End of bloom...

The hollyhocks are nearly finished blooming, and since it's the first year they bloomed, there weren't enough flower stalks to help the plant stand upright. So they've turned into garden art, twining and leaning, even stretched out along the ground. Still, the color is gorgeous... nearly black in the shade and brilliant maroon with the light shining behind. The variety is called Jet Black, and was planted in Jefferson's gardens at Monticello.


A year ago | The great blackberry pie experiment

The berries on the farm were late this year... by the first of August last year, we were picking them daily. Dave picked his secret patch of native berries, the small ones that grow on ground-hugging vines. They're yummy.

Finally the warm weather worked its magic and the berries came into production mode. Enough to pick for my morning cereal... but I love it when there are plenty of berries to freeze for pies and cobblers during the winter months.

Last year Dave and I narrowed down a bunch of blackberry pie recipes to two, and I blended the two recipes together into what I hoped would end up being the perfect sweet, not-too-runny, blackberry pie. It was a hit with the family, and it's now my favorite pie recipe.

Blackberry pie... oh, my!

We all picked berries today... actually, we picked and ate. No berries made it into the house to be used in a pie. But I'm not worried; tomorrow is another day and there are a couple of acres of berries to pick!

Pennylane Farm Blackberry Pie

6 cups (1 3/4 pounds) blackberries (use 8.5–9 cups for 10-in. deep dish)
1 cup sugar
3 Tbl flour
3 tsp tapioca
juice and zest from a lemon (1 tsp juice and 1/2 teaspoon zest)
2 tbl butter, diced

Make pie dough for a double-crust pie, form into flattened rounds, wrap in plastic wrap, and put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Everyone has their favorite, so I won't include one here. My favorite is from the Martha Stewart Cookbook.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a baking sheet on the middle rack.

Place the berries in a generously large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice and lemon zest. Make sure there's enough room to comfortably stir the ingredients together.

Mix the sugar, flour, and tapioca together, then add to the berries. Toss gently, and let stand for 20 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally; this helps extract some of the juice.

Roll out the bottom crust and place in the pie plate. I like to roll up the dough on my rolling pin, which makes it easier to move the crust without damage. Trim, leaving a half inch overhang. Spoon the blackberry mixture into the pie shell.  Dot the top with the butter.

Roll out the top and place on top of the pie. Trim, fold the edge under the bottom crust, and crimp the edges together. Pierce the top to make steam vents.  If you wish, lightly beat an egg with a tablespoon of water and brush on the top and edge of the pie.

Place the pie on the hot baking sheet in the oven and bake until the filling is bubbling, 45 minutes to 1 hour. If the crust browns too quickly, cover it with foil and continue baking. Let the pie cool before serving.


Old trucks...

There are so many memories linked to our old truck, I'm glad I never convinced Dave to get rid of it back in 2003, when it quit running.

We bought it new in 1977, and it moved us away from home to a new life in the Tri-Cities. We never would have managed landscaping our bare lot without the truck. It took us camping and fishing, hauled railroad ties (and got stuck in the mud), and took us on our first trip to Montrose, Colorado, to visit Dave's uncle Dee. The dents and dings have stories, like the one on the top of the tailgate, put there when Mike Budden dumped a log there before flipping it into the bed. We even still have the original license plates... although it has graduated to collector plates now, and we'll never pay another license fee.

Dave and his uncle rebuilt the engine two years ago. They thought it was a timing chain issue; turned out two of the cams had rounded off. It took four days to locate the problem and many trips to the parts store, but they figured it out. It's still parked in the barn, covered in dust, but it runs great.

Dee is visiting this week, and before the guys took it out for a spin, I got out my paint cleaner and did a few test spots on the paint. I think it's going to clean up really well. The test spots are bright and shiny, and not that much oxidation came off on the rag. This week it will get a bath and I'll start detailing. It needs work inside, too... new mats and seat coverings, new seat belts and door panels. Minor stuff that will make a big difference in looks.

These old trucks are really in demand these days. People love them because they can work on just about anything in the engine. No computer-controlled anything to get in the way. But I suspect we won't sell it... too much history.


Writing the old-fashioned way

I kept a notebook with me this weekend, ready to write down ideas and thoughts... notes on projects I'm working on, and things that need to be done. And I found myself writing freely about other, less structured things. Thoughts on a book I'm reading, and what I'm getting out of it. Memories about people and places we used to live. Random stuff mostly, but there was something about this old-fashioned approach... using pencil and paper and eraser, ignoring the laptop for once. Jotting notes and thoughts as they come seems to feed the creative machine... as does this place, our small rustic cabin on the edge of a lake.


Carved foal (TT)

The summer before I turned 13, my dad's oldest brother and his wife came for a visit. Uncle Dene had just lost most of a lung to cancer, and his doctor told him to get out of the Colorado mountains for a few months. So they bought a small motor home and came west. They came and went, staying with us, and exploring the Northwest. That Christmas, a small package arrived for this horse-crazy girl; inside, a delicate foal carved from clear Douglas fir. I've treasured it ever since.

My uncle only lived a few more years, and this summer-long visit was the last time I saw him. This small carved horse keeps the memories alive for me.

Textured with Kim Klassen's Quiet (overlay @ 73%)

Posted on Texture Tuesday today...  have a look here for all the beautiful photographs being shared this week.



Last night I lay in bed and read, with the bank of double-hung windows open to catch the night air. Around 7:00, the moon rose full and sweet and bright across the valley, centered in the middle window, so bright I didn't need a light to read by.

Our tall bed is at windowsill height, and I love to lie in bed and watch the light change from the glow of sunset to the cold, clear blue of night. Tonight the moon rose about the same time, but in the right-hand window.

By Tuesday night, I won't see it at all from our bedroom.


Huevos on the deck

I fixed Healthy Huevos from the Trader Joe's cookbook this morning, and we had breakfast on the deck.

The morning sun brought the fingerling rainbows to the shallow water again... easily a hundred of them this time. I crouched on the rocks, watching, keeping my own shadow from the water so they wouldn't get spooked. It's easier to see their shadows on the lake bottom than it is to see their little silver bodies in the water.


Fishy shadows...

I made it to 4:30 before making a pre-dawn walk to the outhouse. After a couple of days of pruning and hauling brush, my hips and knees ache. I cranked up the electric blanket and went back to sleep. The sun woke me; I ignored it and rolled over. At 8:30 the sun and sparkling lake were more than I could ignore... couldn't stay in bed any longer. I took a mug of Lemon Zinger out to the deck and read The Art Forger, while trying to ignore a couple of obnoxious crows.

When I walked down to say good morning to the lake, I used the old timber steps I cleared out yesterday. I dug down through these layers of moss and fir needles to expose the tough native topsoil, cutting new ledges where the old washed away over time.

This morning, a big school of baby rainbow trout greeted me... 35 or so fingerlings, two-to-three inches long. They were spread out along the shore just a couple of feet out, and their flitting back and forth made it tough to count them. But there was no mistaking their black stripe and iridescent silver-green flanks.


Chasing the light...

Friday, 5:50 a.m.

I woke with the light, pulled on jeans and Keds, and headed for the shore. On the way out the door, I grabbed my Nikon.

The lake is flat calm, a mirror. There's no blue in the sky yet, just shades of gray with golden light, and pink streaks in the clouds, and building mist blowing across the surface. Ten minutes later, I'd have missed it. Just ten short minutes, and the mysteriousness was gone, replaced by brighter light and growing distinction in the trees, and more than a hint of blue in the sky.

I've been reading a book called "Reading the Landscape," by photographer Peter Watson. Among the stats for each photograph, he also lists the time he waited to get the shot. I've never seen anyone do this before. Reading this book gives me new appreciation for what a photographer has to do to be in the right place at the right time. There is lots to appreciate in this book on landscape photography, and I recommend it highly.

I didn't have to work hard for this shot, and it might not appeal to anyone but me. But it speaks to me of this small lake that's just outside my cabin windows, just one of the many faces it has shared with me over the past twenty two years.


Golden summer...

It's been hot here, on the wet side. Thank goodness it's green, or it would feel even hotter. But I do love the yellow grasslands and wheat fields of the dry side of the state... rather a conundrum, yes?

When we first moved to the Tri-Cities we lived in a B house in town, built to house Hanford workers in the 1940s. It had no air conditioning, so on those hot evenings, we'd go out for a drive, up into the hills, windows open, letting the wind blow through, until it started to cool down.

Whenever our summer days turn hot and dry, I remember those drives.