Dec 24, 2010

Personal Pie Man

Many years ago, I was the (reluctant and unskilled) pie maker in the family. Then, one fateful day, I was saved. On that occasion I was under pressure to get 'er done, and the crust was not behaving. In fact, it was being impossible, as only pie crust can be impossible. I was younger then, and less philosophical about cooking. I was, in fact, very impatient when foodstuffs did not behave according to my express command. Silly me. So there I was, wrestling with a recalcitrant crust, getting madder and madder as it got less and less crusty, flaky, and light. And then, just like that, I snapped. I picked up the offending dough and hurled it across the room, where it landed -- thump -- against the dining room wall.

My sweetheart, observing this outburst with alarm, took quick, decisive action, and rushed in to stay my hand, which was reaching for the dough, preparatory to stomping it into the floor. "I'll take over from here," he said with a soothing, manly tone, and thus I was saved and so were all future family pies.

He took over all crust-making duties and I happily fell to filling-maker. Eventually he took over that as well, and nowadays I merely decorate the crust, as the occasion demands. We are not a cake-eating family, so whenever a dessert is needed for potluck, party or family feast, out comes the pie dish, the rolling pin, and the apron. His pie-making renown has spread through our circle of friends, bike teammates and other eclectic groups. He taught a local baker how to make crust, and now she too is noted for her crusts and delicious pies.

Mostly we stick with cherry, since that is my personal favorite and it is quick -- no slicing of fruit or fussing with custard or meringue. The crust goes on the top and I go into artist mode. Well, I'm no artist but I can sense a theme.

And so, with no further fanfare, here is a short history of pies around Arabella's Garden, over the past couple of years.

Thanksgiving 2009 -- my first attempt to use food coloring. Mixed success, I would say.

Mother's Day

Cyclocross Nationals 2009 --this one is a bit abstract, but bicycles are tough! You can see the riders, the crowd, and the characteristic smokestacks in the Old Mill District behind.

Christmas 2009

4th of July party

Bike shop play day retreat in the Ochoco ranger cabin

Cyclocross Nationals post race team party. They were all stars!

Tomorrow is Christmas, and yet another pie will be born. What inspiration will overtake us?

Dec 8, 2010

Wifely duties

You can't really go on what you think 'marriage' is going to mean, starting out in the wedded state as a sweet young thing. It never turns out to be just the big things like 'sickness/health' 'richer/poorer' and so on. Oh, those things are mentioned in the traditional vows for good reason: that stuff happens! But really, that stuff happens whether we get married or not. It's called Life 101. It's just sometimes a bit dicier with a life partner.

But there's other stuff never mentioned in any books I've read about marriage. I suppose it's different for everyone. I for one never expected to need a degree in safety pinning. Who knew my sweetheart would decide to take up bike racing? And keep racing, and keep racing.

He's been through all the versions of the sport as it has evolved in our lifetimes. Road racing, then mountain bike racing, and his current and longstanding love, cyclocross (CX). A slightly wacky, spectator-friendly, late fall/early wintertime sport combining riding, running & leaping over things as an excuse for boys (and girls) to go out and play in the rain, snow, hail, and mud. Hugely popular in Europe since early in the 20th Century, popular and growing in the US in the last 15-20 years, particularly on East and West Coasts.

But back to being a wife. Being a CX wife calls on all my years of experience pinning on numbers. Yes, that's right. All those years of piano lessons, advanced university studies in teaching, on top of my gardening skills, cooking, and brilliant conversational abilities come down, at this time of year, to my ability to pin paper numbers onto a skin-tight lycra racing suit quickly, accurately and without sticking the wearer. I did stick someone, but good, once. It was not my sweetheart, but some hapless guy at a race long ago, desperately looking for someone in the crowd to pin on his numbers before a road race. When I finished, he straighted up with a really strange, wan look on his face. "Did I get it on right?" "Yes, but I think you pinned it to my SKIN........" Oops.

Here's what it looks like, when done correctly, during this morning preparation for CX Nationals, held in Bend this weekend:

Each racer's packet includes 4 numbers, 2 small ones for the shoulders, 2 larger ones for the hips. These go on either side, for the cameras & officials to be able to -- if the CX gods smile -- read the riders' numbers as they cross the finish line covered in mud.

Then out comes the junk drawer's box of safety pins and other objects. The race packet provides 4 pins for 4 numbers. Go figure.

Next, standing by the nice warm fire, the racer-to-be assumes the position.

Pins in hand

the Wife begins her onerous task. The final result

checked in the bathroom mirror

Next comes the embrocation -- heat-infusing liniment to protect bare legs from the cold. Sort of. Very pungent!


Super secret shirt

Wool shirt

Tricky arm movements needed to get skin-tight suit over all these layers


Raincoat for warmup

Happy racer, headed for today's seeding Time Trial

Early morning rainbow: a good omen?

Air in tires

Bikes on the car

Away he goes

Perfect race conditions?

He races at 10:01 this morning PST. Wish him luck? The big race is tomorrow at 8:30 am. Stay tuned.
Follow the action on Don's own blog at right: Don's Sunnyside Blog


If a blogger doesn't blog, does anyone notice? Two months is a long time for anyone, especially Li'l Ned, to be silent. Changes in the garden, changes in life, inner changes. Though I am normally a fairly communicative person, when emotional waters run especially deep, I tend to hunker down and become hermitlike. We've had some big changes here in Arabella's Garden, in the last couple of months. Integration is still happening. It's all good, no worries --- but I've been pretty quiet on the blogosphere during that time.

All the more reason to get back and do some updates!

First, an apology of sorts.

When last we visited the garden, there was a *&^%$@#%^& deer in the middle of it, munching on the beans. Ned had some pretty hot words to say about the neighbor lady who feeds the deer. However, further research and journalistic honesty compel me to reveal that said neighbor is no longer feeding the deer. My apology is only half-hearted, however, since the deer are still around, cruising the 'hood in search of their former food supply. Grrrrrrrrrr......

Since then, we've had late season harvest:

early snow (again!):

fall hiking:

a bit of fun with the gang in the Ochocos:

miracle chickens!

and, most recently

Stay tuned for details.

Oct 5, 2010


Yesterday evening, near the end of my final piano lesson of the day, my student, who was facing the window, suddenly got all wide-eyed and distracted. 'There's a deer in your yard!' she finally exclaimed. 'What?!!!!!!!' I turned and looked, and there, standing not 10 feet away from me on the other side of the glass door, marching boldly across the patio towards the previously sampled squash patch, was Bambi Junior. I rushed out the back door and chased him out of the yard. Yes, there he went, galloping through that narrow gap between the car and the house. (I had moved the ladder so my students could get to the door.)

Not 15 minutes later, my teaching finished for the day, I looked out the window on the other side of the house, and there he was again, now standing calmly in the middle of my vegetable garden, munching on my bean vines. I ran outside again, this time with camera in hand. Thus the fuzzy quality of the photos: I clicked with one hand and brandished a broom with the other. He looked only mildly alarmed, perhaps just surprised to see me back again so soon.

Here he looks downright disapproving. 'Lady, what's the problem here?'

but did make a pretty fast move towards the exit once I got out of the way. I clicked wildly as he ran past,

The sound of his wee deerish hoofbeats on the pavement made me think briefly of Rudolph ...... but then I remembered Rudolph was a reindeer and their feet make a different sound. With great satisfaction I watched him heading up the street, perhaps to sample the delights of my neighbors' yards. Not that I wish them ill, but they're on their own with this guy.

I wonder if I could train the girls to be Attack Chickens ........

Oct 4, 2010


Yesterday morning I walked out to the back patio and saw this .......

That's odd, I thought.

But the next thing I saw was this sad sight, previously a lush pot of sweet potato vines ....

and suddenly I knew the Neighborhood Doom had fallen on my garden.
Further evidence?
Munched squash vine leaves:


The culprit? A fine large specimen of the local creature I have named Bambiciferus horribilis, but which I more commonly (and rudely) refer to as F...... Bambi. (Feel free to add your own favorite Anglo-Saxon swear words to my own.)

Thanks to the idiot woman up the street who feeds the damned things, we have a fat, happy, herd of deer roaming the neighborhood, alternating her regular rations of 'deer-chow' from the feed store with the tastiest and most beautiful plants in her neighbors' gardens. I have made myself (mostly) immune to their depredations by building a tall fence around my entire back yard. However, there is one gap in the barrier: the open-ended carport separating our house and the garage/MIL apartment, which leads directly into our backyard, where I grow my tender and tasty garden crops, as well as flowers. Roses. Perennials. Fruit trees.

Most of the time the MIL's car is parked in the middle of the gap, and that is enough to deter deer. But every now and then, in late summer or early fall, when native browse is presumably dried up or simply not as alluring as the lush greenery in well-watered gardens, one or more bold baddies will thread the needle between car and house and make its evil-intended way back to my little Eden.

Don't try and tell me the deer were here first. In terms of the literal truth, no, I was here first. I have been gardening in this very spot for far longer than any of these deers' little deerish lifetimes, or their ancestors', back at least 20 generations. Besides, they wouldn't be hanging around the 'hood in the first place if people like my *%$#@!%# neighbor (possibly a perfectly nice woman in other ways, I haven't met her) hadn't started encouraging them to abandon their native fare.

'Deer chow' is apparently bad for deer anyway. Deer, like cows, are ruminants though they are browsers (designed to eat shrubby twigs, leaves, bark, etc) rather than grazers (designed to eat grasses and more tender green plant matter). Deer chow contains grains, seeds and sweeteners such as molasses, none of which are digested well by ruminants. Just as cattle fed on corn and other grains are basically sickened by such a diet (thus the quest by health-conscious eaters for 'grass-fed-only beef'), so are deer. And, when deer eat this highly addictive 'food', not only does it replace their normal diet, but it also disrupts their bodies' natural enzyme production so they may not be able to digest their natural winter diet later on. Grrrr. Feeding the deer is bad for the deer AND bad for the neighbors -- so why do it? Don't get me started.

Oh. I already am started. So I'll leave off my ranting and cut to the chase. Namely, my first attempt at a cure:

So far, no deer has been able to scale this ladder. I'll keep you posted.

Sep 22, 2010

Girls! Girls! We're famous!

If all works properly in my version of cyberspace, clicking on the link below will take you to the webpage of one of our local TV stations. A reporter for the Green Life segment of the evening newscast arrived at my place yesterday morning, filming a piece on the 'backyard farm movement'. I and my chickens, were here.

Perhaps in honor of their new stardom, 2 new hens -- Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Olive -- each began laying today. Woohoo -- 4 eggs a day and rock star status. I suppose they will be wanting mealworms every day now.........

Sep 13, 2010

We did it! From 10:07 am to almost 4:00 pm (45 minutes over) they came -- young, old, and every age in between ..... newbie gardeners, experienced gardeners, and nongardening relatives of local residents visiting from Kansas ...... Central Oregon oldtimers and newcomers....... new friends and old. The backyard farm was toured and admired by -- I don't know, really, I lost count after the first 10 .... maybe 75-100 people! People actually asked if it was ok to take photos. Are you kidding? I was honored that anyone would want to take pictures of my garden.

It was SO FUN I could hardly stand it. I've never opened my garden to visitors before, and I was a bit nervous about it. But once we started, I had a ball. I got compliments on my signage

my display of books, catalogs and gardening resources

and my flowers

Many visitors were interested in my fruit trees -- but all politely refrained from sampling.
Oddly, I had more questions about this plant (behind the green 'fence' on the right)

than anything else in the garden. 'What is that ferny plant with the red berries?' they wanted to know. Apparently a lot of people who buy fresh asparagus don't realize that what they are eating is the first spring growth of a perennial plant, and it grows out after cutting stops, into a lovely ornamental. Here it is, fully leafed out, and restrained behind a 'fence' to prevent it from flopping across the path. After frost, it will turn a beautiful orange-yellow, making it a nice backdrop to flowers or other vegetables..

People were interested in everything.

I made a few signs.

The garden looked just fine. Weeds? What weeds?

After it was all over, I strolled around the yard and tried to see everything from an outsider's perspective. I tell ya, the garden itself was proud and smiling, The whole place was ....... shiny! Plants love to admired as much as the next person. I think they want me to do it again. Whew. Until then I'll be resting and planning.