Anybody can do this–I call it wallowing in color. Take your camera and go outside. Turn off your discursive mind, the one that is busy narrating the story of your life as you live it. You are going to be visual now, and the camera lens is your portal. Pick a color and go hunting. When you find that color, frame a photo. Look for the quality of light that makes that color glow from within. Let your eyes drink it in, feel the color soak into your flesh. Snap, and move on.

My pears grow on a scumpy little dwarf tree, and I don’t do anything to them. The bees pollinate the flowers and the tiny green fruits form. Sometime during the summer they self-thin, and excess little pears fall to the ground and turn black. The rest swell into full-grown fruit so that by September I can pick two full fruit boxes. I can them, dry them, eat them fresh, give them away. For a couple weeks, I wallow in pears and the lovely yellow fragrant ripeness of them.

Sunflowers continue to bloom, heads nodding and drooping. These are the side shoots and auxiliary buds emerging below the main flowers. Some are deliberately planted, and some come up randomly from last year’s flowers. They add a pleasing vertical element to the garden, blown out and overgrown by this time of year. A little bit chaotic, like the rest of my life. Swarms of goldfinches and chickadees visit the sunflowers and hang sideways to pick at the seeds.

Even though there is still prepping and priming going on, I couldn’t resist opening the bucket of yellow house paint. It’s so rich and creamy brushing onto the wood. I like to watch how the color changes as the sun moves around during the day. This yellow can be so pale it looks nearly white, or it can be as cheerful as a smile in the afternoon light. Will it make the house look as if it floats in a billow of flowers in the summer? Will it gleam through the fog of an icy winter day? I’ll find out.

What color are you wallowing in these days? (And the camera is only a trick to get you outside–you don’t really need it to wallow.)


Out the door this morning with hand clippers and the pruning saw. I’ve been studying books about pruning fruit trees. I should have pruned my sweet cherry tree years ago–it had gotten tall and leggy. Fruit should be easy to pick, which means the tree doesn’t need to be extremely tall. The tree was here when I bought the house, so I don’t know if it’s a semi-dwarf or full-size. So I pruned it. When there have been enough warm days, the buds will open into white blossoms covering the ragged branches I left.

The pear tree is in better shape, having been pruned before. I cut last year’s fruiting canes out of the blackberries, then reduced the cherry limbs to small pieces. I saved some of the long straight ones, since a gardener can always find uses for sticks. The last project was the willow tree. It’s a venerable specimen, and fast-growing. It must have started life as a small ornamental bush. The catkins are pink. But it is no longer a bush, and has sprawling limbs tipped in pussywillows. Some of the limbs are dead. Where I have pruned before, there are long sprouts–the bush is renewing itself.

I went around looking at all the buds: the golden currant has tiny reddish leaves already; bridal wreath spirea has little green nubs, the lilac has pairs of knobs, honeysuckle buds are purplish, as are the daphne’s, and most of the roses have just flecks of buds along their thorny twigs. No sign of life yet on the grape vine or clematis or syringa.

Garden Dreams

Well, the seed catalogs have been showing up. I maintain a rich fantasy life that revolves around dirt and sun and green plants. I daydream over garden books, and imagine fresh lettuce. Flowers of all colors waving in a breeze and the gentle buzz of pollinating insects.

Meanwhile, the rain continues to fall, fog rolls up against the Cascades and hangs down to the ground. Snow melts, water pools up on top of the ice.

I brought the seed starting stuff in from the shed when I got home from work today.

How to Make Pocket Pies


Every hollow, swale, hill, and roadside in southwest Washington has at least one Gravenstein apple tree. This is the taste of my growing-up years: the apples that came from the really old tree in the back corner of Grampa Rayton’s hayfield, the one you had to cross the creek to get to. The old tree on our place on Newaukum Hill. The ones that Grampa Mueller grafted. No better apple for a pie or sauce; they cook down into a sweet tart mush, which is only made better by cinnamon.

I found some locally, at Tim and Hilary’s place. They planted their tree in 1980, and it was covered with fruit a couple weeks ago. I picked a box and made pies and sauce for the freezer.

To make pocket pies, cut 7″ circles out of pie dough. I run a wet finger around the edge, moistening the entire circle. Peel, core and slice apples. Add a dollop of honey and plenty of cinnamon. Stir until the honey has gotten runny and the cinnamon is evenly distributed. Place a layer of apple slices on one half of a dough circle, leaving space at the edges to pinch together. Fold the top over the apples and pinch in the center. Pick up like a taco, and stuff more apple slices in. When the pie is comfortably full, pinch the moistened edges together and crimp with fingers. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze. Wrap individually in waxed paper and store in a ziploc bag. When you are ready for pies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place frozen pies on a cookie sheet and bake until fragrant and golden-brown. There will be a little bit of juice leakage.

These pies are also great with peaches and plums. When baked, they travel well in a plastic container for field lunches.

Coming Home

The week was spent in south Tacoma attending driving training. Much of the flat ground around Puget Sound is paved over. It is a landscape almost completely modified for cars. In spite of this, the natural world persists. There is no escape from the weather–billowing marine clouds, gray drizzle, the pleasant surprise of blue sky and a crisp temperature. And oak trees: native to the post-glacial prairies, Quercus garryana grows at the edges of parking lots and air fields. The leathery leaves are still green, but the acorns are dropping and crunching underfoot.

Relief to come back to my familiar territory of conifer-covered foothills. This morning’s daylight revealed snow on ridges. It feels cold. The garden has been nipped by frost. Time to finish the harvest.
As I picked ripening tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, I felt like I was saying goodbye. I cut the last of the zinnias, picked nasturtiums, mixed a handful of roses and perennials. Apples from a friend’s house sit in a box on the porch. Tonight I am cooking a stew of garden vegetables and herbs.

Another year’s garden winds down, but work on the house continues…



Notice new blue roof. If all goes well this week, the addition will be framed. I am looking forward to being able to use the back door again, after a couple weeks of taking the scenic route through the garden. The back yard has a new shape, which opens up possibilities for more landscaping…


Yesterday I sieved cooked pears and cooked the mush into pear butter, with some orange zest, brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. What perfume! I set bread dough to rise near the warm simmering kettle, then shaped rolls and cinnamon buns.

I am still hanging laundry on the line. Still picking a few green beans and zucchini for my supper, and tomatoes for salad. Everything is slowing down though. The hours of darkness are about equal to the hours of daylight, and a person wants an extra quilt on the bed along with heater cats.

There is a flurry of housecleaning as I anticipate keeping this place being closed up for months. I will want clean windows and shower curtains. I even spent time out in the horrible dirt-floored shed, sorting stuff to be recycled. Somewhere out there is a plastic bin with my winter parka and snowmobile gloves. I don’t want those now, but soon I will.

A House

A house is a place to live.

A house is a habitat. A place to take shelter from bad weather, insects, noise, other people. A place to share with other creatures, or shut them out.

A house is a repository for stuff. Also a repository for history.

A house is a hole to throw money into. A house is a work in progress.


This afternoon--September 18, 2009
This afternoon--September 18, 2009

A Glorious Tangle


It’s been raining, what I call the annual Labor Day rain dump. The weather always changes the last week of August or the first week of September. This is when summer breaks. When it clears, there may be some snow on the high peaks. We will still get some good weather, but the nights are longer and cooler.

I’m glad to be home, drying and cleaning my mountain gear, putting things away. Today I have canned peaches, and cut up several pounds for the dehydrator. Yesterday I made “garden sauce” to freeze–tomato puree, cooked down with all sorts of vegetables and herbs added. The garden is a glorious tangle. Cucumber and nasturtium vines wind through peas and sunflower stalks. Bush beans hide slim green pods. The canteloupe that came up out of the compost has one netted fruit, which I hope will ripen before the first frost. I am watching the pears and grapes for ripeness. The pumpkins turn orange.

I have been giving away bouquets of zinnias–the more I cut, the more they bloom. I plant them in May, then despair as they hobble along stunted by the cold wind and chewed by earwigs. The heat of July hits and they take off, growing waist-high or taller. I love the intensely bright warm colors, and classic flower shapes. A handful of zinnias is guaranteed to bring a little optimism to any room.




It’s becoming clear to me that I make gardens that appeal to me visually as well as olfactorily (is that a word?). Smell is important. Lilacs, honeysuckle, roses, sweet peas, garden phlox and now the oriental lilies. Evening scents are the best. I like to be puttering in the garden and follow a nose trail to the flower. Sometimes I bring flowers in the house just to smell them. This is a transient pleasure.