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Scuff Productions | Mark & Rodger's Portland Diary

GARDEN 2017 NOTE: which ones to get

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Monday September 26, 2016

just a reminder note for mark….just today, the last of the garden was cleaned out, a big bag-o-tomatoes (not quite ripe)….picked, and will be cooked in a couple days into a sauce for the freezer……. SO. When those plants were ripped out and cleaned up, I had the perfect chance to get a reminder for myself which plants did well, and the “experimental” ones we should NOt grow again up here.

at our peak:


1. STUPICE – OF COURSE! I’ve been a plateful of these little Russian slicers since July! STILL have some in the kitchen ripening…..had -5- of these plants this year, enough to give plenty away to friends….

2. SAN MARZANO – Great for canning, but even when picked at their peak, good to eat. CANNING!!!!
3. MOSKVICH – another Russian heirloom…HARDY, early, medium kids, globe shaped….tasty.
4. AMISH PASTE – Teardrop shaped…..good for CANNING, but ALSO good sliced when picked ripe.
5. BLACK FROM TULA – Red at bottom, dark green at top when ripe, slightly flattened….GOOD SLICER…BIG

ON the FAIL side, do NOT buy again:

6. MAXIBEL – didn’t produce one tomato.
7. CHOCOLATE REAPER – only a few blossoms tried to make fruit that did not ripen at all at our elevation.
8. CAROLINA REAPER – same as above

There you go!

And on the PEPPER side, don’t try the LEMON HABANERO PEPPER again – – the fruit was so little, didn’t even attempt to work with it.

BACK later……it’s 87 degrees out there, and may WELL BE the LAST day of THIS YEAR this happens….. If I get all done, I may just SIT on the deck and read the first bit of my new Reichl Book, “Tender at the Bone.


2016 late summer life bits

Bloged in General Home Life,Pacific Northwest,Scuff Boys by mark Tuesday September 13, 2016

1. Yep, I AM feeling a bit older…..I SO do NOT like this being the year I will pass the decade of the


…and hope I stay healthy/lucky enough to continue to “seem” to attract conversations with lots of younger people …..I LOVE talking to people about life……. Why else are we here after all?

2. 2016 summer in portland. Year of the weirdest weather we’ve seen in our 20 years. Everything ended up growing, just not quite as normal as in other years….the veggie garden tomatoes just ripening here in mid-September… everything else: DONE, FInito…out!

3. Theater. Just began our 2016 season, but besides our Artist Rep Theater tickets (lowered to only 4 shows because we didn’t like the plays they’ve chosen ….. Rodger’s boss has “given” a season of tickets to us to Coho Theater Productions as well….and will likely be going to those with Steve and Jo….just did the first one, the “GUN SHOW” on Saturday Night…..a serious, hard look and conversation afterwards with attendees about guns and violence . . . . whew! SO NICE that Steve and Jo love going out afterwards too for a drink and post-play discussion……. then, the very next day, we go with cuz Nancy & Jerry to Artist Rep’s first season play, “TREVOR”. . . .a ridiculous attempt at humor trying to portray a weird relationship between a chimp and a new widow owner that ends up in tragedy. Not ONE bad review could we find in New York, Los Angeles, or SF . . .or here for that matter, but not ONE of us liked it and wished we’d walked out at intermission (as a few others did)….. Whew! . . . . . AT LEAST, looking forward to a great season for theater for us this year!

4. Night life. What? We have night life? The weirdest thing, it’s only a mile away…. since Scott Becker bought the Skyline Tavern (as a sort of “plaything” toy….) . . . it’s become quite the hangout for some neighbors (we’ve met a few we never have met)….intel/nike engineers, the curious from downtown who’ve read about this new tavern’s life, a great MIX of people… Lisa, Mandy, Steve, Alex, all make us feel welcomed completely…..always people to meet and chat with, interesting music on fridays….. we’re glad this has come to the ‘hood.

5. Dog. Just reached 12, and is showing it. The hips are weaker, his skin chronically dry, the energy not lasting that long…..I’m convinced his swimming has helped keep his health good this long. Sigh. Mac’s been a good friend to have around.

6. Dining / Cooking. Continues always to be an enjoyable experience to me. So glad the greatest breakfast/brunch in this town of a 1000 restaurants continues to be John St Cafe just at the bottom of the hill, and glad the Overlook Restaurant, now in its 60th year run by a Greek family, of course, REMAINS the ONE absolutely identical twin of the classic 50’s diner/coffee shop / bar in the back . . . . place where you can get liver and onions day or night, chicken fried steak breakfast/lunch or dinner, and on and on…. great little place.. …

GARDEN TIPS for 2017 from 2016

Bloged in garden,General Home Life,Pacific Northwest by mark Tuesday September 13, 2016

for Mark’s reference next year…..a couple ‘new’ lessons I learned in this weird 2016 summer of weird cool/warm/damp/dry summer . . . . .

1. Tomatoes. water regularly, sure, into Late July or early August…when you have all those tomatoes out there, GREEN …. ripening is encouraged by reducing the watering…. it convinces the plant, summer’s almost over… and by mid-Sept, QUIT watering the plants.

2. Tomatoes – yes, keep pruning any and all dying leaves, THIN out thick inside growth to allow venting and more tomato fruit growth…… do all you can to maximize the use of the cages to help those heavy branches keep from splitting.

3. CUCUMBER – esp. LEMON…. **Plant this against a fence side…. and encourage that thick bunch of vines this plant makes to grow up along the fence. the “lemons” aren’t ever so heavy that they’ll hurt vine growth.

4. Peppers – don’t plant a whole row….we keep planting several odd types, and they NEVER mature in our cool summers.

5. Corn – GET seedlings started EARLIER next year in little pots, even if you have to re-pot b-4 putting out in the garden….use the 1 variety that’s always worked here: Golden Jubilee…..

6. Where? **Tomatoes were in the east-north side 2016….move to opposite next year.

7. HERBS – remember to plant just inside a fence opening access so you don’t waste time just going out to get some mint, parsley, etc.

8> More later?

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.

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