Friday, August 28, 2015

WTF Friday: The vegetable edition

So. In my brief years of vegetable gardening, I've eschewed growing squash. First, I don't like most squash species. Second, in the shared-garden gardening world, aka When Pigs Fly Farm and Think Outside the Box Acres, squash take up quite a bit of real estate. . . real estate I'd much rather dedicate to heirloom tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, etc. etc. It's obviously a fair point of debate, given the volume of squash still available at our  community garden and farmers market.

 Just an observation: A lot of friends become scarce this time of year if you grow zucchini.

So. About 5 weeks ago, I noticed a new sprout in "front yard."  (I'm at a loss to actually describe the "front yard." Front slope? Front cliff? Front abyss? You decide.) I put my money down on "hollyhock." Holly-hardy-har-har.

As we quickly approach our first anniversary here in The Beav, I can report there have been surprises (mostly delightful and pleasant) almost every week -- including what grows (or doesn't) here on The Lane. The horticultural epiphanies tend to be the most entertaining.

Case in point: Our "hollyhock" has turned out to be a squash, courtesy, we think, of bird poop. Arrrgghh. You can run, but you cannot hide. Especially when it comes to squash.

It appears to be a pumpkin. Or so I like to think. It is much better behaved than last summer's Mr. Pugly -- my pumpkin project that essentially ate a 12-by-12 vegetable patch. Which is good. Well-behaved pumpkins help keep us on the grid in terms of good-neighbor-relationships-because-zucchini-isn't-involved. Or so I like to think.

It's not on the landscaping plan we submitted to our esteemed homeowners association. I'd hate to be drummed off The Lane because of a squash. But nobody has noticed this unintended squash-y squatter. Or so I like to think.

And we have a pumpkin. Or so I think.

It's shaping up to be a good fall.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Seeing red

We are not blogging about Astoria today, kids.

My date and I taking a turn through Bermtopia, visiting Number One Son, The Miz and The Most Adorable Grandson in the World. And here's what it looks like:

It's fire season. And most of the world around us is red or grey as smoke and ash mute the late summer sun and skies.

There are about 36 large active fires burning in Washington and Oregon today. (Sorry, Idahoans, I can only get my head wrapped around what's happening in my two "home" states, but I know it's bad your direction, too.) Crunching numbers gathered by the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, this translates into more than 700,000 acres of forest and grass lands. Almost 9,000 men and women are fighting these fires in conditions that are unimaginable. And, tragically, 3 of these heroes lost their lives yesterday. Four of their colleagues were critically injured. I cannot fathom the tragedy of this.

While those of us safe and sound in Bermtopia grump about the pressing heat, smoke and gritty air quality, we try also to remember the human price paid by those who live on or close to these fire lines. Homes and businesses gone. Irreplaceable family mementos in ash. Livestock and livelihoods scattered and presumably lost -- for how long, who knows? Charming towns and beloved recreational areas emptied by mandatory evacuation orders. Many face uncertain days ahead as winds are predicted to kick up across eastern Washington and Oregon tonight, fanning fires that range in containment from 0 to 94 percent.

We've lived through 28 fire seasons here in Bermtopia. This is the worst we can remember in terms of danger and destruction. If you'd like to reach out and help the families and communities affected by these fires, there are ways to do this. The American Red Cross has set up a Western Wildfires page -- under "Ways to Give."

That's a pretty good place to start.

And, oh, maybe skip that wienie roast and quit smoking if you're schlepping through eastern Oregon or Washington any time in the near future. (Can't do anything about fires started by lightning strikes, but some were human-caused, people. That's just stoo-pid.)

You're welcome.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


How can it be I haven't touched this blog for three months -- THREE MONTHS!!?? How can one be gainfully unemployed retired and not make time to fire off a few bon mots once or twice a week? What a wanker I am.

Well, I'm back. And, actually, thanks to the miracle of my cell phone camera, I have pictorial proof that I haven't been just sitting on my patoot doing nothing. Sort of.

1. Well, there was this move. . .

In an impressive burst of karmic irony, Number One Son, the Miz and the Most Adorable Grandchild in the World moved to Bermtopia, our former domicile, at the end of May. We helped. Imagine cleaning and closing up a 2-bedroom apartment in Everett, packing, driving across the glorious state of Washington and unpacking over a three-day period. Yup, that was us.

And did I mention, the MAGITW perfected crawling that weekend, thereby requiring the one-on-one attention of at least one adult at all times? I am now qualified for a career as a Secret Service agent.

Grandma, you forgot to mention I'm pulling myself up, too.
2. And we had to take a break for a little culture here and there. . .

By taking in a Nellie McKay concert over in PDX's Alberta Arts district. . .

Visiting the city's Japanese Garden. . . Rose Gardens. . . and Chinese Garden

And rolling over to the coast a couple of times. (Okay, okay: technically not cultural. Does it count that we watched "American Ninja Warrior" one night?)

Greetings from The Place of Noisy Water.
I still refuse to get my paws wet.
3. And let's not forget Phase One of the Great Front Yard landscaping project. . .
It's a start, people. It's a start.
4. We did hit the road a couple of times. . .

Number Two Son and I took on Chicago, ostensibly to attend a wedding but mostly we just geeked out on the architecture, Jamaican jerk chicken, the Art Institute, River Walk, Millenium and Grant Parks, Lincoln Park Zoo, gangster tours and miniature golf. Not necessarily in that order.

And there this little junket to Sin City with our Vegas travel buddies, the Poop Heads.

Check it out!
If Joe Biden's presidential bid peters out, he can always fall back on that side job!
5. We played with matches with the Mom Unit and Number Two Son on July 4.

6. Oh, there was that record-setting heat wave that pestered all of the Northwest most of July.

Fat calves and Hobbit feet! Yay me.
Homemade sangria helped.
7. And we cared and nurtured Think Outside the Box Acres, where tomato leaf curl, blossom drop and incendiary bush beans are a way of life.

The survivors.
So there you have it. A waa-aa-aay too long pictorial documentation of how I'm spending my spring and summer vacation. But I finally figured out how to move Instagram pix to Blogger. So we've got that going for us. Which is good.

I am tired of being a wanker. I am back in the blogging saddle. Next stop -- Astoria, Ore., via the backroads. Providing the back roads are not too back-roady.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

It's a jungle out there

People, no one told us The Beav would turn out to be the epi-center of a weird and wonderful Wild Kingdom. No one.

Let me introduce you to a partial cast of characters who basically rule the Postage Stamp Patio these days:

Our resident tyrannical hummingbird. He's been with us all winter, having scared off any other hummingbird within a 600 mile radius of The Lane. He is fearless -- and regularly buzzes us as we come in and out the backdoor. It's like living on an airport runway.

B-52 also is quite demanding -- darting back and forth impatiently in front of the kitchen window while I clean and re-fill his feeder. I rather suspect he'd open the kitchen door and come in to speed up the process if he had opposable thumbs.

Now if he would only stand still long enough for an avian portrait.

The Crater-Nator and Rocky the Flying Squirrel
These bushy-tailed backyard terrorists have kept us hopping this spring. Around the middle of March, my date and began noticing a legion of golf ball-size (and bigger!) craters making their appearance throughout the Postage Stamp Patio flower beds and pots. I was not a happy camper when this involved the displacement, and subsequent fatality, of several potted coleus.

The culprit is The Crater-Nator -- in a relentless search for non-existent nuts that he's convinced are "squirreled" away in and around the PSP. He's no bigger than a guinea pig, but more than makes up for his diminutive stature with the holes he leaves peppered around the garden.

I may be small, but I be mighty.
Rocky, on the other hand, has an obsession with our bird feeder filled with black oil sunflowers. (God help him if ever messes with B-52's source of sustenance. He will be one dead rodent.) He stops by daily to analyze ways he can raid the feeder.

I've caught him hanging upside down from the gutter trying make a landing, but Rocky is a little too portly to make this happen. I think he's also tried a flying leap at the feeder at least once.

Just a hunch.

And finally. . .

The Brady Bunch
About 10 days ago, I whenever I used the front door, a junco would fly out of our railing flower box filled with some very leggy pansies. Didn't think much of it -- juncos are professional foragers and I assumed there were good eats somewhere in the planter.

That was till last Sunday when I discovered this on my way out to fetch the newspaper.

We are junco grandparents! The first hatchling made his/her appearance yesterday. We couldn't be prouder.

Family portrait to follow, but till then. . . .

Happy Sunday from our little family to all of yours.  

(Anybody want to adopt a couple of psycho squirrels?)

Monday, March 23, 2015


The Beav's much-anticipated (much-needed) spring rains have arrived. It's wet, wild and windy today -- an unpredictable mash-up of gully-washing rain and explosive bursts of sunlight.

And I have a head cold -- the first of the year. It's the perfect day to blog and binge watch Food Network and Home and Garden Television.

The perfect afternoon to talk about groundbreakings.

Groundbreaking #1

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Think Outside the Box Acres. (Yes, yes. I realize they bear a strong resemblance to a pair of coffins, but they are raised community garden beds and they are all ours.)

We weren't counting on getting a community garden spot this year Community gardening appears to be a crazy popular spring and summer sport in The Beav, and we've been on two waiting lists since the beginning of the year. But, lo and behold, we got the magic email -- and we were in! Best of all, the garden is within walking/biking distance of The Lane.

And one more little dividend. We just heard from our garden steward: There will be barbecues and other garden get-togethers! Bring it. Please note, however, that we carefully check the backseat of our car for unexpected little "dividends" during zucchini season.

We've been prepping the beds for about three weeks. This has involved removing some very impressive, very petrified onions, and cracking into a very hard, very resistant very thick crust of top soil. Ground breaking has taken on a whole new meaning.

We've also had our first introduction to one of Oregon's most hated beloved gardening resources -- clay soil. Don't ask me how clay ended up in two raised beds filled with store-bought soil, but it has. Hint: It looks like chunks of giant cat poop.

There are now many chunks of giant faux cat poop under the hedges on the north side of our community garden. And 6 cubic feet of soil amendment worked into the raised beds.

We're ready to plant -- beans, beets, radishes go into the left bed. . . and when good-size plants are available at our local farmers market, tomatoes (heirloom and cherry) will reside in the bed on the right.

There will never be anything quite like When Pigs Fly Farm, but the coffins beds at The Acres will be fun. Let's barbecue!
Bwahahahahahahah! Get it?
I love it
when vegetable gardeners make funny.
Groundbreaking #2

When we moved onto The Lane last fall, the Postage Stamp Patio consisted of two imperturbable clumps of Japanese sedge grass and one anorexic bamboo stalk. It does step down into the Sad Side Yard, which is nice -- but it's so sad that we aren't even dealing with it till next year. Instead, our focus will be the PSP.

Last fall, and well into the winter, we thought we would be creating the ultimate shade garden. It was shade, shade, shade morning, noon and night. I dreamed of ferns, hosta, varigated Jacob's ladder, foxglove and other luscious shade plants all winter long. But surprise! Although the PSP is mostly shady in the morning and early afternoon, it turns schizo on us in the afternoon -- with bright sunlight from the west dividing one-half to one-third of each bed into late after/early evening.

Hmmmmm. Back to the drawing board with a few sun-lovers -- sedum "Autumn Joy" and Tuscan Blue rosemary. They've joined some maiden hair fern and two Tasmanian pepper bushes. Yeah. They're small. They'll grow. Smaller plants are cheaper. And I'm cheap.

The bigger issue was the considerable slope of the PSP's west bed -- sloping right toward the patio. Problem solved during a weeding session. . . or perhaps, more accurately a rock-ing session. I kept turning up rocks as I weeded, which led me to look at the west bed with a speculative "What if?"

What if we leveled things off and added a small, stone "retaining wall" with all these flippin' rocks I was digging up? My date joined in the rock hunt (much to the neighbors' entertainment, I think), which soon encompassed the front and side yard, and this is our finished product:

Boom. (Pre-pansies.)
Next stop. A camelia per chance? Definitely a climbing hydrangea. And hostas? Of course.

The Postage Stamp Patio simply demands it.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Be true to your skool

If you are a college basketball person, you're well aware that the NCAA's Tournament Week is in its waning days and hours.

Hearts are broken, heroes are made, tickets are punched, dance cards are crushed. These conference tournaments largely determines who goes on to The Dance -- aka, the national college basketball championship. Oh, the humanity.

My date and I are Zags -- as in Gonzaga University. The Bulldogs. They are not strangers to the NCAA tournament. Past teams have gotten there via the West Coast Conference tournament as its champion. And, I believe they've gotten there via a wild card slot maybe once or twice. Being a WCC champion is preferable. And each time it's magical.

This year's championship game was Tuesday -- against my our arch nemesis: Brigham Young University. They handed us a very regrettable loss at home last month. Bermtopia and its many outposts across the world, eg, The Beav, very nearly imploded in grief. But not quite.

An email from my college pal Oms was just the call to action needed. She had spied an alumni game day meet-up on Facebook. It was happening at a sports bar in downtown Portland's Pearl District.

Bona. fide. It was on Facebook.

Did I want to meet up? she asked. Hell yes.

Yep. That's us.
We arrived within 10 minutes of each other -- jauntily bedecked in our 100% cotton GU T-shirts.

No fellow alums.

No worries. We got down to it, eschewing our usual 60-something-ladylike glasses of wine for an IPA and pilsner because THAT's what real Bulldogs do. We succumbed to a hummus plate, however. (I refuse to discuss the "totchas,"  which involved tater tots, melted cheese and salsa. Some things that happen on the road, stay on the road. And on the hips.)

We appropriated a couple comfy sofas in front of a fire place with strategically placed big-screen TVs. The bar keep assured us that all TVs except one (a hold-out to hockey. . . really?) would carry the GU game.

And awaited the alumni meet-up.

About 5 minutes before tip-off, a fresh-faced young man in a GU T-shirt wandered in.

Class of 2014! mechanical engineer! Oms and I, of course, looked like we could be his mother and a doting auntie.

(I should point out here that it would be genetically impossible for either of us to be a mechanical engineer's mother and doting auntie: We were, after all, liberal arts majors.)

Dan, the mechanical engineer, recovered nicely after meeting the mother and doting auntie he never knew he had, ordered a brewski and hummus plate, and offered to scout out the basement bar for more Zags.

Sure enough, the gang was downstairs. In all their 20- to 30-something glory. Nevertheless, they embraced the possibility that a couple of 60-something ladies could pull on their 100-percent-cotton-Bulldog-embellished T-shirts and show up at a sports bar for game day.

We were Zags! We cheered! We booed! There were door prizes! We didn't win! But the Bulldogs did! And kicked BYU's butt!

Best of all, The Kids let us stick around to play Trivial Pursuit after the game.

Oms and I nailed the 2015 Westminster Kennel Club dog show question. And came up with a few countries intersected by the Equator. You're welcome!

In all, Mom's Night the Gonzaga alumni meet-up was a rip-roaring success.

And did I mention, the basement bar was awesome?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Zumba musings

I am, frankly, amazed with myself.

I am totally, completely, ridiculously besotted with Zumba at our quirky little YMCA in The Beav. Perhaps it's my not-so-secret obsession with "Dancing with Stars." I understand now, completely and no longer without snarky judgment, why so many celebrity dancers crack.

Do you know how freaking hard it is to master the heel-toe at a 4- and 2-count?

But, on the other hand, perhaps it's why I now love, at the age of 62, Bruno Mars ("Uptown Funk") and Pitbull (sorry, but "Fireball" is awesome. . . although, come to think of it,  I noticed recently it's been pulled from Zumba playlist. Maybe because, after watching the video, it's just slightly naughty?). Anyway. The musical mash-up of Latin, hip hop and funk is deliriously wonderful.

Perhaps it's because of the Zumba Ladies. There are veterans (ie, they mostly know most of the steps)  There are newbies (me!) -- who the veterans cluck over like a new chick: They gave my best piece of advice the first week of class:  "Don't even bother using your arms." As if it's humanly possible.

I'm still in the Limited Arm Use mode. But the ZLs assure me it will come. It will come.

Perhaps it's because Zumba Ladies work to their strengths, sometimes looking wonderfully graceful and athletic with small steps and graceful arms. And sometimes stopping in the middle of class to chat with a Zumba neighbor.

Perhaps it's because, after 8 weeks into the Zumba games, the ZLs  come up and say how amazing it is that I've caught on so quickly. That would be after a class where the ZLs and instructor were going south. . . and I was most decidedly going north-by-northwest.

And perhaps, it's those golden moments, when the Zumba Ladies tackle a new turn move, or as I like to think of it, unleash yet another Zumba zombie apocalypse of flying arms and careening middle-age bodies upon the YMCA.

And most definitely, it's the little things: At last Thursday class, one of my back-row ZL posse waved me over and pressed a 500-pound a hip scarf (okay, okay 5 pounds) into my hands. It was tricked out with 3-inch long brass torpedoes quite capable, I think, of also sinking The Lusitania. She smiled and said, "Use it. I'm in Palm Desert for the next 4 weeks."

Thank you, Zumba sister. I will. In honor of your generosity, it will get a hip-shaking, torpedo-rattling workout of epic proportions while you're gone.  And will still be smoking on your return.