Sunday, April 29, 2012

Out in the Garden At Last

I am so out of gardening shape!  But I struggled through it.  Didn't get all of the weeds in the veg plot, but at least a third of the area is cleared.  Cut back the raspberries, moved a few self-seeded things, and pulled a lot more rhubarb.  I grew maltese cross from seed some years back and they've been really good about self-seeding.  Might have to start potting them up to give away.  Same for the yarrow 'Terracotta'.  I have at least four more plants than I used to.

Ken was kind enough to mow around the cottage garden.  You can see from the picture that the weed crop is doing well this year.  I'm trying to look at this as a romantic path mown through a meadow...ahem!

Knocked the cottage garden area into shape a bit.  Cut off the rest of the old stems, pulled dead leaves out of the iris, weeded a bit, watered, and admired.  The dwarf iris are in full bloom.  They really put on a show.  If you want a good ground cover in full sun here in Idaho, dwarf iris are a great option.  I was really pleased to see the upright clematis made it through the winter and has put on some size.  I'm very interested to see how it behaves this year.  Haven't seen it in flower yet.

My Dad sent me a tall dahlia (well, tubers), 'Vancouver', for my birthday.  So I've put those in the half barrel where I have primroses now.  I've never grown them before, so we'll see how they go.  The next big job is pulling weeds in the driveway garden and figuring out where to put the three new plants.  I just don't have the energy today.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Garden Calling!

Wow, the end of April already and I've barely touched the garden.  Time to stop resting on my bulbs - er, laurels, and get out there.  All I've done so far is pick rhubarb, pull the odd weed and admire the daffs and tulips.  Time to start digging over the veg plot and putting in some plants or we won't have anything this summer.  I'm not going to go crazy, as we'll be gone a few times and the sprinkler timer isn't working.  But it's always nice to have our own tomatoes.

At least the sprinklers are pretty much back in shape.  Now I'm hoping to get some of the other areas back in shape.  I've lost a few plants over the past years because I was down to hand watering everything in the backyard border.  I'm lucky to have any roses left.

The iris are coming into bloom now the tulips are nearly finished.  The rhubarb is going crazy.  I'll have to start giving it away.  I've missed most of the asparagus due to my inattention.  Was out there this morning and found some very tall fronds well past being edible.  Ah well.  I may get a few more.  I'll just weed, fertilize and hope to bulk them up for next year.  The raspberries are going to be the real challenge.  I never cut them back this spring, so I'll have to get in there and do some chopping.  Leave some tall and cut back the rest.  That way I can spread out the season.

Lots of digging and weed pulling ahead.  But I also have some spaces to fill where a few things have died.  I've put in Penstemon 'Dark Towers' and Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' already, and I have a new geranium, veronica and dianthus waiting in the wings.  And the new peony survived.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Olympic Peninsula III

It was hard to leave our cabin the next morning after breakfast.  We sat over our coffee as long as possible, looking out at the ocean.  The waitress brought us a carafe and we went through the whole thing.

After checking out we drove north along the coast and stopped at Ruby Beach to see the rocks.  It's one of those beaches you frequently see pictures of in calendars.  You might even recognize some of my shots.  It was raining, of course.  But it's a beautiful place and we were happy to putter around taking photos and climbing on rocks for a bit.

After that the road turned east and we took a right onto the side road that went to the Hoh River Rain forest.  It was POURING with rain, of course.  We went to the Visitor Center, thinking foolishly if we waited a bit and saw the little information film first the rain might let up a little.  No such luck.  This time Tachy got left in the car.  Not only did I not want a thoroughly soaked little dog to take care of, he wasn't allowed on the trails.  We put on our hiking boots and rain coats and headed out on a 2 mile trail near the Visitor Center.  It was like walking through a green sponge.  One of the coolest things was the Roosevelt elk.  There were five or six of them grazing in the water meadow right next to the restrooms.  We kind of came upon them unexpectedly and were only about 25 feet away.  We felt like we shouldn't startle them, so we stood still for a bit (taking pictures of course), then backed off.  They were blocking the beginning of the trail, so we found the other end of it nearby and walked it backwards instead.

I like the temperate rain forests of the Northwest.  It's a very odd environment, especially after living the the arid Intermountain West for so long.  You feel almost like you're in a jungle, and you expect to hear exotic bird cries and see animals swinging through the moss-draped trees.  But in fact, there isn't a lot of wildlife in rain forests that's close enough to the ground to be easily seen.  Evidently most of them hang out in the tree canopy far above your head.  And we were there in March, so there weren't any wildflowers either.  But it was good to walk and see things, in spite of getting wet.  My little rain jacket, bought in 2003 when I visited England after my year in Korea, decided it was no longer waterproof.  I was wearing it over a fleece jacket, so my clothes didn't get really wet, but I was definitely not as dry and warm as I'd expected.

We passed through Forks, drove along the shore of Crescent Lake, and arrived in Port Angeles in the afternoon.  We found a hotel near the water.  Another dog-friendly room with a little balcony looking out onto the water.  There was a nice little park and a pier not far away, so we walked down to the end and back while it was still light.  PA is getting towards the rain shadow, so it wasn't raining quite as much as the previous days.  Tachy liked getting out for a walk without getting wet.

We found a restaurant on the pier.  Ken had something with oysters.  I had something that was supposed to have scallops, but there were only two or three.  Again we had local beer.

Port Angeles seems like a nice town, but the real reason we stopped there was the hope of driving up to Hurricane Ridge for a walk and a view of the Olympics.  The next morning it was pouring rain again.  We drove up to the Park Visitor Center to find out what conditions were like "up the hill".  The road was closed.  They were having a hurricane (with snow) on Hurricane Ridge.  So we watched the movie, poked around their exhibits and left.  We unexpectedly had most of a day when we'd planned to be in the mountains.  So we re-arranged our plans a bit, and drove west.

Port Townsend is a little town on a peninsula at the northwest corner of the greater Peninsula.  It's built on a hill over the Puget Sound, but its smaller peninsula sticks out of the larger Peninsula pointing east, like your right thumb when you look at the palm of your hand, with Whidbey Island just across to the right, and Victoria, Canada north and to the left.  It's a nice little town, with a lot of beautifully-restored Queen Anne/Victorian houses.  In fact there was a yellow one on the hill with great views of the ocean that was for sale.  $500,000.  We took one of the fliers from the Realtor box out front.  I could definitely have lived there.

It also has Fort Worden, a former military base turned retreat/event center.  There are all kinds of interesting things going on there for much of the year, including a well-known Scottish Dance weekend and a fiddle workshop.  We both hope to attend these in the future, but meanwhile it was interesting to walk around a bit and see the place.  The fort was very similar in architecture and lay-out to the old Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, AZ, where I spent a month on detail last July.  In fact, if you've been to the Presidio in San Francisco, you've seen pretty much the same thing.  White clapboard buildings, rectangular parade ground, etc.  But somehow it all looked so much nicer surrounded by pine and cedar trees and lush green grass.

We found a hotel, and made reservations for the ferry to Whidbey Island the next morning.  It was raining, but we wanted to see the town a bit.  So we drove into downtown, parked the car and walked along the main street, which is just on the water.  I found a yarn store called Diva Yarns.  It had some of the new Malabrigo colors in DK weight.  I'd been wanting to see the Indiecita colorway in real life, and it was there.  There was also a new color called Jupiter that I really liked - a variegated red, but I ended up with two skeins of Indiecita.  I already know what I'm going to make with it.

By this time it was early afternoon and we were getting hungry.  I found a little pub called Sirens.  It was upstairs in one of the old downtown buildings, and the back windows looked out over the water.  We had a very nice lunch with local beer from Port Townsend brewery.  In fact, we should have gone there again for dinner.  But instead we took someone's suggestion and went to another place because it has good seafood.  I got a dish that was supposed to have scallops in it, but there were only two.  Two.  It tasted ok, but I was under impressed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Olympic Peninsula II

The morning after our wonderful meal at Fort George brew pub, we took the Astoria bridge into Washington.  It was pouring rain.  We drove north through Naselle, Cosmopolis, Humptulips and Quinalt (There were other towns as well, but those names were irresistible).  Past Cosmopolis and Aberdeen (Grays Harbor) we were on the Peninsula.  The park doesn't start until further north, but it's a woodsy area with few people and lots of water, trees, and evidence of logging.

The highway comes back to the coast at Queets on the Quinalt river.  Just a bit north of that we reached the Cedar Burl Grove, a little area right over the beach where bacteria have caused a whole grove of cedar trees to grow large burls in a fairly concentrated area.  It was raining.  But we got out anyway to look around.  It was like walking through a Dr. Seuss forest.

Just a little further north we entered the National Park and pulled in to a place that had a shop selling coffee, Kalaloch Lodge.  It was around 3pm, we were wet and cold and needed a break so we stopped.  We had a nice chat with the park service guy running the shop.  He was from the southeast and finding the northwest coast a rather different place to live.

By the time we had the coffee our spectacular surroundings had started to sink in.  There's a main building with a restaurant, and a number of small cabins ranged along a bluff directly above a beach.  Everything arranged to have perfect views of the sea.  It was raining and there was obviously a storm coming in.  The waves were huge.  Without telling me where he was going Ken went into the lodge to ask if there were any vacancies.  He came back out to me with the good news.  By this time I'd had the same idea.  So we walked down along the drive behind the cabins.  We saw two that looked empty and had incredible views of both the ocean and the creek that emptied into the ocean on the north side of the bluff.

We got cabin 3.  It was wonderful.  Once again our non-planning of this trip resulted in a great experience.  Our own little haven, with huge glass windows looking out to the ocean from both the kitchenette table and from the sitting area.  We made reservations in the lodge restaurant for dinner at 6:30.  That gave us some time to move in, have a little tea and sit watching the ocean at our kitchen table.  You could hardly take your eyes off it.  I could have spent the rest of the week there.  I definitely want to stay there again.

Dinner was very good.  I had seafood pasta and a glass of St Josef's pinot noir.  Ken had a Port Townsend porter and the same pasta.  There weren't a lot of people staying there at that time of year, so everyone was given a good table at the large picture windows looking out to the ocean.  It was still raining, but no one seemed to care.

The next morning we had breakfast in the restaurant looking out at that same amazing view.  My only regret is that the weather wasn't a bit better.  It would have been fun to walk along the beach.  But with all the huge driftwood logs, the rough seas, and the almost-continuous rain, we decided not to.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Olympic Peninsula I

We left on Sunday a little after 11am, which was at least two hours sooner than Ken's prediction.  We stopped for lunch in La Grande, OR, hoping to eat at our favorite spot, Foley Station.  But it's closed.  That was some of the best food between Boise and Portland.  Ken and I went there a number of times when we were dating and had some memorable meals.  It's gone now.  Probably a victim of the economy.  So we ate at a Mexican place nearby.  Seemed to be family-owned, and the food was decent.

I wanted to have dinner at Full Sail brew pub in Hood River, so I had a light lunch.  I remember stopping there with Diane, Kevin, and Carol on the way to or from the Portland dance workshop one year, and it was really good.  I had the falafel with an 8oz glass of Ltd 05 ale, and Ken had a wonderful smoked salmon pasta with their nitrogen-charged porter - I forget the name.  I tried a sip and was reaaallly nice.  Very smooth.

By the time we finished it was nearly 7pm, so we decided to stay there for the night.  Ken followed his instinct of always heading for water, and we found the Best Western, right on the river, next to the bridge.  Because we needed a dog-friendly room, we had a room on the water side, ground floor, with a sliding glass door that opened onto a little strip of lawn, the river-side walking path, and the Columbia - just 50 feet from our door.  It was great!  Convenient for the dog too.

So, willingness to be spontaneous, a great brew pub, and a view of the water became the theme for our week.  The next day we went to Portland.  I wanted to visit Happy Knits.  They have an *amazing* selection of Madeline Tosh yarns - all different weights in lots and lots of colors.  Far more color selection than I've seen before "in person".  I ended up with three skeins of Tosh Merino DK in 'Cathedral'.  Nearly ended up with Fireside, but I liked the bluer color-blend.  I wanted a multi-ply, but the intensity of color in the single-ply finally seduced me.

By this time it was late morning, so we headed north towards Astoria.  We both wanted to see Fort Clatsop.  And from this point on it was all new territory for me.  The closest I'd got to the Olympic peninsula area was a day-hike in the Quinalt rainforest back in 1993.

It was raining by the time we reached the Astoria area, but if you cancel your plans in the northwest because of rain you'll never do anything.  So we went to the Fort C Park Visitor center, saw their film, and walked through the fort replica.  Then we went to Fort Stevens State Park, which takes up most of the spit of land west of Astoria, where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific.  First we went to the beach where the Peter Iredale wrecked in 1903.  Windy and rainy, but beautiful.  Even though the local teens seem to use it as a highway, driving up and down the beach in their 4-wheel drive trucks.  You had to keep an eye out for them as you walked near the water.  Then we went to a beach on the river side, facing Jetty Lagoon.  That was more sheltered and the rain let up a bit.  Tachy liked that beach a lot more, since I didn't have to worry about passing traffic.

Thoroughly wet, we headed back to Astoria and found a nice hotel on the water again near the edge of town.  And that evening we found the Fort George Brew Pub.  We both had the pan-fried oysters - really yummy and local.  I had an small glass of Divinity - an ale made with Olallie berries.  Absolutely wonderful.  My favorite of the entire week.  It might sound sweet with berries in it, but it wasn't.  You got a top-note of berry taste, and then a long smooth finish of toasty ale with just a touch of hops.  I would have bought a growler of it, but we had no way to keep it cool for the rest of the week.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Far Behind

Too much catching-up to write this evening.  We've had our week of vacation and been back another week already.  I've put a few pictures up on FB, but I haven't had time to do a blog post about our trip yet. Perhaps tomorrow.  Tomorrow is Easter, and I'll be going to my sister's house for dinner and my niece's 7th birthday party.  Maybe I'll have some time in the evening for a vacation post.

There's so many other things I could have done today, but I went grocery shopping and spent two hours making macaroni and cheese.  It's a lot of work for one person.  Usually there's two or three of us working on it - grating the cheese, making the roux for the cheese sauce, doing the noodles, making the veg to go with it.  It tasted good at least.

The garden is begging for some attention, but it's been cold and frosty.  I guess I'm just too worn out from work to want to be outside for hours in the cold.  And yet the rhubarb has full leaves already.  I could make stewed rhubarb tomorrow if I wanted to.  The raspberry canes I left up for the winter already have baby leaves on them.  I need to cut those back, and a lot of other tidying up out there.  Sigh.

But some of the new tulips have opened, so that's cool.  I just wish the Purple Passion bulbs (a group of coordinated colors) was coming up all at the same time.  Those white ones are supposed to be mixed in with three other purpley colors.  Hmph.

I'm off to do some crochet in a warmer room.