friday grab bag

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So well camouflaged was this fine fellow that I would never have seen him had he not leapt into the air right at my feet. Which raises a question: do they change color, chamelionlike, to blend in to varying backgrounds? The markings are the same as those on a bright green sibling spotted on bright green leaves and a dark green one in the dark green grass.

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I was headed to that green building across the street, an art supply store.

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Out front of Little Baja was one of these welded outdoor fireplaces ( is chimnera the term?) so I had to go check it out.

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There were others in heavy terra cotta in styles ranging from straightforward to comical.

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I bought a large terra cotta pot here many years ago. While others have flaked or broken as a result of freeze/thaw cycles, my pot from Little Baja has soldiered on through it all.

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A gallery of gargoyles are inviting me back sometime before next Halloween.

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Should your taste run to more imposing statuary, they’ve got you covered.

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Personally, I was drawn to these simple cubes. If I remember correctly, medium sized ones were $59 and the large ones were $105. I just don’t know how they would fit in with all of the terra cotta I already have. Anyway, Little Baja is a fun destination if you’re a local and you find yourself on East Burnside (around 15th or so).

wednesday vignette & a thanksgiving trip

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Anna (Flutter and Hum) hosts every Wednesday with eye-opening observations of a visual and often philosophical bent. This week she confronts dark times with thoughts that put them in perspective. By contrast, my vignette features a world glittering with a dusting of snow and hoarfrost. We were driving to Idaho for Thanksgiving and the road between Walla Walla and Lewiston, all sensual rolling hills, was bespangled under a blue sky.

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In Waitsburg, a charming little town along the way, we veered from the main road and stopped to capture this scene.

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These charming refugees from the chopping block were quite chatty. Their mistress assured us that they enjoy pet status…no ovens in their future.

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After an eight hour drive, we reached our destination: Kathryn & John’s spread overlooking the Clearwater River in Idaho. Sami traveled with us. Call me crazy, but she’s old in cat years and clingier than she used to be. I got her a harness and a leash and steeled myself for a challenging trip. As it was, she settled in my lap and alternated between snoozing and watching the world go by.

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The Idaho deer make ours look like pikers. Of course K & J feed and coddle them, so they are fearless in their foraging. Just look at that pile of rocks! That’s what came out of the ground creating the fenced veggie garden. Looks like the start of a swell crevice garden to me, so I’m forwarding to them Loree’s post on that subject appearing today in (Plant Lust).

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The birds get plenty of TLC too.

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Another large fenced area (with an equally huge pile of rocks) protects a small orchard.

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And we thought Portland was cold! Blue skies and sunshine beckoned so we bundled up and traipsed around.

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Still frosty on the drive home. To my eye, the wind farms fit right into this landscape. How do you feel about them?

a new window cling for cat lovers

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I’m back to cutting new silhouettes by hand until we see which designs earn their way to being printed in quantity. This is a new material that I found. It still has a backing sheet and comes in a sleeve for easy storage when not in use. The difference is that the dark, smoky vinyl is translucent. If you look closely, you can see the scenery beyond the window showing through ever so slightly. We started making these silhouettes to deter birds from flying into windows but they could as easily be seen as purely decorative. If you are intrigued and would like to order or learn more, please visit my Etsy Shop.

birds flying into windows?

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Let’s see if we can’t fix that! When we first heard that sickening thump and found a dead bird beneath the window, I rushed to make a cut paper owl to put in the window.

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Here’s that owl, hand cut from heavy black paper and stuck to the window with double-stick tape. It seemed to work. Several friends asked for some and they seemed to work for them too. Cutting them out by hand with an Xacto knife was giving me cramps and calusses. We went in search of a less labor-intensive production method.

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After much research and experimentation, we have a superior product that employs static-cling vinyl. These guys can be repositioned or removed entirely and stored for future use.

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Simply peel the silhouette from the backing sheet and apply it to the inside of the window, smoothing out air bubbles with your hand.

One of the problems cited for window decals has been that the birds soon catch on that the birds in flight are not moving. Our birds are at rest, ready to swoop down on prey. We have no scientific proof, but that may be why they seem to be effective. Want to try some on your own killer windows? Go to my Etsy Shop to place an order.

friday grab bag

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First up, a look at what’s been happening around the neighborhood. Our neighbor, Jim, with whom we share a fence, hosted a wedding in August. His grandson, the bride-to-be and an army of friends worked all summer on sprucing up the place (which was already pretty pristine).

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They did almost everything themselves, down to charming bouquets of home-grown flowers in canning jars on all the tables. We loaned them some of my banners for the occasion.

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Across the road, Virgil planted a virtual hedge of Zinnias outside his fence. What a happy gift to all passers-by.

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I’m experiencing some serious Zinnia envy. Plotting where to do something similar next summer seems like the best cure.

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Zinnias are pretty upright, but wires run across the front, just in case.

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One last shot, at the risk of boring you with my Zinnia fetish.

Helenium maximillianii

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Back on my side of the fence, the late bloomers are putting in an appearance. I think I need to thin out the Helianthum maximilianii. They aren’t as tall as in prior years, perhaps because of crowding.

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Asters ask very little to continue bulking up a little more each year.

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How would you like to have dinner guests every evening? The herd has increased to about six, as far as we can tell. They drop by to feast on fallen apples and pears.

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Here’s a little oddity that might work to the advantage of serious flower arrangers. A vase that was moved outside got blown over in the night. By morning the Kniphofia stems were already bending upward. I can imagine using this tendency to engineer the perfect configuration to fulfill a vision.

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Zeroing in on the railing in the last photo reveals another visitor. It’s like a wildlife hotel around here. And with that, I will bid you adieu, with best wishes for a most pleasant weekend.

what’s going on around here (?)

You may have noticed that this site is looking sort of strange. I’ve been tinkering with the code and am still a long way from getting it to look the way I envision it. Snatches of time get devoted to this experiment, so please bear with me. I figure as long as the words and pictures come through, you won’t mind putting up with a little “under construction” disorganization. So let’s get on with it.

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This little fella is perusing the salad bar. If you look closely, you may be able to see the little buds of antlers on his forehead.

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Which means that by next year he will have added this kind of damage to his repertoire. Funny how they have zeroed in on just two of the Italian cypress trees to use for antlering and leave the others alone.

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Wouldn’t you think Mom would teach them to steer clear of the castor bean plants? Maybe they’re just going through that rebellious phase.

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Here’s his sis on a brighter day. They sometimes visit together, but Buster will make himself scarce once those antlers become obvious. We’ve never caught them in the act of antlering the trees.

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I expect the spiders to want to move indoors, but slugs? I’ve been finding about one a day on the doorstep. This one was getting ready to ring the doorbell.

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The Brugmansias got moved into my studio. They dropped all but one bud, but that one put on a pretty good show. The tall one from Means is now completely bare, but the one I got at HPSO in spring is still adding leaves.

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It’s worth tipping up that dangling blossom to get this view.

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Campsis ‘Madame Galen’ produced several huge pods this year. Just one pod yielded all these seeds. Anyone want some?

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Here’s my Echeveria ‘Haagal’, looking leggy and anemic. I’ve been told that this is their response to light levels that are too low, but even when it is placed in brightest sun, it stretches out like this. You can see where I have cut back older stems. HERE it is in its former glory. I have this problem with all Echeverias, so as much as I love them I’m about to give up unless I get some terrific advice in response to this plea.

death & rebirth

We watch nature shows, so I’m well aware of the struggle for survival that goes on out there.

Pinus densiflora Oculus Draconis ‘Dragon’s Eye’

Once my pride and joy, this is all that’s left of Pinus densiflora oculus draconis ‘Dragon’s Eye’. It had been in place since ’06, but ailing and losing its variegation for a couple of years. Finally pronounced “just plain dead”, no digging was required to remove the 6′ carcass. Do you see any root? No, the poor thing had been gnawed clean off just below soil level. The culprits? Gophers. Every garden chat I have engaged in lately has devolved into plots to kill gophers. Know any hit men for hire? They would have an eager clientelle in our neighborhood.

leaning fig tree

Another case in point: a fig tree that has been limping along for years. We looked out one day to see it tilting at 90º. This time some digging revealed damage to some roots and a tunnel system. R dug a nice big hole, lined it with rocks and replanted the tree with amended soil and stakes to hold it upright.

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The tree is saying “Thanks” by putting out a few fresh leaves, so maybe Dr R has saved its life. Only time will tell.

Oxydendrum arboreum

Another cherished tree, Oxydendrum arboreum held special significance because it was a memorial to a beloved cat. It was doing well, then, with no warning at all, it up and died. Soon, lo and behold: new growth began to appear at the base. The deer noticed this right away and found it quite tasty. Up went a chicken wire barrier to foil the little deers.

Oxydendrum new growth

The new shoots shot right up, to the delight of the feasting fawns. R added another layer of chicken wire and I went out there with a spray bottle filled with a disgusting tasting (and smelling) mixture. I’m afraid our landscape is peppered with these makeshift eyesores. There is chicken wire caging around the trunks of the quaking aspen and birches to protect them from girdling by the sapsuckers and pileated woodpeckers. Stakes surround the Rhododendron sinogrande to facilitate a quick cover when temps drop. Several young trees are caged against the antler rubbing of male deer. But sometimes aesthetics must take a back seat to protective measures. Our hope is that eventually the trees will gain enough heft to stand up for themselves, the wraps will come off and all will be beautiful. Next, we will find a non-lethal way to drive out the gophers, our fortune will be made and we can turn our place into the paradise that exists in our imaginations.

Redbud reborn

I leave you with one last, hopeful example of rebirth. Like the sourwood, this redbud died for no apparent reason. Again like the sourwood, shoots came up around the base. The new growth is vigorous to a fault, and now stands taller than the original tree. All of this took place with no intervention whatsoever from us. What is the lesson here? I have no idea. Any thoughts? (see Sarah’s comment below. I think she got it right)

Urtica dioica • painfully delicious

stinging nettle

Restaurants feature them (part of the “eat local”, better yet “eat wild” movement), nutritionists tout them (a true super-food), our back woods is full of them. Yes, I speak of stinging nettles: the darlings of the spring culinary elite.

the nettle harvest

Ever one to dabble in the latest food craze (and never opposed to free food) I covered up, grabbed a basket and shears and headed into the woods. The abundance of plants in peak condition led me to cram my market basket with the pernicious delicacy.

fiddleheads unfurling

While still in the woods, I spotted fiddleheads emerging from the many sword ferns and made a mental note to return for the makings of another esoteric kitchen experiment. Sadly, when I went back a couple of days later, the deer had nipped off each and every one.

leeks

On the way back to the house, I stopped by the vegetable plot, where a row of leeks was in need of thinning. I figured these would be good companions for the nettles.

Tongs had been recommended for handling, but I knew that, in addition to the tongs, this would be a hands-on experience. I broke out the surgical gloves. The stems and undersides of the leaves are covered with spiny hairs that release a devilish mix of histamine, serotonin and formic acid. By plunging the stems into boiling water for about a minute, that toxic brew is deactivated without undermining the health benefits of intense concentrations of protein, iron, vitamins and minerals. But how do they taste? Something like spinach with a little more of a mineral tang. The real difference is in the texture. There is an almost dangerous roughness on the tongue (I will admit: that may have something to do with the power of suggestion).

I had expected the raw material to cook down much more than it did. I wound up with plenty for experimentation. Dish 1: sauteed leeks and nettles layered with non-cook lasagna, bechamel sauce and three cheeses; grade ****. Dish 2: another lasagna using tomato sauce instead of the bechamel and adding sunflower seeds; grade **. Dish 3: simple scrambled eggs with the nettles stirred in and a light sprinkle of finishing salt; grade ****. My conclusion was that the simpler the dish, the more the subtle flavor of the nettles came through. And heavier gloves are needed for handling. I swished them around in cold water before using tongs to transfer them to the boiling water bath and could feel them stinging right through the surgical gloves. Not unbearable (anyone who cooks and/or gardens is used to minor injuries) but my fingers were still numb and tingly the next day.

Wendy, at Greenish Thumb has challenged us to cook up our gardens’ bounty and share. Go there to find good goodies.

bloom day & other stuff

liriope

Talk about your unassuming little flower: Liriope would probably never make its way into a post if it were not for the paucity of bloomers in mid-November.

northern sea oats and fallen leaves

Wet fallen leaves are a more likely sight, with northern sea oats shuddering in the wind in the foreground, refusing to come into focus.

Fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’

The hardy fuchsia ‘Golden Gate’ is hardy indeed. It is holding on long after most have succumbed to cold, rain and wind.

dying hydrangeas

I usually allow the Hydrangeas to dessicate on the bush, becoming lacy shadows of their former selves. This is ‘Limelight’ going the rusty pink, with ‘Preziosa’ turning a complementary rose to sepia behind her.

Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies’

See the tassel of buds forming on Mahonia ‘Arthur Menzies’? It has done that every year, then been frozen so that I never get to see that wonderful burst of blossoms. If you are longing to see a riot of color provided by blooming plants, you will have to visit other parts of the world. No problem: Carol, of May Dreams Gardens can transport you there via the magic carpet that is the internet.

praying mantis

And now to the “other stuff”. We were working on tidying up an espaliered firethorn the other day when R said “come over here…you gotta see this.” He held the shrubbery aside while I took the picture. Notice how distended the abdomen is. Isn’t it the wrong time of year for any creature to give birth? A raucous scrub jay was kicking up quite a fuss in that area once we moved on to something else. I hope he didn’t make a meal of Ms Mantis.

caged R ‘Ebony Pearl’

You may remember the troubles we were having with rodents tunneling into the roots of newly planted treasures. Our latest solution is to build wire cages for special plants going into open ground. It’s a lot of extra work, so it tends to hold down the flagrant purchasing of new plants…they have to be worth it. The new berm I am working on will have wire mesh at its base. The sound emitting devices seem to be slowing down the lawn damage, but we’re not taking any chances with Rhododendron ‘Ebony Pearl’ shown above.

mushrooms gathered on my walk today

Now just take a gander at what I filled my pockets with on my walk this morning. There are about five different kind of mushrooms here. They look and smell like the varieties I remember from childhood. Referring to the Peterson field guide to mushrooms is only minimally helpful…hard to find an exact match for any of them. Here’s what I have been doing: take a tiny taste of one style, holding it on my tongue to let the flavor develop and see if there are any superficial ill effects. If no problems have surfaced…yes, I swallow. I still feel fine these three or so hours later, so I am planning to feast on wild mushrooms this evening. Wish me luck.

my book, BeBop Garden, is here!

BeBop Garden cover

In case you didn’t know, I wrote a book about getting bitten by the gardening bug and the revelations and little observations that came with that new pastime (some might call it an obsession).

You can order one at the sneak preview price by clicking here. Or, if you just want to know “Why the goofy title?”, the first few paragraphs tell that story, and are included on the order page.

A couple of blogging buddies have written reviews. To read what they have to say, go to Danger Garden and Gardening With Grace. If you haven’t already discovered these two excellent gardener/writers, you are in for a treat when you browse through their blogs.

Please let me know if you would like to be in the loop for notifications of related events like readings, signings, etc. Just leave a comment here, including your email address. I promise not to bombard you with missives…just the occasional update when something new happens.