Thursday, August 26, 2010

Trying new things

Wink on the river
Just because you never have, doesn't mean you can't.
Just because you can no longer use your eyes, doesn't mean you can't float on a river.
On a sunny hot day.
With your life jacket on.
But dang, that water was cold.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Take a surreal tour of our August garden

I don't think I do enough walk-a-bouts with the camera through the garden. To remedy this, I did just that the other day and here you go. A few things that caught my eye to share with you. Some you've been seeing here lately, others not so much.

For this time of year, I'm pleased to discover things are blooming. My work over the past few years to plant or cultivate the garden for late summer blooms and interest is working: it is the time of year we're actually living in the garden the most, and makes sense.

These photos also proved to me it's time to do some editing and clean up. Talk about blowsy! Or is that blousy? Big and bodacious, yes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

That garden as a place of healing, for Wink, and for us

my helper in the garden this morning
My latest column over at Just Out is about the garden as a healing place for Wink, and for us. You can read it here.

Bonus: Let's play Where's Wink? It's like Where's Waldo? only you know, you have to find the cute fluffy white dog somewhere in the garden photo.
Where's Wink?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Recycled lighting for the garden

Lights hanging in the garden
The hanging glass orbs in our garden are crackled and perfect for emitting light...because in a previous life, they were indoor light fixtures. I've been collecting these different sizes and colors of glass fixtures for a while now, and they are so simple and easy to refurnish into hanging lanterns for candles to glow on summer evenings.

All you do is wrap wire around the top lip, and then create a hanging loop of wire at the length you desire. As for hanging them from your tree, shower curtain clips are perfect. They also make it easy to unclip and store the lighting globes come winter.

garden napping spot

Mine have a crackle finish, but even when seen during the day, I like their round shape, and their overall simplicity.

Perfect for creating a little magic in one of my most favorite spots in the garden.

lighting in the garden
View from the woodland walk

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Greetings and welcome to my front porch

I read something recently about keeping your front walk clean and tidy. Making sure nothing were to graze an ankle or catch on a passerby. Flowers that don't shed messy spent petals and plants arranged for year-long admiration.

The words made me pause and crinkle my forehead. Raise an eyebrow as well. Perhaps ask myself a question, "Am I doing it wrong?" But then quickly catch myself and laugh.

This is a bit of our front porch. You'll note we have a bouncer.

Yes we have formal pots on both columns on either side of our 100-year old house. This is one of the pots....

petunia + millet + sweet potato vine

There's another pot on the other column. Hidden here behind the giant bronze fennel. There is! I swear!

Do you think we'll have any fennel this year?

And I should warn you. We leave our shoes on the front steps. So watch out for them, will you?
shoes on my front steps

Oh silly gardening rules. Do you believe in them? Do you follow them? Do you raise an eyebrow and laugh at them while pointing?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If you're looking for me...

sun catcher
...I'm right here.
Here, in this chair.
Catching the sun.
Breathing in the warmth.
Closing my eyes and listening to the geese flying overhead between the two rivers in between which I live.
Here, where the dragonflies soar through the garden and out into this clearing of cool, green grass.
Here, where the hummingbirds buzz by my ear on their way to slurp from the fountain of water. Here, in this chair, facing the rays of the sun as the sky has cleared in this normally cool, grey place.

I may be passing this chair as I take buckets of weeds to the yard debris bin.
Or on my way to water the front side yard.

Maybe this chair is holding a picnic blanket to dry between heavy summer use.
Or maybe, just maybe, this chair is what I pass every time I leave and come home to my house between meetings and errands. Or gaze out at while on a conference call.

It's reminding me it's summer.
"It's summertime and I'm here when you're ready" it whispers to me.

I hear that chair, I do.
And I'm trying so hard to truly listen to it and its siren call.
To relax.
To pause a while.
To drink in the Vitamin D pouring from the sky.
To breathe in the heat into my lungs and to slowly exhale, completely.

Summer of 2010 is at its height right now, and the back-to-school ads have begun rotation.

"If not now, when?" the chair asks.
"Soon," I reply.

I commit to now, to pause, and to heat.
To summertime drank out of a garden hose and sun tea steeping close by.
Commit. To. The. Chair. Commit to summer 2010.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Some days require more pause than others

It's the little things
Oh the stairs. We may not think a thing about them, but for blind dogs, they're a challenge. Some days? No big deal.

Up, step. Up, step. Up, step.

Other days, they cause a pause. A sit down for a moment. To really listen and determine where things are.

Sometimes I get anxious and call out the promise of a treat. This magic word, treat, causes her ears to perk and the cutest-of-cute tilt of the head.

But not even the promise of a treat this morning could get her to give a go to those stairs. Patience, patience. And that's okay. Sometimes you just have to let go and let someone else pick you up and carry you down. And that's just what I did.

Oh Wink. Love that dog.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

When people say young people aren't gardening today, I say bullshit.

Young people are gardening everywhere, and these are the gardeners and farmers who inspire me the most.

"You cannot determine the ancestors you inherit, but you can completely determine the kind of ancestor you will be."

This is the trailer for Grown in Detroit. From their website....
Grown in Detroit focuses on the urban gardening efforts managed by a public school of 300, mainly african-american, pregnant and parenting teenagers. In Detroit alone, there are annually more than 3,000 pregnant teenagers who drop out of high school. This school is one of three located in the United States. As part of the curriculum, the girls are taught agricultural skills on the school's own farm located behind the school building what used to be the playground. The young mothers, often still children themselves, are learning by farming to become more independent women and knowledgeable about the importance of nutritional foods. Many of them start out disliking the often physically hard work on the farm but this aversion disappears as they see their crops growing and being sold for profit. “Back to the roots”, a simple yet effective solution for a city that has to start all over again and perhaps a lesson to be learned for the rest of the world.
Inspired, inspired, inspired.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Then and now: the fair

There was a time when I was a preteen, and my older sister went to Beauty School. It was the 80s. Growing up I had long straight hair with bangs kept trimmed by my dad with a good scissor trim on the back patio every other Sunday evening. But when my sister went to Beauty School, that changed. Perms were in, and she needed practice. Family photos changed then too, because everyone in my family ended up with perms.

But this post isn't about my bad apple pectin perm (anyone else remember that smell?). It's about entering items into county or state fairs.

Me and my perm, and my county fair ribbons

Yes, that's me, with my drawings and ribbons from the Ventura County Fair. Yes, I liked to draw cats and lions. There may even have been some horses in there. There were also some abstract watercolors, I believe. I took art classes at the local art center, produced these masterpieces, and won a few ribbons. How much do you love those ribbons?

Well I have my eye on the ribbon again, only this time, it's at the Oregon State Fair and I'm entering some of my canned items.

I spoke with the coordinator of the Creative Living (formerly the Home Arts) department at the Oregon State Fair as part of last week's Lelo Homemade. Listen in on our conversation here.

And just to be clear...there are over 500 entries in Creative Living at the Oregon State Fair. While I covet a ribbon, in no way do I expect my entries to win when up against some of these master canners from all over the state. But you know, a ribbon? Everyone loves a ribbon!

Monday, August 09, 2010

A fleeting flavor of summer: squash blossoms

Squash blossom flowers
If you see these at your farmers market, snap them up and have a simple dish that captures the fleeting flavor of summer (yes, it's almost mid August. Sigh). Squash blossoms are so simple, but there's something ethereal about eating flowers.

Inside the flower, drop in some cheese....I tried chevre, Tillamook chile cheddar, Mexican queso fresco, and Tillamook cracked black pepper. Any and all were delicious. The most traditional is the queso fresco as it doesn't melt as much as the other cheese. So you drop in some cheese, then gently fold up the flower ends, and place the little bundles on a pan. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 3-4 minutes and they're done.

Squash blossom flowers on plate

Finger food of summer, finger food of flowers, finger food of simplicity.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Who are you calling pansy?

Update: this is a post from 2010, and most if not all of the links are now dead. The publication I wrote for is no longer in business, and the podcast I had is retired. For more information about The Pansy Project, visit

This is a cross post of my column out today in Just Out. You can also listen to an interview I did with the founder of The Pansy Project, Paul Harfleet, over here on Lelo Homemade.
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One late winter day, a few years back, I bought a pansy for a little cheer and to coax myself into lasting through those short, cold, grey days. It was a dramatically colored pansy, deep blue and purple, large and velvety. I potted it up and it flowered through spring and summer, not stopping one bit of the way. In the coming spring, while I was cleaning out the pots with the carcasses of last summer, there was my pansy, blooming its little head off. It had gone dormant for just a little bit of time, but was ready to go. Today, that pansy has been transplanted somewhere in the garden, but not far from where it lived, in a crack in the cement and between pavers, a familiar deep blue purple pansy bloomed early this summer, its flower often larger than the green plant itself. It had seeded and was determined to live on.
Many people think pansies are fleeting and fragile, but in my garden, they are tenuous bodybuilders who often come back year after year and power through springs and summers, often blooming the whole while through.
Pansies are at the center of The Pansy Project, an ongoing art exploration by UK artist, Paul Harfleet. Harfleet plants pansies in soil near sites of homophobic violence or abuse, bringing attention to often unreported gay experiences, and those we in Portland know all too well. He then photographs the pansy in its planted location and posts it to his website, entitling the image after the abuse. “Fucking dykes!” is the title of a lovely pink pansy, planted in Manchester at Cross Street while “Die Queer! Die Queer! Die Queer!” glows red and orange at Wyatt Close in Birmingham. Searching The Pansy Project’s photos for a pansy similar to my own, I discover pansies planted in corners and crevices all titled for the horrible slurs thrown at queers. I find a pansy in shades similar to my own—blues and purples—and it’s titled “Fucking faggot.” The combination of simple beauty and ugly words is powerful and reminds me of being taunted late at night in a parking lot, with the slurs of “fucking dyke.”
I recently chatted with Harfleet about this wonderful combination of art and guerilla gardening. The Pansy Project began in 2005 when Harfleet and his boyfriend were harassed through a series of events on a warm summer’s day on the streets of London. He realized he had become accustomed to this abuse, being a gay man, but that his experiences were shocking to many outside of the gay community. He began to question how the attacks influenced his life, and the role of flowers at sites of crimes or accidents. The Pansy Project began when he planted a living plant as a form of positive action to bring light to the abuse that occurred at the site. Harfleet says, “I’m interested in the narrative element of The Pansy Project because it began by telling my own story of abuse and in sharing, I quickly became aware of others personal experiences.”
In the five years since its inception, The Pansy Project has opened a dialogue and recognition of homophobic violence that has inspired and touched thousands of lives. Harfleet himself has found through “Pansy Give-Away” events, where he distributes pansies to people, and gives him the opportunity to talk to the general public. “I’m most interested in telling everyone about this to encourage debate about how we exist together.” When asked about The Pansy Project as a form of empowerment, Harfleet says, “I am angry that this continues to happen and that I am forced to have some kind of public reaction to idiotic abuse. In a way, The Pansy Project has given me a stock reaction to this abuse. Instead of internalizing my feelings, I’m drawn to the nature of the location and consider where my horticultural reaction will take place. In a way, it acts as a conceptual shield to the abuse.”
The Pansy Project has grown to include art exhibitions and community events, and most recently, Harfleet joined with his brother for a conceptual garden installation at the prestigious RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. “Working with my brother on a conceptual garden was an ideal opportunity to subvert the traditional world of the flower show with a politically motivated garden.” Awarded a gold medal, The Pansy Project brought homophobic violence, and the beauty of the pansy, to a whole new audience.
At first when I read of The Pansy Project, I imagined these vulnerable little pansies in public spaces as fleeting. But then I remember my strong pansy and its ability to keep showing up even after miserable winters and an army of slugs. Pansies are tenacious, and so, my queer friends, are we.
Photo by Paul Harfleet, The Pansy Project

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

I baked a pie for California

The Gays Won't Ruin Your Marriage Pie
Congratulations, Californians. Oh thee of my homestate. Today was a good day for you, for all of you, really, as Judge Walker deemed, rightfully and factually so, that your denial of marriage for gay and lesbian couples was in violation of due process, but more importantly, was in violation of equal protection law. The hateful Proposition 8 was overturned.

To this, I baked you a pie. A peach and blueberry pie, because there is room in the pie for both peaches, and blueberries, and a pie does not only need to be of one ingredient in order to be tasty. In other words, the gays won't ruin your pie. We promise.

Proposition 8 was California's version of Oregon's Measure 36, of which I was very much involved in fighting. I can only hope that those of us in Oregon, and the rest of the country, can join in celebration of having these rights of equal protection in the future.

I am proud to be a strong supporter of Basic Rights Oregon and the work they are doing to further the dialogue of marriage, and what it means, across the state. Why does marriage matter? Find out more here. Please consider sharing your stories.

There's enough pie to go around, yes? Gather 'round for a slice of "The Gays Won't Ruin Your Marriage Pie." And if you need it a la mode, I've got you covered.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

For the love of a summer fiesta

Flags in the garden
The best thing about having a garden is having a party in it. In our case, a fiesta. Filled with familia and our best of friends, we celebrated a milestone birthday.

The lilies and gladiolas bloomed, the weather turned out perfectly, and the yes, there was food. Proof:
Of course there was food.

And a table full of pies. Of all kinds.
A table full of pies of all kinds

But one of the best parts was the surprise that came through the garden...
The surprise in the garden

There's something about live music for a party, especially a fiesta, that just makes a party, and a garden come to life. Generations dancing together? Priceless.

And of course, there were ribbons and a piñata.
Of course there was a piñata and ribbons

Summer is sweet this year and full of love: for our family, friends, and the beauty we are surrounded by. Love. Perfect for summer, my favorite season.