the Berm. then and now

Bloged in General Home Life,Scuff Boys by mark Wednesday August 10, 2016

Just saw some old pics taken of our property pre-berm….and now. Even I am surprised how beautifully that has worked out………..we were so exposed to Skyline Blvd then…the property just sloped down to the highway….. Now? Can’t even SEE Skyline………that’s good.

Pre Berm, 2003, September:

berm pre 1

and from another view, then:

berm pre 2

Great neighbor Dave was building his house that month, and had lots of fill dirt without a home…he GAVE us this fill dirt…..and had his guy drive it down and dump it:

berm pre 3

And from THAT, WE had to fashion a berm along the driveway and skyline:

berm pre 4

And this pic taken THIS month seems to show things worked out…..WE are happy:

berm 2016

and the new garden harvest begets: Salsa

Bloged in food: recipes + dining out,General Home Life by mark Tuesday August 9, 2016

So. Pickling’s outta the way. Dilled Beans done. **This weird summer has been very slow to begin harvesting enough Tomatillos to make salsa……but in the last week….I finally had enough on hand…. SO. Tomatillo Salsa Batch 1 came through yesterday.

Of course…. get it all in one place…..ready to mix it up:

salsa seeson strt

It’s always a bit fun to make some batches a little warmer than others…..for #1 batch this year, there’s a habanero, some cayenne flakes and the rest all serrano…may be a warm batch!

salsa mixup 1

It’s always fun when you have some peppers from the garden to use:

salsa mixup 2

At the start of the cook:

salsa cook1

And 20 minutes later:

salsa cook 2

And 10 minutes after that, we’re all done:

salsa finish

I’m in Salsa making mood now…..c’mon summer, help me ripen some more Tomatillos.

Picklathon 2016 aug 6

Bloged in Family,food: recipes + dining out,General Home Life by mark Monday August 8, 2016

Once again! We made it. We were back to our normal “crew”, all visitors canceled “claiming” they written assurance their would be even enough pay for the days work to justify the trip here.

I can also see “next” year, we’re going to have to make sure Rodger’s in MORE of the pictures…he TOOK all of them, and we obviously didn’t think about getting him to ‘star’ in a few! 🙂

Oh sure, some prep work began earlier (see earlier blog post)…..and the day before cousin “J” came up for a while to help clean and trim the cucumbers, and get a start on peeling garlic…that was a great help…..we even had time for a great lunch at John St Cafe with Bhakti!!!! **they had my all-time favorite dish special that day, you MUST try it sometime: “Short Beef Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta & sauce” . . yum.

and of course….. Friday night, a little “inspection” of things in general always show up a little list of things to get done………… THEN………..

Saturday morning! 0830 hours! Nancy Minor arrived first and was ready to work! Soon J & Bhakti were there and, as always happens, getting that first batch or two going, is a bit awkward until our “flow” kicks in, and we get into a smooth operation…..after all THIS crew’s been working together for a few years now………. (we ALWAYS remember J’s mom, Nancy Purvine who began this little pickle mission years ago, but passed away from a Mursa virus ….we ALL still love to share our memories of her on this day………… **and of course, that’s how J and Bhakti got into this task…they inherited their “position” !!! Hah.

First issue to find was: SO MANY of these cucumbers were awkwardly LARGE so getting them stuffed efficiently into the jars was going to be a little tougher than normal……. NOTE TO MARK for NEXT YEAR: **DO NOT arrive at the Pumpkin Patch down on the Island right at 0900 opening….all the produce that’s out is the stuff that didn’t sell yesterday…… ya gotta go a little later than 0900….10:30 OR 11:00 NEXT YEAR……

So the crew awaits El Marko’s prep of the 1st brine batch….. just who is it we’re gossiping about says J ? 🙂

pikle 2016 1

So here we are before the first batch, getting into production: ….peeling, trimming, packing, measuring, and on and on:

pikle 2016 2

Yep, THIS year, picking out the right cucumbers was a little harder task since they were large:

pikle 2016 3

and just a few hours later, and a great lunch at Helvetia Tavern (cheeseburgers for all!!!)….the jars are getting lined up for Rodger’s Photo Studio to photo the result:

pikle 2016 4

Our Boss, Ms. Nancy M must ALWAYS approve whether the lineup is perfectly set:

pikle 2016 5

AND…….I’m not sure this crew looks as tired as we might actually be…..but we’re a proud bunch by 3:30 pm:

pikle 2016 9

Now, Mark, make notes about what went right this year, and reminders what to get ready for next year!

Pickling 2016. How it looks before that day

Bloged in Family,food: recipes + dining out,General Home Life,Scuff Boys by mark Thursday August 4, 2016

Just a couple pics of the famous Grandma Ray Pickle Day for cousins….. a day or two AHEAD of the event….not so cute…but there is a bit of work required to get things ready.

Ah! Jar Lids….Yes, count ’em twice….make sure you have both lids & rings enough for the “planned” count:

canning lids


Ah! Don’t forget…if you’re pickling, you gotta “brine” those cucumbers for a day…so I’ve got the brining tubs washed, and they’re ready for duty beginning tomorrow:

brining tubs


Ah! The Quart “wide-mouth” jars….make sure you have enough for the “plan”…and sometime tomorrow, get ’em opened up, and ready for sterilization:



Ah! Sure….the labels could “wait”….but THIS is the Grandma Ray (youngest of 17 kids…yes, she was “spoiled” as a child)…….who introduced us to this snack food, and always made enough right out of her hillside garden so EVERY one of her kids (6) had more than enough pickles on hand for a year (or 3)……….

Okay. Back to the housecleaning and right now, out to water a dry veggie garden…………. Busy Week.

oh oh MAY 23 till now: July 31. Jammin’ got done!

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Thursday July 28, 2016

May 23 noted we’d planted the veg garden early because of the warm year. IT worked, sort of. It has become a 3-4 hour a week serious hard task to keep trimming back the mammoth tomato plants that “STILL” think it’s spring and continue to grow stems/branches…. at 7′, they began to topple, so I’ve pruned EVERY week like no other year I’ve ever grown anything here…..tiresome. JUST THIS past week, the weather seems to be struggling to move into high summer…..lots of green tomatoes, and finally, a “few’ ripening…….. we’ve EATEN a few….they still taste “early”….but on Jul 28-29, we had our FIRST 90 day since June 3……frustrating for growing tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, etc. the forecast isn’t even so good…..just -2- 90 degree days, and it’s dropping back into the 70’s….

I SO remember the one year maybe 10-12 years ago, we called the “Green Tomato Summer”….we hardly had anything ripen….

The corn? We grew short early corn to see if we “would” get a harvest earlier and enjoy an early fresh corn crop…..they tassled, grew baby ears, but have NEVER filled out…. we even pollinated by hand….cutting the dry tassles off, and sprinkling over the ears…..I BARELY opened one this morning….it IS yellow inside, but completely skinny. Sigh.

The hot peppers? The whole crop has barely even bloomed to begin making the peppers themselves…. hm…..

What HAVE we gotten? a HUGE harvest of wonderful tasting potatoes…..fingerlings, small whites, and even 4 hugs bakers….SO FAR….we’ve cut into about 1/3 of the crop is all…..we’re set for this one crop. Yea, you know, the things that cost about 5 cents each in the store. BUT…..FRESH potatoes ARE markedly better than those out of a root cellar. AND…..had lettuce….more than we were able to use….. lots of rhubarb, and the HERB plants…all cut at least once so far and dried for winter.

THEN…….what ELSE has happened? Whew…..this is sad….May 23 was 2 months ago……

**May! The fabulous EVENING GROSBEAKS arrived and stayed through one raising of chicks…..didn’t even SPLIT the flock up….that was a little costly on sunflower seed, but NO, wouldn’t have changed that at all…..beautiful fabulous happy “whistlers in the morning” joyful birds….. the *downside* was that the big clumsy awkward clownish band-tailed pigeons also arrived ….in ONE feeding they upset feeders, spilling seed …wasting our efforts to keep the true migrating Evening and Blackheaded Grosbeaks here…seems I am alone in not liking them here…. I DID learn fast though, I can’t go scare away the pigeons….everybody else leaves too…. duh.

**The Blackheaded Grosbeaks arrived 3 weeks later, and as always, spent the mating/raising season with us….I LOVE these birds too…esp. early after their arrival for about 3-4 weeks, the males BEGIN each day at the tallest of the tall first they can find and sing long melodious beautiful smooth calls to attract mates….morning walks are GREAT while they’re here.

**The Rufus Hummingbirds….seemed to arrive all at once……and while they were here, NO question, the food volume was measuring 2 quarts a DAY getting absorbed by these tiny birds, there were THAT many….. with our weird temp summer, time has gone by so fast, it seemed they were only here a short time….usually the males leave first (and they did), but the females stay to finish raising the chicks…..seems they ALL left at once…..with only the native Anna birds here now, they’re only taking in .4 quarts a day…..that wonderful time the Rufus are here is SO short….. sigh.

**May 27….took Mac for a swim out on Sauvie Island with the intent to get strawberries on the return…. Whaddya know! the Oregon Hunting Retriever Club was holding field trails right where we swim Mac. Do NOT think you wouldn’t LOVE watching these astounding dogs taking off after game, stopping on a dime when they here certain whistle calls….other whistle calls to head a different direction, etc etc….an if you don’t think that word “Retriever” means just what it says, all you have to watch are these dogs at “work”….and the pure JOY they obviously exude when they return with the duck for the master. THAT was a MEMORABLE couple hours!!!!

**May 31….. Lucked out again! Fun neighbor Aaron came home to tell us he knew of some trees that had been cut down….with no takers yet for it as firewood…… YES….we spent some time fetching wood that weekend……then an hour or two ev couple days using aaron’s splitter to get it broken up, and then moved, stacked…..FIRST, we moved the year old wood from the outside stacks into the woodshed to ensure “DRY” wood for this winter….then replaced that spot with the new green wood….where it can sit out all winter and get “seasoned”….. BOY….just how the pioneers cut, split, moved, stacked wood enough to keep themselves warm for EVERY winter (BY HAND)… beyond me…. In fact, NOW with the splitter, it all becomes some kind of fun exercise since there’s NO pressure to have it done right NOW…’s a job we both love.

**and on to the “squirrel” pal…… they’ve always remained fearful and distant of us….but this June, ONE native Douglas Squirrel in an effort to “beat the others to the food”, I’m sure, began hanging right on the tree BY the feeder when I came out…..and finally jumped onTO the feeder as soon as I dropped seed…then he began to just sit there while I could stand right by him and talk to him….so get got used to me. I THOUGHT….well isn’t THIS cool…… No…. this is a mistake….the next thing you know, if there was no food out there, he came looking for it in the garage, and with his powerful scent talent, KNEW which plastic bins it was in. He immediately began to chew THROUGH these bins……… destroying one entirely…. the remedy became buying metal cans for the birdseed….. and not making pals out of the tough little Douglas Squirrels….even though, I sure think they’re pretty cute. **They even chewed up one of the deck chairs padding, I have NO idea why.

**WHEW SUMMER>……HOW DO I FORGET that there IS no spare time in summer…. between garden work, house mainenance, laundry, yard work, flower beds, dog time, weeding weeding weeding……..that’s pretty much it. But when your days here in the rain forest dry out and float around about at 75 degrees….. you don’t complain.

**COYOTES….. I’m SURE there’s a little family that occasionally dens just below us…..they have a regular path up to our bird feeding spot….and occasionally can be seen out there looking for a bird or squirrel that might have given up the ghost…. NOT so good if MAC scents them out first…. but they’re fun to see

**ONCE in a rare while, I don’t get the deer fence up soon enough…I SURE DID THIS year EXCEPT….hadn’t put up the front side so I could keep getting there easier ….yep, waited a bit too long….they destroyed 8 pepper plants and all the lettuce. DANG…..Mark….. how many times do you have to “learn” this lesson? Hah.


**June 17- ONE flat only of Cascade Delight Raspberries got jammed….so we only have 18 half pints…instead of our usual 36…. how come? …..seems after this long, our taste has been moving over to find APRICOT Jam as our favorite……how do I know?

**July 22….got a huge 28 lb case of ROYAL BLENHEIM Apricots at Pumpkin Patch…..spent a BUSY warm afternoon making 41 jars of this jam………. hopefully, it’ll be “good”….we’ve used Pomona Pectin for this……LOW SUGAR……an experiment…..we’ll soon see.

**July 17 . . . .got a big box of Green Beans at the Pmpkn Patch…..another very busy day cleaning, trimming, packing, sealing 30 pints of beans into a Pickling Brine….. YES….this just may one of the most requested little things we make…..Dilled Green Beans. SO glad to have THAT task over.

**JULY end, or 1st week August? **MUST GET flat of Triple Crown Blackberries from West Union Gardens…..there is always a certain demand that we have a few jars of blackberry jam…. so it’s THAT time now.

*******AUGUST 7: I’m not even sure how many years we’ve been going this now, but Aug 7 this year is the weekend of the Ray Cousins Pickling Weekend where we once again make my Grandmother Ray’s famous Dill Pickles……..not even sure if it’s still hers, we’re using mostly Habanero or the remainder jars with Serrano peppers put in there…. BUT…..all I know is that every year, a few MORE habanero jars are made…… it’s always a memorable day when this happens.

*******SOMETIME in AUGUST…..neighbor AARON will be going Tuna Fishing….looks like ANOTHER busy weekend for us when he returns since he shares most of that tuna with us….and we CAN it…. NO commercial tuna ever can taste as clean and fresh s home-canned…’s a simple recipe: FRESH TUNA filets stuffed into half-pint Jars….period. Pressure Canned for 90 minutes….and there you’re done. the only liquid is whatever the tuna had in it…..yum.

SO…..YES….it’s high summer! Good Times.

Good times also have included making 2-3 batches of Ben & Jerry’s famous fresh raspberry ice cream. Yum….. harvesting an drying: Rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, bay leaf…..not to mention having fresh celery out there at the ready.

Record Warm Spring: Gambled it’ll hold and began veggie starts VERY early

Bloged in garden,General Home Life by mark Monday May 23, 2016

Just for the record……’s been obvious this must be the warmest spring on record here….. the yard’s weeds / grass has been growing so fast it’s kept someone busy here with the trimmer/mower…..I’ve bagged so much grass, I’m running out of places to dump and compost it……….

It meant one OTHER thing too: The Vegetable Garden space was physically ‘dry’ enough to actually plant. In 20 years, we learned however, that there is OFTEN a dry spell early in May, so you plant. And then the rain returns for a month, and your plants ROT…..a 2nd planting isn’t fun! That being said………… our grower, Mr. Stucki at Millenium Farms was pushing us to plant….sending all this “El Nino” history and we weren’t paying much attention UNTIL……… he said he was finishing selling his vegetable starts 2 weeks earlier than normal…..and if we wanted some………….oh oh……..

SO……….this garden has been 2/3 planted since May 10.

On May 3, we planted a giant tomato plant we’d luckily found at the annual Master Gardener’s Plant Sale in Canby, yep, the King of Cherry Tomatoes: a Sungold Variety….it was too big to even put a kozy Coat around it….but we gambled anyway…..along with all the deck starts for Rodger, and just the FUN DAY that this LARGEST of NW Plant Sales can be……… THIS plant, now 20 days later is taking off (smile)….but was already pretty big on day 1, eh?

***this plant now is over the top of the cage!!!! smile.

Yes, on May 10th we took off for Millenium Farms where we chatted with Michael and Missy for over an hour, and HAD to simply get all the plants bought and get home…..(they are terrific people)….. So on May 11th, evening, the garden space had a NEW look:


Whew. was I exhausted. By now, R has 2/3 of his deck pots planted. THEN? Of COURSE! The weather collapsed….rain/damp/gray/humidity, all the “rotting” effects of a rain forest were in the garden, and I took desperate measures in a grand experiment…..clear bags over the tomatoes:


Those bags have been on/off those plants 3 times depending on the weather, and I DO think it’s helped…..they are coming out of there today permanently. Must get a pic of how wonderfully everything looks out there.

WHAT AN EARLY START! Whew. NOW, must get going……we almost lost Mr. Mac to a Bacterial Infection… too sick so quick, we didn’t get him in soon enough to start the anti-biotic. So, after a struggle for 2 weeks forcing down medicine, helping him along, cleaning up the messes, he’s on the way back, and now…I take him down for a swim! Yea!

Let’s see if I post an update soon………….. hm.

feb thru april 2016

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Monday May 23, 2016

wow. seems this blog world is coming to a tortured ending, eh? I know it’s decision time before I reserve some more BLUE HOST server space in October whether to back it up and save the data, or………pay again and what? NO posts? I”m now 69. Not sure any one would be looking the old guy’s thoughts…….. the benefit I see is the “record” I have of past years work in this yard and gardening updates…….. Oh well……… I must think about this. SIGH. So few people are still recording posts about their lives. A little slice of lives I rather enjoy reading…… sure works to keep a friendship fresh when those people may live 2,000 miles away. sigh again.

one very interesting park note I love is seeing the coyotes regularly….there’s a small pack of 3 (I think it’s 3)…living below our house….they may appear anywhere along this bluff…..come along to see if any bird or squirrel has passed under the feeders, then head out toward NW Skyline to cross and head downhill from there. SAT NOTE: The 3-legged member of this 3-some seems to have disappeared over the winter. Sigh again:
coyote path

nov dec 2015 then into jan feb 2016

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Friday January 22, 2016

WOW. This ain’t much of a diary is it……seems I’d best start thinking of a way to capture the years of data and get it stored on a device here at home….. blogging used to keep some fun memories alive, and now it seems so few folks are still at it. sigh.

Nov 3. Last post. A fall walk into the park with a camera and a dog. a season’s changing…… and I had a feeling it would be a quiet winter for us.

The 2014 Winter……was a month spent between Nov and Christmas awaiting updates on Rodger’s dad who had finally fallen ill and been placed into hospital……he finally passed on Christmas Eve. We got the call during our neighborhood gathering here at the house…not too pleasant. So, Rodger spent Christmas week there in the bay area sorting all things out, preparing for disposition of remains, a small service, etc etc. NOT pleasant. That explains how December was a very quiet, uneventful holiday time for us.

THIS year? We BOTH came down with some kind of cold virus that kept us pretty low….extreme coughing, and misc cold symptoms….that went on 4-5 weeks….Mark recovered first, but the holiday season was NOT fun………for 2015.

That’s TWO years in a row………… I think we need a healing vacation, you know, like a month in some fabulous place to be treated like royalty. Hm……

Did ANY Things get done? Nothing much to even note: cleaned the chimney, made some soup for my cousin recovering from arthritis surgery, and on and on….that kind of thing.

We did visit new acquaintances in Vancouver Jeni & Will Brown….R had met at a Deadhead weekend….talk about nice people. Wil. has a nice fishing boat….takes some of his customers out for salmon runs on the Columbia….they had a completely separate freezer FOR fresh caught, wild, filleted salmon….and sent us home with 4 packs. About once a week: foil wrapped salmon dressed in a bit of onion, lemon, garlic….roasted in an oven. YUM.

I shouldn’t forget about my baking class. Neighbor Melanie T. who teaches baking at a local Community College, gave me a 3-day class (sure, not all day)…..on making sourdough…..and since that time to this, and I know for a while into the future, I will continue to enjoy a vastly improved bread to what I’d been making for a long time…. the curing and retarding of growth into a 3-day period vastly improves flavor and texture. Yum.

For about the 3rd time since we moved here, we ran into another Tugboat Cooking crew (3 this time) ….who end up pushing barges up the Columbia to the Eastern side of the state….shifts last about 7 days…and these guys clean/prep/cook all the meals the crew gets….it’s always the 5-6 carts of “everything” that astounds you on first look….and yes, the store opens a private cashier line for them.

At least we enjoyed a quiet 2-man Thanksgiving Dinner together…..spending the day prepping and cooking the meal to “our standards” (grandma turkey dinner) and watching some football. It was a perfect quiet day for us and for remembering our families, not too many of whom are left.

I finally got to meet the one niece, daughter of my sister who passed away from cancer years ago when her 3 little girls were small…..pre school age. They grew up without her, had a couple of step-moms, none of whom were memorable, and via the FB and a visit now and then, I’ve been thrilled to become friends of theirs……this is one BIG JEWEL of 2014-2015…………and I SO hope I get to continue seeing them now and then. They’re all in California………… maybe an excuse to travel?

The Christmas 2015? Just two of us again…..making our Christmas dinner, a few football games, and this time, cocktails! We HAD put up a tree, things looked beautiful……it wasn’t a bad time………..

A dear friend I knew in Utah …..almost 35 years ago….who I’d only been “hearing about” since then came to Portland right after Christmas…..once again, my little person was astounded to see that thing they preach blossom as truth again: REAL friendships don’t end….and when they’re renewed, it only takes minutes to be right back where you were….that was this visit….we didn’t stop talking for 3 days….David may buy a 2nd home here, so I’m only hoping we meet again soon.

**HE did come back just a couple weeks ago….spending some time with other folks he knew here and looking at listing for available properties. cool.

We did have a little cold snap and a bit of snow for a week….I always find myself bound by some ‘code’….to make sure our bird friends living here continue to be fed, thawing a feeder, (including thawing hummingbird feeders)…..and they Do come in when it’s freezing……I can’t imagine what the mortality rate is for wild birds in a cold snow period like this.

And so on and so on……..and here on Jan 22…..the big wet period MAY BE behind for this week….we’re going to have a few days of moderate, warming air, and rain only every other day. I’d be SO happy to see some things dry out a bit.

So, my diary’s caught up a bit…..not much has happened, eh.

A walk into FOREST PARK. PEAK fall colors. Exhilarating.

Bloged in Fall,General Home Life,Nature,Pacific Northwest by mark Tuesday November 3, 2015

What a crisp, bit cloudy, brilliant morning….. neighbors Dog found to have a TIC….they cancel going along and go to the VET. Just ME and MAC. The light looks perfect for an autumn picture maybe. I only take the phone camera. ………… SO.

JOIN me for just a few brilliant visions my head saw this morning, here, the peak of fall color:

I don’t even have to leave the yard these mornings….in the BACK of the house, our tiny Deciduous Redwood (now about 10 yrs old..) is ready to shed its needles…’s gorgeous spring summer and fall……

redwood redy to shed

SO…..One doesn’t have to walk far from this house to find so wonderful a rain forest, that the shorter vine maples often have to bend and stretch and search for light. hence. many scenes like this:

bent trees

or these……

bent 5 to home
**Those BENT limbed trees are all over this park…..the nature of the rain forest!

Halfway into our walk, we pass MAC’s favorite late winter romping puddle, the Elk Wallow….it’s just now barely returning with all the rain, but not quite “rotten” enough to intrigue him….by January, if he’s NOT leashed walking by this, it is irresistible to him:

return of the elk wallow

And, then uphill for a big, yep, it works the lungs, good reason to walk, eh….. some other tree scenes are simply breathtaking (at least “live” they are…I know, it’s a phone camera):

autumn color light2

and on the way back, if you’re looking you’ll find a few “bird buffets”….rotten trunks now full of bugs for our feathered friends:

bird log2

or this one:

bird log1
**bigger, and looking like there’s a nest or two up higher…..

ONE massive old fir ….I’m wondering about termites…..SOME ANIMAL is taking on some of the thick bark of this tree….it’s a GRAND HUGE OLD fir:

massive old fir

****AND this morning’s walk was NOT along the VERY scenic Wildwood Trail…..sinee I prefer to let MAC walk unleashed, I often stay on the Fire Lane…you seldom see a soul unless a jogger or two….but if you and I HAD walked the Wildwood, this is what it looks like out this far from town:


Thanks for joining me……….I USED to THINK I was giving up my own wants to WALK this dog for HIS sake….and long ago, I realized I GOT more out of it than this wonderful animal companion, who loves the walk, but his nose is always looking’ down….. and, well, he’s right in a way, you need to make sure you don’t come across coyote scat and step in it…..damn coyotes! They poop right ON the trail…. OH well!

We’re back home now with an appetite! How about some just baked sourdough toast and eggs and bacon? See ya soon.

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