OUT WITH THE OLD POND, IN WITH THE NEW WATER FEATURE

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Original pond design, circa 1998

Original pond design, circa 1998

IT WAS TIME FOR THE OLD WATER FEATURE, A POND, TO GO. And in its place, a simpler, easy to care for one.

View from the house

View from the house

In the fall of 2013 (!) my grandson and I removed the old pond, all of its rocks, the bog, and pond liner. It was too much of a chore to keep clean under a couple of conifers and time for a new look. It took me a year and a half to figure out just how I wanted it to look and how to achieve that look.

The raccoon family visits

A raccoon family visits

The pond was attractive to our small, urban, wildlife population. I knew that I wanted running water to attract small songbirds; I liked hearing the sound of running water; I wanted to use a large rock from the previous incarnation and the bamboo standpipe as well. I missed the birds most of all.

A Western Tanager makes a rare visit

A Western Tanager makes a rare visit

A Cooper's Hawk makes a visit.

A Cooper’s Hawk rests a while—watch out little birds!

What I wanted was a pond less water feature that was easy to deal with. In March I got serious about it and in my research found the Little Giant Disappearing Water Feature Basin. It was the answer to my needs!

Placement of the basin

Placement of the basin

The Jumping Jack in action with the groundskeeper and grandson

The Jumping Jack in action with the groundskeeper and grandson

 

 

 

 

 

 

We set the empty basin in the old pond excavation for location and elevation. We then brought in 3.5 cubic yards of topsoil to fill the old hole. We rented a ‘Jumping Jack’ compacter to compact the first layer of soil and then set the basin in place and filled around it.

Preliminary layout

Preliminary layout with weed barrier fabric laid down.

 

Once the backfilling and compacting was completed we began laying out the rock saved from the old pond structure.

This is how the reservoir is set up; a central cone/support  protrudes about two inches above the perforated plates

This is how the reservoir is set up; a central cone/support protrudes about two inches above the perforated plates. The Little Giant will carry a load of up to 2,000 pounds, so my rock was back at center stage! Yes!

Downstream, dry streamed.

Downstream, dry streamed.

How do you make a not natural feature appear natural? That is tricky, so it took some time to get it right. I spent three days arranging the rocks. We ended up having to buy more small rock to complete the project. Had I known what I was going to do 18 months ago, I would have stockpiled all of the small rock instead of throwing it into the dry stream bed ‘downstream’.

Almost complete!

Almost complete!

By Saturday, I had the pump/fountain running and within 15 minutes of my walking away, the chickadees were there drinking and bathing! And then more small songbirds took advantage too. It has been so dry here this year that this is a real happy setup for the small birds.

'New' path to the bird oasis

‘New’ path to the bird oasis

Yesterday we finished up by resetting the stepping stones on the path to the pond, added the remaining topsoil and river rock. My goal was to have this project completed by the end of the month and we did it!

completed WF_2

'New' path to the bird oasis

‘New’ path to the bird oasis

All that is left now is to complete the planting and a little fine tuning. And, if at some point in the future I tire of the rock, I can easily replace it with a granite millstone, a stone basin or whatever strikes my fancy. An easy fix!

 

 

 

 

 

 

WINNING SUBMISSION AND NEW DIRECTIONS

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The winning submission for the 2015 West Seattle Garden Tour!

The winning submission for the 2015 West Seattle Garden Tour!

I SUBMITTED THIS 18″ x 24″ COLLAGE WORK for the 2015 West Seattle Garden Tour poster in March and it was the winning selection! (And I received compensation!)

Some of the seed packet text shows through.

Some of the seed packet text shows through with this whimsical clematis blossom.

I have been saving empty seed packets for a few years thinking I would find a way to work them into a collage. I opened out, flattened and painted the seed packets with acrylic paint in flower and foliage colors then cut out the petal, leaf, root, bulb, and branch shapes to compose the picture above. It was a fun piece to create.

AnythingGrows_leaves

The framed art will be auctioned/raffled during the garden tour as part of the tour’s fundraising effort for local (West Seattle) charities.

It has been a good long while since my last post. Painting workshop, trip to Pinnacles National Park to see California Condors (which we saw quite close in flight) and painting for the past six weeks to get ready for 2 shows.

THE WORKSHOP: The first four days of April were spent at a pastel workshop lead by Diana Sanford. The focus was intuitive painting and abstract expression and was a blast! We spent seven to eight hours painting each day and I came away with stacks of paper that are/were foundations for new work. We painted with Sumi ink, gesso, and layered pastel over the top; we used unconventional ‘tools’ to paint with; we painted quick studies, long studies and ‘duets’ in which we painted with a partner. We even painted a group collaboration that was outstanding! I painted without expectation or intent and it was energizing and freeing.

Sumi ink, walnut ink, charcoal, gesso

Sumi ink, walnut ink, charcoal, gesso

Sumi ink, gesso, pastel

Sumi ink, gesso, pastel (finished post workshop)

Sumi ink, gesso, pastel

Sumi ink, gesso, pastel (finished post workshop)

 

The finished group collaboration

The finished group collaboration

So, now my work is heading off in new directions and will be featured in a group show next month. Exciting! More announcements next week…

 

 

WHISPERS OF SPRING

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FauxRoy

THERE ARE WHISPERS OF SPRING HERE EVERYWHERE I LOOK. While the eastern portion of the country is buried in snow, it definitely feels like spring here with 60 degree temperatures and plenty of sunshine. After unusually heavy rains a week or so ago, the ground is starting to dry out a bit.

Leaves, buds and flowers are bursting forth. Camelia, hellebores, crocus, cyclamen, witch hazel, pulmonaria, early tulips. Here is a little pictorial sampling of what’s happening in my little corner of the world.CorcicanHellbore_2

DoubleNarcissusWitch hazel_1WitchHazel_2CoriscanHellbore DarkHellbore DkPinkhellbore_1
MottlePinkHellbore PaleYelHellbore PinkCyclamen Pulmonaria_1 Pulmonaria_2 WhiteCamelia WhiteCyclamen_1 WhiteCyclamen_2 WhiteCyclamen_3 WhiteHellbore WhitePinkHellbore

NOT EXACTLY CANNING…

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My heirloom preserving crock

My heirloom preserving crock

IN MY PREVIOUS POST I SAID no more canning for awhile. While strictly true, I seem to have to much of a good thing in my vegetable garden. And that would be several Romanesco type cauliflower plants in various stages of growth and at least two needed immediate harvesting. I have pickled and canned cauliflower in the past and since I am decidedly not in the mood to pickle and can in the usual sense, I am having a go at fermented cauliflower pickle. This will certainly be something different and I hope, tasty.

Romanesco cauliflower 'Veronica'

Romanesco cauliflower ‘Veronica’

I don’t know how much this large head weighed but it was about seven inches across. A second, smaller one was more conical and not as flat as the one pictured above. I really like this type of cauliflower for its unique color, flavor, texture, and of course the showy form. The plants are quite robust, with stalks that top out around 2-3 feet high and here at least, need staking against winter wind.

The Western Stoneware with Weir Seal

The Western Stoneware with Weir Seal (any relationship to the meaning of a weir dam?)

I have a lovely and cherished, old heirloom crock that belonged to my wonderful, late mother-in-law who taught me to can and helped me plant my first vegetable garden many, many, years ago. The crock is Western Stoneware and proudly proclaims its maker, provenance and Weir Seal on its lid. I have a feeling that the crock originally belonged to her mother; her brother’s initials, JFM, are scrawled on the bottom of the crock with a grease pencil. The Mahoney family had a farm along the Willamette River in Gervais, Oregon, where my mother-in-law, Helen, grew up. I came into possession of it after she passed away in 1999. I think the capacity is not quite a gallon. I have used it for fermenting as well as making fruit infused vinegars. Just one more thing that reminds me of her generosity and love when I use it.

Not ready to pick, but soon!

Not ready to pick, but soon!

I layered the cauliflower florets and peeled, sliced stems with a few small carrots (from the garden too), garlic (homegrown), onion and a couple of dried ancho chiles, some typical pickling spices and a 5% brine solution.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

Fermenting is kind of exciting because the results are always a surprise. It is also an exercise in patience and diligence.

The homemade plastic 'seal'

The homemade plastic ‘seal’

This is my version of a ‘seal’ to keep the contents of the jar submerged. I saw something like this on someone’s website several years ago and it works great. If your ingredients still want to bob-up, a brine filled plastic bag will sit neatly on top. Cut up any plastic lid that is slightly larger than the mouth of the vessel; cut a slit from one edge to the center, fold to a cone shape and place over the contents and push down until the liquid covers the plastic and it is seated. The ‘seal’ is reusable or cut a new one next time.

Now I wait; will it be five days, seven days, or as long as two weeks for results? Darn! I’ll report back.

 

 

 

A GIFT OF WINTER APPLES

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Winter Banana apples

Winter Banana apples

MY MOTHER’S NEIGHBORS HAVE AN ORCHARD in Sequim, Washington. Apples, plums, pears. 2013 yielded a bounty of Shiro plums and lots of plum jelly and plum butter. In 2014 they picked a bumper crop of apples and I was a lucky recipient of Golden Delicious and Winter Banana apples, a variety new to me. I brought home my first five or so, pounds at the end of October and I still had few pounds of our homegrown Spartan apples (after making Kevin West’s Apple Jam with Honey and dates—my addition, from Saving the Season—and Apple Chutney). I combined the remaining bounty of apples with some beautiful Oregon cranberries, for Cranberry-Apple Jelly.

Apple-cranberry pulp draining for juice

Straining Apple-cranberry pulp for juice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I washed and quartered (no peeling or coring needed) five pounds of apples and placed them in a large pot with 12 ounces of cranberries, three clementines, 2 cups white wine (rosé will work nicely here), four cups of water, three, three inch cinnamon stick, three bay leaves and one tablespoon of black peppercorns (in a spice bag). Bring to a boil, partially cover and simmer 45 minutes or so until the apples are very soft and falling apart. Remove the spices and bay leaves and transfer to a fine sieve/strainer lined with cheesecloth or a chinois (pictured above) and allow to drain up to 8 hours; do not push on the solids or you will have cloudy juice. This yielded seven cups of juice and three half-pints of jelly—the big drawback to making jelly—a small yield for the effort expended, but it tastes great!

I liked the jelly so much that I asked my mom if her neighbors had more apples. Yes, they did!  How about twenty pounds of Winter Bananas? Please take them! Half of them went into a small fridge and the rest sat in their box in the garage. In early December I made a second batch of apple-cranberry jelly. Ten pounds of winter Banana apples, three pounds of Oregon cranberries, two large pots and two cups of water; this time I ended up with four and a half quarts of juice so I made two batches of jelly. One batch was straight forward and the second included the addition of port and star anise. Yield: 8 half-pints of jelly.

Ten pounds of apples and three pounds of cranberries yielded a fair amount of apple-cranberry pulp that tasted too good to toss out. I put the pulp through the trusty old Foley food mill and I had instant apple-cranberry sauce. These apples were so sweet that even with tart cranberries, no sugar was needed (to suit our taste). For each four cups of pulp, I added back three cups of juice and two tablespoons of lemon juice. I canned 10 pints of it. It is delicious stirred into thick yogurt. Mom’s neighbors received jelly and applesauce and family received apple-cranberry jelly at Christmas.

Apple-Cranberry jelly

Apple-Cranberry jelly

Apple-Cranberry jelly and cran-applesauce

Apple-Cranberry jelly and cran-applesauce

10+ pounds of apples

10+ pounds of apples

January rolled around and we getting ready to take off for the desert. There were still lots of apples in the box and mini-fridge that kept staring at me every time I walked into the garage. I couldn’t bear to toss them so I broke down and made applesauce–16 pints of it to be exact. The apples were still pretty firm, only a few soft or unusable. And by sitting around for a few months, the sugar had concentrated and they were very sweet. This batch of applesauce did not need the addition of sugar either.

Vanilla bean flecked applesauce

Vanilla bean flecked applesauce

Applesaucejars_2

Hmmm…only two of us in the household and a lot of applesauce. Naturally, mom’s neighbors got more applesauce. Mom took a few pints. My neighbors with a baby/toddler received their share too. And two neighboring households. And my two sisters. And there is still plenty to get us through until next fall. I won’t even think about canning until asparagus season begins sometime in April and May here.

 

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