Here Comes The Rain

We have tipped over the edge of summer and are sliding down the long rainy slope of fall. That means that any last hopes I had for my tomatoes — which I managed to really screw up this year through a combination of a late start and neglect — are fast fading.

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Fortunately there are other crops that don’t require any effort, and thus did quite well. The current, for example: this year it fruited for the first time, producing lovely red chains of berries. There weren’t enough to do anything with, but Ryan, who’ll eat anything resembling a fruit, consumed most of them. I was impressed. They were not very sweet.

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And the grapes did very well indeed. The vine, crawling along a wire ten feet up, manages to drape the entire south side of our house in a lush green skirt (conveniently protecting those windows from the summer sun, I might add). As the rain comes back it gets a fresh spurt of growth and the vines begin to push out over the driveway, looking for more territory to conquer. The marionberries are doing the same thing to our front walk. I love this climate, but I’ve loved it even more since I started enjoying the “hack it back” method of pruning.

Our vine provided us with lots of fresh grapes, about a quart of raisins, and six quarts of juice thanks to an extremely handy gadget from my dad. It isn’t the tastiest juice; my tastes were formed by the Island Belle grapes of my childhood, and I’d still like to grow one of those. But it isn’t bad for a start.

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A Plague Of Peacocks

I’m always excited to see one of the neighborhood peacocks outside the window. The kids are too — we generally wander around from window to window, watching him until he gets nervous at all the attention and saunters, sometimes at speed, out of the yard.

Lately the peacock visits have been coming more often. This is great, but there have been a few things worrying me. For starters, there was the day that I saw the peacock nibbling on one of my broccoli plants. About a week afterwards I discovered that all the broccoli plants had been nibbled down to the stalk. No side shoots this year…

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Less worrying but still cause for consideration was the day that I noticed one of my corn stalks shaking violently at regular intervals. When I checked, I discovered that it was one where the corn cob had been short and been left on the stalk, partly opened. The peacock had feasted on everything it could reach.

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Then there were the scrapes and disturbances in my raised beds, recently planted with winter crops, and the occasional small feathers left behind. Despite my growing disapproval of his activity, I collected the feathers. I still think they’re the most beautiful birds imaginable.

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And finally I caught him, blatently hanging out in my garden. Nestled down in a bed among young lettuces. For all I know, snacking on my baby spinach. Beauty is one thing, but messing with my garden is something else entirely.

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What do I do? I love watching him, but I feel I ought to protect my garden. Do I let him snack and consider it repayment for his presence? But I know there are more of them; what if he starts bringing his friends? It’s easier and more satisfying to deal with a pestilence of slugs than of peacocks…

Party The First

Ryan really cared about his birthday this year. For weeks, even months beforehand he talked about it — mainly about how he’d finally be old enough for a booster seat, but I think he also got into the general party fervor. He mentioned the topic so often that we had to hang up a paper chain, with one link for each day, so that he could see how many days were left and thus theoretically wouldn’t need to ask me. Multiple times every day.

Since he cared, I put in more effort than usual this time. We had an actual sort-of party, in that we invited our playgroup to a park near us. Actually it was pretty much like playgroup as usual: the kids went and played, and the moms hung out with the babies and talked. But in my world, that’s what a birthday party is. Favors? Pinata? Activities? That isn’t what I grew up with. My birthday was heralded each summer by two families coming over for dinner and cake, and to use up the time before dinner we kids were all handed squirt guns and told to stay out of trouble. One year I think there were water balloons too.

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My crowning accomplishment this year was the cake. There it is, people: my first ever, honest-to-goodness layer cake, ten inches around and frosted with ganache icing. I knocked this one out of the park. I started by choosing the right recipe — from Smitten Kitchen, the same one I tried last year for Nathan’s birthday. This time I got it right, it came out of the pan, the frosting worked, and I even decorated the thing with chocolate-covered caramels and sprinkles. It was awesome. It was also phenomenally chocolate, which is just another way to spell ‘awesome.’

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One would think that, since it was Ryan’s birthday, there’d be a picture of him somewhere in here… but no. Someone with small hands got hold of the camera shortly after we arrived at the park and put their little greasy fingers all over the lens, so the party remained largely undocumented. But the important thing was that Ryan seemed completely satisfied with his birthday, and we appeared to have assuaged (temporarily) his desire for chocolate cake.

The next morning he explained to me his new philosophy on life. “I’m still four,” he told me, “so it’s still my birthday.” With that attitude, he has a very good year ahead of him.

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Opal Creek

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A short piece in Northwest Travel Magazine took us this summer to Opal Creek.

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Except for the drive there (which the kids found to be longer than they liked), both Nathan and Ryan approved of this hike. There were huge pieces of old, rusted machinery to explore. There were rocks to climb, fallen trees to walk along, a bridge to cross, and an old mineshaft to peer into and then run away from. And there was the stream, with pools of startlingly blue-green water and occasional waterfalls, as well as the usual entertainments of running water and stones. Kid heaven.

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Peacock Chain

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I am a total sucker for most of the colors to be found on a peacock. My bead stash reflects this.

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Paddling

I had to try my hand at paddleboarding again. Fortunately, Portland is a city with many amenities, and it wasn’t hard to find a place (Gorge Performance) that would give me a quick lesson.

The morning of my lesson it rained, and my instructor called me to find out if I was still going to show up. I assured him that naturally I would, and my tone hopefully conveyed the fact that I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, and we do not cancel for rain.

My upbringing served me well. By the time I got to the river, it was clear, sunny and mild, and the water was like glass. “I can’t believe what a perfect paddling day this is!” my instructor kept saying.

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