunion, we'd all made a lot of progress on our sweaters.
Knitting makes for a great family activity. We could sit, talk, and watch everyones' kids run around like wild animals, all while knitting up a storm. The Wonderful Wallaby pattern is perfect for this kind of activity because the pattern includes a lot of detailed instruction. For a knitting pattern, it's not too heavy on the abreviations, and it gives options for tackling different parts of the sweater. The sweater also includes all the knitting basics--decreases, increases, ribbing, garter stitch, knitting in the round. This makes it a good "first time" sweater for new knitters. By the time everyone finishes their sweater, they will be ready to tackle any knitting project.
I must say, the Knit-Along did a lot to stroke my knitting ego. I felt like quite the knitting expert, giving out my knitterly wisdom, as needed. Ahh, such expertise!
Unfortunately, my wallaby is not yet finished, darn it. I knit my sweater with a bunch of yarn leftovers. Purple body, pink arm, rose arm, multicolor collar. I thought I had enough to finish the thing off, but now my leftover pile is depleted! I'll be stopping by the yarn store this week to get the last bit of yarn for the sweater's hood.
Hey Prairietide Sisters--send me a picture of your finished Wallaby, and I'll post it to the blog!
Saturday, July 23, 2005
As of today, it's been one week since we got home from the vacation, but my mind is still back in the Pacific Northwest. It's been five years since I called Seattle home, and I'd forgotten how beautiful the area is. While I lived in Seattle, I never did any gardening. For one thing, I was a renter, and for another thing I was swamped with grad school and a crazy job--all the old excuses. It wasn't until I moved to Illinois that I had a patch of earth to call my own. So, I've learned a lot more about plants and what it takes to grow them since the last time I visited Oregon and Washington.
Everywhere we went while on vacation we saw beautiful gardens. Little towns, rural homesteads, and city plots--everything seemed to be blooming and lush. For one thing, while the Pacific Northwest is behind in the amount of snowfall they've received in the last few years, they've gotten plenty of spring rain this year. So this wasn't a drought year. I think there's something more, though, that accounts for the success of plants in this area. We saw so many beautiful gardens, that there must be something about the climate and weather and rain that just makes things GROW.
While we were visiting Rosyln, WA, I made a point to snap some pictures of a few of the local gardens that really stood out. Rosyln's claim to fame is that it's Main Street was featured in the TV show Northern Exposure. It's an old coal mining town that basically fell into disrepair sometime in the 1960's when the last coal mining operation closed. Rosyln is a classic example of "preservation due to neglect." Because the town had been in decline since it's hey day in the early 1900s, no one had any money to fix anything up. So the old turn-of-the-last-century Main Street is still pretty well intact.
Nowadays, Rosyln is a tourist attraction. Thanks to the TV show, and thanks to it's convienient location right of an interstate, it's a vacation spot. There are a couple of new pricy developments going in outside of the city limits. But Main Street retains it's charm.
Just off the main steet were two gardens I loved. Color and kitch. Yes, those are plastic flowers entwined over the archway. And yes, that is a "Saw Mill and Water Wheel" feature.
I had to get a picture of this garden. In fact, I made Randy drive around the block twice so I could snap a shot. The house is pretty run down. I think this might actually qualify as a "tar-paper shack." But it has got a garden, a blooming garden right out front. If you throw a few seeds on the ground in the Northwest, green things and flowers follow.
Monday, July 18, 2005
Pacific Northwest Wildflowers
This year must be a standout year for wildflowers in the Pacific Northwest. I lived in Seattle for five years in the 90's, and I did a fair bit of hiking back then, but I never saw such a show of wildflowers as we did during our two-week vacation to Washington and Oregon this summer.
These are Avalanche Lilies (Erythronium montanum) from Mt. Rainier National Park. Avalance Lilies were mostly finished when we reached the park, but there were a few to be found here and there. We found this field of lilies while hiking up to Pinacle Peak, and at the beginning of the trail we were on a north-facing slope in a shady woods, which these spring flowers probably like.
One the slopes of Rainier, the subalpine meadow at Paradise always has an amazing wildflower display in the spring. The meadow is probably the largest, and lushest, mountain meadow I've ever seen. The flower display is like an impressionist's painting. The colors are dazzling, and the variety of flowers would rival any florist's window display. The park provides a wildflower guide to visitors, and I wandered around trying to find matches. I believe this one is Pink Mountain Heather (Phyllodoce empetriformis). It looks like a low-growing, evergreen plant with bell-shaped flowers at the tips of the stems.
In Paradise, Magenta Paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora) and Broadleaf Lupine (Lupinus latifolius) looked ravenous. The lupine were absolutely everwhere. Some were more bluish, others a deep purple. We even saw some with a varitated blue and white bloom.
The white puffs are actually seedheads for the Pasqueflower (Anemone occidentalis). The seedheads form after the white flowers are finished. The puffs look like something out of a Dr. Seuss story.
This wildflower display is from the devistated area around Mt. St. Helens. When we visited St. Helens, it was a cloudy grey day, and we couldn't make out the volcanic dome from the viewing area. But wildflowers were growing all around, even around blown-down and charred timber where the ground is so rocky I'm amazed anything can grow at all. According to a friend, the subalpine wildflowers are used to growing in rocky ground without a lot of soil. They are among the first plants to return to a disturbed area. The roots and stems of the plant trap more soil, which makes the area hospitable to other plantlife. In this picture, we have Lupine, plus Scarlet Paintbrush (Castilleja miniata. It's more orange-red than the Magenta Paintbrush), plus a few Smooth Mountain Dandelions (Nothocalais alpestris) , which are actually charming in a meadow.
This picture was taken in the Wallawa-Whitmore Wilderness Area in a sea of Lupine. We're near the eastern border of Oregon, an area that is much drier and desert-like than the rest of Oregon. Further up this trail, we hiked to a summit outlook where a fire tower is kept by the Forest Service. The fire tower was staffed by a retired forester named Maurice (We don't have a picture of him or the fire lookout tower. Drat!) He pointed out more wildflowers growing at the top near the lookout, including Alpine Aster (Alpine alpigenus), and what looked for all the world like the prairie Brown-eyed Susans. Maurice said, "I have my own rock garden and flower garden up here."
Another summit picture, this one looking over Hells Canyon and the Snake River in Oregon. The diversity of wildflowers here blew my mind. It's very dry here, but the flowers must love it because they were everywhere. My wildflower guide from Rainier couldn't help me identify these flowers, given the change in the growing conditions, and my limited wildflower knowledge didn't help me out either. I recognized Asters, Lupine, and Paintbrush, of course. But there were many new and colorful flowers unique to this place.
Walking along a train and finding wildflowers ia magical. On one hike in the Grove of the Patriarchs at Rainier National Park, we came upon clusters of tiny white flowers that looked for all the world like little shooting stars. On another hike in Snoqualamie Pass in Washington, I think we saw wild foxgloves and tiger lilies. Somehow, we timed our vacation during a blockbuster wildflower year. I'm hoping for a repeat performance in the not-too-distant future.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Yesterday we flew home from the Pacific Northwest. At the airport before we left, I purchased a copy of the latest Harry Potter book first thing after we made it through the security clearance. Thanks to long flights, a longer layover in Chicago, and a few other delays along the way, I was able to finish the whole book in one day. It's a fun read, though I need to think through the conclusion a little more. My first impressions are that the current concern about security and terrorism have influenced the book in an interesting way. I also see a lot of Star Wars in the mix. I may have to give the book a second go-through.
The vacation was amazing! More photos and reports on Oregon wildflowers, gardens, and knitting to follow. For now, I need to get back to one huge pile of very smelly laundry.
Sunday, July 03, 2005
Right now, I am blogging from the new Seattle Public Library. Back in the 90's, I worked here for almost five years. It was my first "real job" after college. Back then, the library operated from a dated library from the 1950s that was a little run down and way to small. The big focus of the whole institution during my time at the library was getting a new library built.
And here I am, sitting in the new SPL building. It's amazing. Designed by Rem Koolhaas, it is all angles and metal. When we arrived at the 4th Avenue entrance at 1:00 PM, we had to wait a few minutes before the building opened for the day. A large crowd was assembled, and I had a chance to get a look at the angles of the building up close. From the outside, the building looks like a stack of playschool blocks. The lines and angle head off in unexpected directions. But from the street level, it looked surprisingly familiar. It has a sort of ironic "midcentury modern" look about it. In fact, the metal and glass vertical lines around the entrance looked very much how I remember the old 4th Avenue entrance to look. From the ground view, the entrance gave me a sort of "deja vu all over again" feeling.
The surfaces of the building are fascinating. There are metal floors, wood floors, bamboo floors. The lines are very basic. Plastic and metal shelving. Open beams in the ceiling, grid-like railings and screens. We walked up the "spiral," the library's book collection is stored in a central part of the building that spirals up several floors. At the top, a dramatic reading room is poised under a slanted glass ceiling. The chairs and sofas have a 1950's flair--only they are made from foam. From a distance, it looks like the furniture is made of concrete, but when you sit on one, it is actually comfy.
The building is punctuated by a bright yellow and lime escalator. The workings of the elevators are encased in glass, so you can watch the moving boxes gracefully come and go. At the very top public floor, you can stand on a narrow balcony and look down at least five floors to the "mixing room" below. When I peaked over the edge, I gripped the railing to guard against a wave of vertigo.
Right now, I'm blogging in a huge computer lab. There have got to be over 100 computers in here. And the place is packed--on a Sunday. The computers and trim and black. The computer tables are sleek and black. The room is dimly lit, and overhead the black foam insulation and ceiling rafters are open to view. It's like walking into a set from the Matrix.
Seattle has all sorts of good memories for me. Living here, I got myself together and got through a divorce. I found a good job at a library. I finished graduate school. I married a nice guy. Coming back to visit the library is like peaking in the windows of the old family home. It's beautiful and I am glad I was a part it, and now it belongs to some other family.
We're off to Pike's Place Market and a late lunch. Tourism awaits!
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Tomorrow at a time when most sane folks will be sleeping in, I'll be catching a plane headed for Oregon. Two glorious vacation weeks are stretched out in front of me like the Yellow Brick Road.
Today was my last ditch effort to get the garden ready. I watered absolutely all day. Luckily, the weather has cooled off the last couple of days. It actually felt good to be outside today, and it was overcast, so it wasn't a bad day for the water to be running at high noon.
The veggie garden got the kid-glove treatment. The finest of weeding, a extra layer of mulch, a little pruning where needed, plus a thorough watering with the soaker hose. The final touch was a good bit of encouragement for all the veggies to stay alive while I'm gone. We'll have a substitute gardener (Randy's dad) stopping by from time to time, but the pep talk made me feel better.
One final task in the garden was to harvest any veggies that looked even close to ripe. For lunch, I made an entire meal from home-grown vegetables. Steamed bush beans, broccoli, and beets, plus a green salad on the side. The taste was amazing. Who new beets were so delicious?
For the next two weeks, I'll blog when I can from the road. Bon Voyage!
The Common Blog
Just the other day I read about how early US immigrants often kept journals during their oversees voyages. This reminded me the western pioneers, who also faithfully scribbled throughout their westward trek in personal diaries. The individuals who made these treks knew they were doing something historic, not to mention something that would drastically change their lives. Today these journals give a lot of insight into the lives of common folks during historic times.
Then just yesterday I ran into this article, "Blogging in the Early Republic: Why Blogging Belongs in the History of Reading". It's from Common-Place, a really good online journal about American history. The web site promises writing about history that is actually readable, a notable goal.
The article places blogging into the long history of American public discourse. Some have compared bloggers to the famous and notorious pamphleteers of the Revolution and Civil War like Thomas Paine. This author, however, fits blogging into the long history of journal-keeping in this country. In the early republic, newspapers proliferated and the problem became how to keep up with it all.
Surrounded by ephemeral print, many began to make references in their journals to what they had been reading—the rough equivalent of what bloggers do by linking to a Web page. During the Revolution, for instance, Christopher Marshall, a Philadelphian radical and friend of Thomas Paine, peppered his journal with references to the papers, often with brief comments on the news.
Other readers kept detailed scrapbooks, filled with newspaper articles with scribbled notes in the margins. In this regard, journal writing became a way of keeping up with all the reading that increased exponentially in the new republic. Blogs fit in to a similar situation today. With so much available on the internet to read, it's impossible to keep up with it all.
Indeed, blogging demonstrates the persistence of a key truth in the history of reading, an insight as obvious to Tocqueville as it should be to most bloggers today. The insight is that readers, in a culture of abundant reading material, regularly seek out other readers, either by becoming writers themselves or by sharing their records of reading with others. .... Perhaps, instead, blogging is the literate person’s new outlet for an old need. In Wright’s words, it is the need "to see more of what is going on around me." And in print cultures where there is more to see, it takes reading, writing, and association in order to see more.
This article was posted yesterday, and I'm just now getting around to blogging about it. Perhaps other bloggers have already argued about the article, disagreed with it, found errors hidden in the subtext, and generally rehashed this article all over the blogosphere. And now I get to join in the fray. I like considering my small contribution to the blog world as something similar to those early immigrants who scribbled away in their simple diaries as they stepped into a new life. The New World begins today.