Thursday, August 29, 2013

Driving in the Right Hand Lane

Sometimes I'm amazed my husband and I have managed life as well as we have. We're pitifully ignorant of practical things like heating systems, higher finance, and CARS. 

First principle of our auto-owning philosophy: Buy the best car we can afford, service it regularly , and become friends with the mechanic.

Second principle: Drive in the right hand lane until the car dies.  It's much easier to coast onto the shoulder from there, while the car still has some momentum.

It's worked pretty well. Both cars are right at 190,000 miles. (Commercial break--they are both Toyotas.) 

But we recently had a glitch. (So cute!)

Car One had been repaired. We swapped it with Car Two for its regular maintenance. 

 On Sunday morning, we jumped into Car One but it didn't start. What to do? Bill jumped on his bike, rode the two miles to the garage, and retrieved Car Two. 

Third principle: When your only reliable vehicle is a bike, you're in trouble. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sprigs: Spiders set the trip-wire

All of a sudden the spiders are in high gear.  There are so many webs that I feel like the yard has been set with tripwires. Watch where you walk or you'll be wiping silk from your face--or jumping up and down flapping your hands, depending on you feel about spiders.

One recent morning we spotted several "classic" webs shimmering in the fog.

And both  the yard and shrubs hosted many of the shallow "bowl" type webs. 

My favorite sighting, though, was a web strung between two trees about twelve feet apart. The spider had constructed a web horizontally, seven feet off of the ground. It looked like a small trampoline made out of a doily, rising and falling with the slightest puff of air. 

Lots of folks hate spiders, and I'm not fond of them in the house, but they are fascinating in their own habitat. Strong, nimble, excellent craftsmen, and persistent. You can't help but admire their handiwork. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Downsizing: Releasing Dreams

I've thought about it, even discussed it with my husband. But a friend just announced she and her husband are actually going to do it! 

They are "downsizing." 

I understand why her very active, in-his-late-seventies, husband no longer wants to spend so much energy trimming trees, keeping the ivy in check, and chasing the deer away from the hosta. 

I understand the appeal of living in a townhouse development that does the mowing and plans ahead to replace the roof. 

In fact, as our stamina flags we are anticipating our later years . We don't take on new projects, but maintain our home and the garden with the future buyer in mind. 

Do they want to spend 10 plus hours a week weeding and tending flowers and veggies? Maybe not. So I called a landscaper to help us deconstruct some of our beds.  For phase one I chose the space that is currently most neglected.  Bit by bit we are digging out the day lilies to transplant.  Then we'll seed it for lawn. 

Twelve years ago I started with about 50 lilies. Oh my word. Today we split clumps, and split again. And I've already divided those into over 150 viable plants. I still have half of the bed to dig up. 

I wish our retirement fund had multiplied as fast. 

This all comes back to downsizing.  My goal is to have less gardening. But right now, I've multiplied my regular chores immeasurably. 

The lesson, I guess, is that you have to anticipate when you must downsize in order to accomplish it.  And the difficulty is multiplied when you can't let go of  "stuff." 

It's for sale on Etsy!
My mother began downsizing thirty years ago. I remember when boxes from her would arrive in the mail. My daughters quickly learned there wasn't anything any of us wanted. No use for an old Girl Scout Handbook, or the Simplicity and Vogue patterns. (Okay, I lied. I did tie one knot using the handbook's directions. And I saved a few patterns, now wildly out of style and sizes too small.)

What lies behind my reluctance to throw out the patterns? Or rip up a failed landscaping project? Or give away the piano?

I think it means releasing dreams. Some are easily surrendered. I can only relinquish others by declaring them dead and turning my back. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sprigs: Bloom Where You're Planted

A garden is like a quest. There are always challenges and discoveries. 

Yesterday I spotted this wayward baby impatiens. It must have started from a seed broadcast by the larger plant in the chair, some 8' away.  But I've never noticed seeds forming from impatiens flowers.

Some parts of the US have been hit with downy mildew that wipes out the popular plant. But mine are safe. 

Have any of you had problems with the mildew?  

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Summer tradition: North Carolina Peaches

"...the walls were wet and sticky, and peach juice was dripping from the ceiling. James opened his mouth and caught some of it on his tongue. It tasted delicious."
Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach

Add fuzzy and fragrant to the description. 

 I've been waiting all summer for the perfect peach. Everyone knows that going to the orchard is the best way to buy them. Lucky for me, we live less than half an hour from several orchards. A friend alerts me when picking begins.  Then for weeks, right through the middle of September, different varieties come available. 

Reports say this year's crop is good, but not terrific. Too much rain. Willing to take my chances we headed up Saturday and got a box full of Majestic peaches at Leonard' Orchard, in Cana, Va.  Only paid $6.00 because they had some soft spots. When we stopped at the busy fruit market a couple of miles away, they were four times that price.

Once home I sorted them on cookie sheets and covered them with a clean towel. Over the next few days I hovered, sniffing for the tell-tale luscious aroma. Then I squeezed gently, checking for just the right amount of give.By Monday morning several passed the test. And the reports were wrong--they were perfect. 

scones with peaches and pecans

We've devoured them with every meal. For breakfast, Peach Streusel Muffins or, like this morning, in scones. With lunch, I'll eat one washed free of fuzz. At dinner time, I'll make the tomato, peach, corn salad I found in the Wall Street Journal , and for dessert, Fresh Peach Sorbet. (I added zest of one lime and it's juice to the recipe.)

When I can't eat them fast enough it's time to make peach butter in the crock pot and freeze it.  

If you have favorite recipes, share them now! The window of opportunity is short. 


Mix together:
1 1/2 c flour plus 2 Tbsp flour                   
4 Tbsp sugar                                            
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt

Cut in 2 Tbsp butter 

Add 2 peeled and diced peaches.

Mix together 1/2 cup milk and one egg. Pour into dry ingredient until just mixed.
Dump into a pie plate lightly greased (or sprayed). Sprinkle with pecans and cinnamon-sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.                                  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sprigs: Zucchini--Friend or Faux?

I recently peeled, grated and froze about twelve cups of zucchini for soup and   breads. Made a huge chocolate zucchini cake, too. And a batch of zucchini-potato soup. (It was tasty.) I consoled myself that it was worth the effort because they were good for me.

Curious, I looked up their nutritional information.  To get your recommended daily allowance of potassium you'd have to eat 7 medium zucchini; to get your day's fiber you'd have to eat 12! Just to get your vitamin C you'd have to eat two. 

True, it's fun to watch their explosive growth, but I think I'll put them on the "don't bother" list of vegetables-- faux, not friend.  The critters must feel the same. Since I discovered their true nature, I've been tossing them into the woods at the side of the yard. They remain untouched.

What have you decided to eliminate from your garden? Why?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Travel Fit

Last week I had time to watch people at the Seattle airport. I was sitting at the bus pick-up point for the various Alaskan cruises, so lots of folks passed by. There were so many feeble seniors that I wondered if they were on a special tour.  

flcikr, photo by doublewinky
I thought back to another recent flight when my two seat mates (center and aisle) both required wheel chairs down the jet way, were obese, and were barely able to get up out of their seats to let me take mine. What if we had an emergency? I'd be hemmed in, and possibly endangered by their relative disability. 

It made me nervous. 

Airlines can deny boarding to drunk passengers. Do they have other guidelines for other passengers who could hinder safety? I looked up the regulations of the US Department of Transportation, and only under very specific circumstances (unstated in their memo) can the airline require a traveling companion for a disabled person. But if I wasn't mobile, I don't think I would want to fly.  

I am grateful for my relatively vigorous health. As a reality check for the future I made a list. I will quit gallivanting when any of the following three apply:

- My luggage requires a cart.
- Most of my activity takes place in the dining room.
- I can't navigate the airport under my own steam.
- I don't do anything new at my destination.
- KEDS tennis shoes, pants with elastic waistbands, and sweatshirts decorated with wolf faces are my fashion choices. (Maybe that's only for the Alaska-bound.)

At that point, I'll content myself with reliving memories.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sprigs: Wild sweet pea

I think of sweet pea as part of the spring landscape. 

But in the cool climate of Puget Sound they bloom all summer long. In the woods near our vacation spot, they grow six feet tall reaching for light. They cover rotting stumps, and march up and down slopes. What a wonderful wild landscape filler.

I wish I could wave a wand and trade them for unwanted pasture weeds: dog fennel, mare's tail, barnyard grass, and goose grass. None of them are anywhere near as charming as their names. 

My farmer-neighbor is slow to kill the weeds in his pastures which border two sides of our property. I never realized what a hopeless chore it is to fight the weeds moving from his place to our yard!