Thursday, March 30, 2023

Flowering Plum

Despite the rainy and cold days of late, Spring is very slowly progressing and more of the early blossoms and flowers are emerging.|
The Camellia in Doug's garden is covered in these gorgeous pink flowers ..


Shear perfection!
Their Pieris Japonica is flowering profusely as well:


In between rain-showers I managed to walk to the vineyard at the end of the road.
They've taken out several rows of vines because apparently the old Pinot Gris vines, planted in the early 90's, were dying from Phylloxera (a tiny root-eating insect) and will be replanted with Pinot Noir.

The rest of the vineyard still looks very dormant, I don't blame those vines .. too bloody cold!

Every now and then the sun appears for a few hours though, just enough to feel hopeful there's better days in the future!

Ever so often people I meet on my walks will ask me what I'm photographing.
Most of them are nice and just interested or curious although sometimes there's a suspicious or even a little aggressive one ..
Any-who .. yesterday, when a guy asked me, I said: 'anything fun or interesting or 'out of the ordinary', and pointed to this black blob high up in a pine tree:


'Just a branch, or a nest', he offered, but I took a few shots anyway .. and lo and behold ...

... when I got home and played around with them for a little on the computer it turned out to be an owl!
A Great Horned Owl to be precise! I know, it's not a great shot and he's looking away from me but isn't that cool?
I hope to get a better shot in the future now I know where he's hanging out!

I've got a new customer at my feeding station as well. It's a Townsend's Warbler:


He's another migrant from southern California or Mexico and is on it's way to it's breeding grounds in Washington and Canada as well ..


The suet is very popular at the moment. With this cool weather everybody can use some extra fat!
These are two different Nuthatches, the red-breasted on the left and the white-breasted on the right:


And here's the Mister and the Missus Downy Woodpecker:


And of course the Bullshit, Bushtit family, sorry:


Apparently Bushtits have such a small body weight to size ratio (average weight is 5.5 g) that it results in high rate of body heat loss. During the winter, individuals need to eat about 80% of their weight per day to avoid losing weight!

And although we definitely don't need to eat 80% of our weight, this cold weather asks for lots of warm, sweet, comfort food .. like french toast for breakfast:


Covered in powdered sugar and syrup and bananas and walnuts .. !


And how about these delicious apple dumplings for coffee, made with a can of croissant dough and, surprisingly,  a can of Mountain Dew!


A la mode of course! And no, we didn't eat this in one day .. OK, two ..

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Female Rufous Hummingbird

And just like that .. there we have it .. another Spring!

All of a sudden I had a (female) Rufous Hummingbird at my feeder, just coming through from her wintering site in Mexico and presumably on her way to her breeding grounds in Alaska and northwest Canada, a nearly 4,000 miles flight!
It's just mid-boggling to me that such a small bird is able to to something like that!


The daffodils are starting to color the neighborhood yellow!

And as always the Forsythias are one of the first to flower!


We celebrated St Patrick's Day with some traditional cornbread and cabbage, cooked to perfection in 90 minutes by my trusty Instant-pot:

And accompanied by the soda bread I baked last week:



I'm starting to see a few deer around the neighborhood and this little buck hung around the orchard for a day and even camped out for the night:

I'm pretty sure this is one of the twins, who frequented the yard last year with his mum and because of his petite size I even suspect it's the smallest one of the two.
He obviously knew where he was, walked around quite confidently and walked straight to the spot way in the back where he used to nap together with his sibling.
I'm so happy he survived, although he looked a little lonely .. and skinny.

I'm itching to start doing something in the garden but it's still way too cold so I'm spending some of my downtime watching youtube-videos about vegetable gardening.
Some of these guys are really entertaining, as well as informative:

That is Mark in the pic above, from 'Sustainable me', and next up is 'Gardener Scott' ..

And this is Ben from GrowVeg, a site by the Old Farmers Almanac:

In the meantime, despite it being Spring and despite a couple of nice days, we're back to snow and sleet for the next two or three .. as we say in Holland:

'Maart roert z'n staart' or 'March stirs it's tail (it looses it's rhyme in the translation)"!

Thursday, March 16, 2023

'Tis almost Spring, we had a few beautiful sunny days and the buds of the red maples on the edge of the orchard are starting to open.

The male flowers (catkins) of the hazelnuts that have been slowly developing for weeks are starting to release their yellow pollen as, just in time, the female flowers have appeared as well.


Isn't it funny how their fertile parts rather compare to ours in size, the female flowers are those tiny red ones whereas the male parts of course are those long, dangly things ..

The first little daisies have appeared in the grass, although the poor things weren't around for very long since James decided to do the first mow of the season:

The grass never went dormant this winter, it kept looking very green and even grew some. It's what happens in a state with moderate temperatures and lots of rain ..

I've cleaned up some more around my raised vegetable beds and rearranged the bamboo stakes in teepees instead of the trellis' I made last year.
I think it will work better this way when adding the netting in the coming month.

I removed the top slats of the pallets as well, the ones that I had left initially to divide each bed into 9 squares, as you can see in this old picture from last year ..

It turns out that slugs love to hide under these during the day, where it's nice and cool(er) and wet, and than appear at night to help themselves to a vegetable Smörgåsbord!
I just used some string instead to make the squares. We'll see ..

On closer inspection of the beds I discovered that the mint, chives and parsley survived the winter. Cool!

I did a little project in the house this week, I replaced the old and somewhat sagging foam of the couch and our two Ikea
POÄNG-chair pillows with new foam I'd ordered online.

Cutting the foam with a bread-knife was surprisingly easy, but wrestling the foam back into the covers was a whole 'nother story!


By the time it was done my arms were sore and I had the sweat on my back!


Of course I forgot to take before and afters but you might see here in a zoomed-in old picture of last week (left) that I went with an inch thicker foam (right) for the chairs.
My hope is that it will be more comfortable for that 'pain in my butt' (piriformis syndrome), that I can't seem to get rid of. The old foam had compacted so much that it was like sitting on a plank, which doesn't help of course. We'll see ..

With St. Patrick's day coming up I already baked some Irish Soda Bread, probably the most easy bread to make:

Like last year I divided the dough in two and added raisins in one of the loaves. Of course 'somebody' already had to try some .. the verdict: delicious!

By searching for something unrelated in the freezer I also found a roll of leftover pumpkin-chocolate chip cookie-dough way down at the bottom.
I made them last November, froze half, and apparently forgot about it ..


So, since we conveniently happened to be out of cookies, into the oven they went as well!

OK, that's it for another week.
Like I said, Spring is almost here and we're having a few beautiful days right now with sunshine, blue skies and temperatures in the low 60'!

Time to move our happy hour outside again! Cheers!

Thursday, March 9, 2023


The weather has been all over the map this week with snow, sleet, rain and sunshine within hours on some days.
It's been mostly cold and uninviting and I'm
still not walking on that toe that I might have broken or not 3 weeks ago, so I stayed inside for most of the week.

I've done a lot of reading and currently I'm halfway through 'The reading list' by Sara Nisha Adams.

It's is a heartwarming book about people connecting with others as they share their ideas about books.
The story is about grief, loneliness, mental health issues, family dynamics, and friendship.

I've actually read quite a few books from 'the list' myself and I'm learning a few things about them that I didn't realize or picked up on when reading them myself. I like it very much!

When I'm not reading I'm puzzling:

My current puzzle is another very difficult one, a painting of Degas 'girls at the piano', it will keep me busy for a while for sure!


I'm also always working on my blog, selecting pictures, making notes of what's happening as the week's progressing ...

Or, I'm knitting or spinning ..
I just realized that for some reason I never mentioned I got another spinning wheel. Another charkha to be precise, an Indian cotton spinning wheel.
Several years ago I bought this charkha on e-bay, an 'attache' charkha as it was called. As charkhas go, it was a fairly big, and also a very old, one.

I was thrilled to have scored an authentic, made in India, cotton spinning-wheel and happily got into the 'art' of spinning cotton on it.
Just like Ghandi wanted the Indian people to do, to peacefully protest against the English monopoly of producing Inian cotton in English mills and selling the cloth for high prices back to the Indian people who grew and cared for the plants to begin with.

Any-who, after some time I started to realize that this 'wheel', although authentic and wonderfully historic, was not the easiest and smoothest contraption to work with and I started to look for newer and more 'up to date' charka's ..
So, bring in .. the Book Charka de-Luxe, sold by stores for $299.99. Too much for my frugal mind of-course, so I started to watch E-bay and Ravelry, an art web-site, and finally found this one .. for $110!

This charkha is much smaller than the 'attache' and is based on the traditional Book Charkha, but the manufacturer has made some great improvements over the traditional models. 

It is a smooth finished book-shaped wooden box that opens up to reveal an accelerated Charkha that uses rubber O-rings in place of the traditional cotton drive bands, stainless steel and coated steel fittings and a self contained skein winder and it comes with 3 spindles.

The seller included a whole bag of cotton sliver (brushed cotton) in various colors and even added some cotton seeds so I could try to grow some of my own.

This winter I finally got to 'set it up' and spend some time getting familiar with this pretty little machine. It takes quite some time to get the hang of it, and I know a lot of people that have thrown in the towel and admitted defeat, but I stuck with it and lo-and-behold, I'm starting to 'get it'!

(I did sell my 'old' charkha by the way, for $65, which is $15 more than I bought it for!)

James is still studying .. I know, it's getting old, but he's still waiting for the State to approve the appraisals he's send in to be approved, after which he can sign up to take the final exam.
He's taking practice test after practice test, and is now passing pretty much every single one so it seems like he's ready!

We have a little pool going on when he will get the go-ahead; I'm thinking late March or more specifically the 21st, Doug and Brenda are predicting April and James himself thinks May. We'll see!

For a little break he drove to Portland last Sunday to attend the Portland Golf Show in the Expo center.


Unfortunately, it wasn't a very big 'show' and he called it quits after an hour and a half of walking past a lot of uninteresting stuff like trying to sign him up for expensive golf get-a ways and equally expensive golf-clubs or clothing.

I've hobbled (courtesy of that #$@%$! toe) outside for a little in between the snow and the rain and noticed the buds of the blueberries starting to 'shift' as we say in Holland, meaning they start to swell and open up ..


There's some growth at the Rhubarb as well ..


The daffodils are finally starting to form flowers:


And despite the frost of lately it looks like the Camellia in Doug's yard came through OK and buds are starting to open up:

I was sorely tempted to buy some herbs and sugar snaps at Bi-mart this week but I talked myself down from that ledge by remembering what happened last year when I planted this early .. nothing really grew ..
This year seems just as cold and especially just as wet, which causes root-rot and seedlings to grow stunted or die altogether.

Also, what do I do with a Jumbo Pack? It's just the 2 of us ..

Going to the grocery store was about my only outing of the week and on the way home I grabbed a take-out dinner at the Panda Express.
It's been ages we went there, it's a very uninviting, cold and usually very noisy kind of take-out chain but we really like the food so I thought 'why not bring some home'?

Because of the cold, dark winter days we've not been going out for dinner every Wednesday-evening like we did last summer but I'm usually picking something up on my shopping days instead.
I still don't have to cook and there's no dishes. It's cheaper too .. no tip!

I have been cooking some more 'stick-to-your-ribs' food on these snowy days, like 'stampot boerenkool', a dutch dish best translated as 'mashed potatoes with kale' .. with (polish) smoked sausage .. and bacon bits .. and a good moat of gravy .. what's not to like?

I also went back to baking bread again .. it makes the house smell soooo good! It tastes pretty good as well of course.
I baked an 'artisan', 'no knead' bread with a nice crispy crust, and a basic, more traditional sandwich bread, although with a short rise, which had a weird shape coming out but tasted just fine!

Well, I think that's about it for this week. I guess it's just 'all quiet on the Western front'!
Everybody is waiting for Spring it seems like ... but I hope it will take a little while longer, I'm perfectly fine with how it is right now!