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April, 2010 | Scuff Productions

How NW Garden “fever” Starts. . . .

Bloged in food: recipes + dining out,garden,General Home Life,Hummingbirds by mark Friday April 30, 2010

Well, for starters:
1) It is sunny out today, temps will be low 60’s.
2) We already HAVE lettuce starts IN the ground guarding them against slugs and bugs….but there is “hope”.
3) Songibirds are here… WANT to be outside.
4) The Clackamas County Master Gardener’s Sale is on THIS weekend in Canby, OR at the County Fairgrounds. Oregon’s LARGEST plant sale, it will be, as always, exciting, fun, and we’ll be joining friends.
5) Lunch after the sale for “discussion” about what was seen and garden plans.
6) The truck is already loaded with the Garden wagon…and tires inflated properly.
But the BIGGEST reason I want a garden started soon?

**Last night, I prepared this wonderful fresh tasting Pasta Sauce:

The contents?
a) the LAST container in the freezer of last year’s fresh frozen tomato sauce made from ‘maters, onions, basil, peppers, ALL from last year’s garden. **and of course, added: dried red pepper flakes (our garden) and some sausage!
b) 4-5 cubes of frozen pesto, all of it from last year’s basil …yep, from the garden.
c) one pint of roasted tomatoes, right, from LAST year’s garden.

We’re running out of last year’s “stuff”. . . . .

IF the ground were dryer, I’d rototill today….but in our rain forest, we must wait another couple weeks anyway, depending on the weather.

So here goes, another year, hopefully, a better garden than last year considering I don’t have a broken leg to hold me back! Hurray!

Soon, I hope this yard will look like this:

Squirrel note: WE found out HOW the squirrel was jumping onto the tray feeder. He climbed up the cedar tree….out to a branch at least 15 feet away….took a flying leap, grabbed on to the hook as he passed by, and voila! He’d be eating. As soon as I saw it, I went out, climbed up, sawed off 18″ of that branch. I can’t wait to see him try it again. . . with hopes I get a laugh at what I see. Hah.

Hummingbirds are everywhere……………it is a grand time for us and the neighbors who love watching them…..

Hurray for spring, I’d best go mow that dang lawn…….. AGAIN!!!

The birding season can begin now: Evening Grosbeaks come calling.

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Wednesday April 28, 2010

The REAL bird that has, from day one, been the reason I became a hobby bird-watcher, and feeder………………. HAS RETURNED in their regular style.

A flock of 25 Evening Grosbeaks (that I individually counted at one time (there may be more, and one flock of 60 has been spotted in Portland) began calling about 30 minutes ago…..their Clear bright piercing jubilant whistle is unmistakable. I heard it inside the kitchen, grabbed binocs, a chair, and sat at the window. Within 10 seconds there were 5 I saw up in the tree. Within 5 minutes, this flock of 25 were on only 3 feeders….whistling up a storm, eating, and being as Charming as they can always be. I only had the little old cheap camera, so this was the best I could get:

It is THIS bird I’m willing to spend the $30 monthly it may take while they’re in town……………….. HOWEVER……………one NEVER knows if they’ll stick around and nest. Some years some have, and other years no…they’re very nomadic. All I can do for a few days now is keep the feeders / water full…..and hope for the best.

Yippee! I love these Evening Grosbeaks.

Springs in the NW jump to high speed..

Bloged in garden,General Home Life by mark Friday April 23, 2010

An almost wordless post because the Flowering Season has begun in the Northwest in HIGH SPEED……. It’s now impossible to walk anywhere and not see it. Even the brown trees are leafing out, NO MORE brown to be seen….

The last of winter beauty is fading……Hellebores bloom in the winter………

Some are more intense, but some blend in. They are a beauty in the dead of winter………….

But winter IS gone, and I’ve already written about the first signs of spring. Almost ALL of THOSE are gone now too, and spring is picking up the pace as more and more flowering shrubs here begin to bloom. The peak of this period of blooming will be in Mid-May, and then things will move to the “Rose Period” (hah) as Portland celebrates its 3-week Rose Festival time.

So for now, all the forest trilliums are dying:

And the Keria, a true shade loving bush, has been bright for 3 weeks:

And closer, they even look better:

Out close to them, I am seeing signs of what will be several batches of Potato Salad around the 1st of July, eh:

AND………our Mason Bees have been humming along trying to help THIS tree begin it’s journey toward contributing to Apple Pies come October:

Even as the Daffodils passed away, the familiar tulip brightened spots here and there even more:

And, slipping in quietly are these little bloomers, that I wish the birds wouldn’t eat when they’re almost ripe…..we have to go BUY strawberries for a pie:

But. Nothing comes close to matching what these big bushes do best for Northwest Gardens beginning in April: The Azaleas and Rhodies.

Here’s what’s blooming in ours and yard near us:




Sure, some rhododendrons bloom in other times of the year, but they absolutely outnumber all others right now for star power, except, maybe… azalea or two for their sheer intense colors:

THAT shrub is a lot bigger than it looks….this shot is about half of it:

…..nice lavender shade……………

SO, coming back from pup walks these days, brings on big smiles:

(I SHOULD tell the story of me calling the Owls yesterday then being answered wonderfully…..but finding out the answering party was NOT who I thought it was…… maybe tomorrow).

SO…..spring’s truly moving forward at a fast clip. Temperatures are finally in the 60’s EVERY day, and nights in the 40’s. Just maybe, I’ll actually get into a garden mood once again……

Woods Life: Nature puzzles

Bloged in birding,General Home Life,Nature,Pacific Northwest by mark Monday April 19, 2010

AH! We’re finally peeking out of the house! Some sunshine is sneaking in here, and I can feel a LIVE heartbeat again! Happy! A week ago, we grabbed the scopes, cameras, and joined cousin Nancy for an outing to Oaks Bottom…..a fabulous bird watching wetland…..3 mile hike around it and you have some heartwarming experiences. We saw our FIRST baby ducklings of the year (10 and Mom)…. THAT was a Fabulous day. Thanks, Nancy!

This week, We even ventured out to Cirque de Soleil – Kooza (fabulous). After that worked so well, we drove down yesterday afternoon to friend Ian’s surprise Birthday Party / Softball Game yesterday thrown by fabulous wife Kate (fabulous):

We made cookies for the party, plus there was lots more:

YES, we are gaining weight off the leftovers…

HOWEVER. There HAS been some strangeness worming through the little ranchette lately………… We ARE in the woods, we DO have wildlife of all kinds. Sometimes it takes a week or two to solve……maybe.

First mystery was solved yesterday. The puzzle? We have a strange little suet feeder meant to keep large birds/squirrels out, and allow the little birds in to feed:

…you just pour the seeds into that “suet cube” holder”:

….hang it on the tree

and voila! It worked that way for a season….THEN, a little native Douglas Squirrel (our favorite little brown squirrels…), realized he WAS “skinny” enough to squeeze through, grab a nut, slip out, and feast. HENCE: No big deal, we kept putting peanuts in there, and our favorite native squirrel can had his own private food stock.

THIS year, we tried that again, and for some reason, that squirrel (or his descendant) must have been eating too many quarter pounders….HE’s a bit too fat to squeeze in…. THAT is WHEN the mystery began. The feeder remained full all day. But the next MORNING, it was empty……. WHO DO YOU BLAME? You ALWAYS BLAME the raccoons, of course. I moved it, and began placing it on the barbecue some nights:

Of course, if I did, I had to make sure I was out early and got it back on the tree, else the big Fox Squirrels (yes, your cute big thick bushy tailed ones) tore the heck out of everything. So I just moved it around, but every morning it would be empty.

I kept wondering why or HOW a raccoon was getting the peanuts out and not ripping apart the feeder itself.

Yesterday arrived with sun, 70 degrees and a decision to maybe have our first BBQ’d chicken of the year! Rodger’s the great BBQ chef, so naturally, Rodger faithfully accepted BBQ cleanup task. Armed with brushes, cleaner, he took off the cover, lifted the lid to see this:

Apparently, most of the mouse family had grown and gone, we only saw 3-4 escape this lovely Mouse House. Are we MORE annoyed it was there (yuk), OR because it was made with insulation from under the house! Dang! No wonder the heat bill’s going up! The BIG part of the story was this: About a gallon of peanut shells were in here, around it, below it. Peanut Mystery Solved! Poor raccoons had nothing to do with it.

Okay, moving on, mystery #2. We have 3 shepherd hooks with bird feeders hanging from them. You can only do that successfully if you mount baffles on the pole to keep the squirrels from climbing up and devouring it all. THIS M.O. has worked beautifully for about 10 years:

This time of year, we’re looking out there a LOT waiting for the arrival of our songbirds for their annual nesting and rich singing extravaganzas we love every summer. SO. TWO weeks ago, I look out there to see a big Fox squirrel sitting in the feeder eating. Mac ran him off quick, but he was back in an hour. This had only happened once before, and that time, the feeder was simply to close to the Cedar tree so he simply jumped from the lowest branch onto the feeder. Was that the problem?

**I moved the pole out one more foot…..and waited a day or two. Woops! There he was again. Was he jumping from the ground?

… I have watched and watched and seen nothing to support that belief.
From the slope side of these feeders there’s another small tree…maybe he’s jumping from there?

….I measured and still don’t think this was the take off point.

SO: We do NOT know HOW this one aggressive squirrel is doing it.…..THAT mystery remains unsolved….can ANYONE please come up and we take turns sitting at the window till we catch him in the act?

By the way, on that slope side, there is a trail that runs down into the forest. NO HUMAN walks it. It is used by wildlife only, but is used heavily enough, you’d swear it was in a park for hiking:

….I would LOVE to have a NIGHT camera and record everything that moves out here at night…………. THAT would solve a few mysteries on its own.

So, ONE mystery solved (and the BBQ chicken is delicious!!! Rodger’s a GREAT BBQ chef), and one remains in the dark.

**ONE another note, as I was walking back up a trail this morning, I hear/see a pickup park on the gravel road TO the lot in Forest Park, see a guy get out and start making Saw Whet Owl whistles (a plain one note call)…….I thought “weirdo” until I HEARD the OWL begin to answer him. The guy pulled out his binoculars and began to look for the bird. Guess what “I” will be doing tomorrow morning!!!!!!

Saw Whet Owl Call at this link: Northern Saw-Whet Owl Call.
….and why am I happy he’s here? These guys will kill LOTS of mice!

And lastly, our own home SUET FEEDER that gets our Home-Made Suet is doing WELL:

….Seems EVERYBODY loves that feeder….I suppose the “post” the holes are drilled into gives it a very natural feel……

AW! Doesn’t this sound like spring!

This neighborhood’s about to change. . .

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Tuesday April 13, 2010

The very first people we met after moving into this home in January of 1996, was Baird Smith & daughter Liz. They walked up our driveway a few hours after the moving van had gone…. They arrived in the middle of a house filled with moving boxes, 8″ of snow on the ground, and our fears that we had new 7th Day Adventist neighbor zealots with hopes of saving our wretched souls…..

No, not the case. These two were simply the most magnificent neighbors we could have found. They had trekked over to welcome us to the ‘hood, with cookies, of course baked by Karen, and to tell us they wanted to throw us a welcome party at their home that would include all the neighbors that lived in this little stretch of homes along NW Skyline up in this part of the Portland hills.

We were dumbfounded…. We’d just arrived from Silicon Valley where after 15 years on one block, there were only homes left with owners who’d been there as long as we had. Now, here we were, in a new place, unknown to anyone…. We WERE their new GAY neighbors…. would their welcome be as kind if they’d known that before they ventured over?

As it has turned out, YES. Baird & Karen Smith have been one of those rare gifts in life you can count more than your own “family”. They have welcomed us into their own lives in every way, taught us much, been patient, loving and giving. I’ve thrown a few pictures throughout this diary entry recalling some of our times shared with them over these years.

In those first years, Baird was still hand-painting eggs at Easter for selected friends….we STILL have this jewel some 12 years later:

*****The reason for this sentimental post?

They are moving next week….…downsizing, into the new adventure called: Co-Housing….Condominium Units of varying sizes, with a “green” slant, multi-aged families, shared meals sometimes, etc etc etc. A NEW way of building community growing across the U.S.

Just a very few years older than Mark, they feel they’ve lived and experienced all they can in their beautiful home up here, and are ready for NEW experiences. We wish them well, but THIS neighborhood will undergo a big change. Without them, things will be very different.

It was with very sentimental feelings, I spent last Monday evening with them at the last “Monday Night Water Aerobics and Test Kitchen dinner”……….at this beautiful setting:

**We enjoyed a Wild Rice & Turkey Casserole Rodger had made, and my cracked wheat sourdough bread…..the SOURDOUGH Starter is what Karen gave me some years ago, and I’m finally learning to make very tasty stuff with that….

A couple of highlights EVERY year were at the Smiths home. On July 4th, the neighborhood always gathered for a potluck, and the inevitable fireworks. Always the most spectacular was Baird’s own invention….extra-fine steel wool enclosed in a wire cage light on fire, then spun…while it burns….. You think that’s not dramatic? Look…….

**Even photo-shopped, that picture always looks good:

The last burn of every July 4, would involve all the neighbors in an “Oregon Legal” burn:

Another annual event happened during the Chinese New Year. This limited event became known as “Wok-Luk” and has been described on this site before….I’m just recalling it for sentimental reasons……We’ll never forget Baird’s BBQ’d Ducks, Huey & Luey:

Everyone showed up around 4:00, did all the prep on site as a team:

And then all would sit down to dine as each couple finished their own menu piece in the kitchen and then served it:

Those have been fabulous evenings………………..

Without a doubt, the most magnificent gesture the Smiths ever provided for us was a Wedding Reception when we were officially married in Portland March 4, 2004……… We were allowed to invite our friends and family, but Smiths did all the work:

Dearest Kaye Rochlin made a strawberry Genoise Cake that WAS fabulous:

Yes, an evening that will remain in our hearts the rest of our lives:

Baird and Karen even put together a photo board showing part of our lives as a couple:

Well, a wedding reception is a rare event in one’s life, eh? They even hired a harpist usually found playing at the Oregon Symphony…this was nice:

Even Liz and Jason Leavitt honored me when she asked me to play for their wedding ………this took 2-3 weeks of practicing, but I’ll never forget it:

The happy couple are now living in Boston…. He as a Financial Manager, and she in her first Ministry role after finishing all her graduate work at Harvard Divinity School:

And we’ve shared 2-3 winters of some severe weather.. . . . . .

**Yep, that was the funny one…all the testosterone guys going by in a big 4-wheel drive “truck” would say, I’ll get that no problem….and then be seen coming back about 30 minutes later……..

And yet, possibly the Grandest Gesture these two would do happened EVERY year on New Years Day. Baird walked Skyline Blvd for a mile or two each direction and personally invited neighbors known and not-yet-met to their home for a New Years Reception that would last from about 2:00 until 8:00 . . .the big house was full EVERY year and we met half the residents that live along this street because of that event. Food, Drink, and loud Chatter filled these afternoons, EVERY year ……………

Yes, these folks have changed our lives here for the better, and although I know we’ll still be seeing each other regularly, things will be different than simply walking over for a spot of tea. We wish them continued love and happiness as they begin their new adventure:

**They will be missed on the morning dog walks…………………..and everywhere else……just AS Nancy G is STILL very much missed….we DO see Nancy occasionally, but it’s not the same as 300′ away……….and waving hi, learning how she makes art, et al. She’s now in Lake O, inspiring ever a growing circle of friends.

A blizzard this morning, but this evening?

Bloged in garden,General Home Life,Nature by mark Thursday April 8, 2010

It’s getting harder and harder to deny that SPRING IS on the way here despite the fact we had another 5 minute snowy blizzard this morning. No, it really didn’t stick, but it has remained very cool here….snow levels around 1000 ft for 3 days.

Neighbor Peter McG wrote this on FB about how spring weather works in Oregon: “Then the sun came out, then the sun went away, then the winds picked up, then it was calm, then it rained, then it was dark and stormy, then the sun came out again, then it drizzled, then it was almost warm, and then there was an icy breeze. And that was just the first five minutes of our walk!

Despite that, Ms. Nature refuses to put things on hold. I wanted to post just a few examples of what Li’l miss spring is pushing up against these snow showers:

**that tree is a favorite every spring as it has spread out over the years. Tonight, as I took the picture I spotted 3 different hummingbirds flitting in and out feeding on the pollen. **And, by the way, in the feeders, they’ve gone from .09 quarts per day in Feb to .50 quarts a day now.. They are beautiful to watch either in the tree to appreciate their power of flight, or through the window:

The little guys have another favorite….the current bush:

**We have two of these, THANK YOU, Nancy G…..she gave us little transplants some years ago, and they’re finally thriving. Then, we have the elderberries just beginning to bloom. …we have spread these out along the front near the street…..Once these become berries, SEVERAL songbirds will be here to feed on most of the fruit…

Moving on to the plum tree….we’ve been brutal in pruning the poor old tired tree, it still blooms every spring, and occasionally produces one or two little plums:

I’ll turn around from the plum and see the two apple trees are beginning to bud, a “promise” of Apple Marmalade this fall:

I turn from there toward the vegetable garden, still at first glance asleep under the composted bed of fall leaves we labored at putting there last November…..BUT even here, there are cheery signs, we will be busy here very soon…it’s almost time to see if we can the rototiller started.
CHIVES are ready to eat:

Rhubarb is UP….I can taste a pie:

The French Fennel is up…and in the late summer, this 7 ft tall gorgeous plant is a garden highlight, not to mention the pint or two of fennel seeds we’ll have for cooking:

I look a foot to the right, and the MINT is up, hurray:

I walk to the corner to see the potatoes are on the way:

ALL of this happening without lifting a finger toward spring gardening yet. The beauty of some of those perennials! Well, okay, the rosemary died in the December freeze.
*we have ALREADY used green onion out of the garden, and allowed what’s left to get ready to go to seed so we’ll have more late summer into fall.

I walk toward the house to see all kinds of perennials coming up…. even the Daffodils, are fading, tulips are near blooming. The bleeding heart is peaked:

All around are the little bright regulars:

So, I’m reminded once again, what it really is I like about spring….that seemingly long dreary gray wet cold winter is actually gone. A little 5 minute snow shower can’t bother me now……….. I don’t have to “try” to get into spring work mode, these things I’ve seen in the yard do it for me.


Lost Dog week

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Tuesday April 6, 2010

Mac has been a bit off kilter the last two days…….. With seriously rainy gloomy weather on the weekend, we failed to find motivation to do much, and sat with the dog moping too long. He received FAR too many rich treats and so….has had bouts with the big “D” since yesterday…. *Interestingly enough, when he’s run out the door, he’s gone VERY FAR from this yard and house… nice move, hah!

OR……….was the cause something more sinister? Should I ask him a few more questions about what THIS means?

Oh I JUST want him to get back to normal and be ready for the sunny weekend that is, so far, currently forecast. I can just see him ready for a run to the river:

(He DOES wear clothes well, doesn’t he? Maybe a career in fashion?)

In other tidbits, I’ve seen a male Goldfinch finally, all ready to mate as soon as a female will show up:

Purse Theft

Bloged in General Home Life by mark Thursday April 1, 2010

No, not MINE!

A week ago, a big high tire rusty old Pickup came too fast down very curvy Newton Road while we were on it with the dogs, near the bottom. The guy got VERY mad that we were in his way, it seemed, spun around the small lot, and went TOO fast again UP and out of the area. Odd, suspicious? Yes, he had a few traits of how we view Meth users.

Tuesday, on the dog walk, coming up Newton Rd, I spotted a woman’s purse tossed down the slope off the road only about 3 feet down. We retrieved it, and found misc items left: lipstick, reading glasses, a calendar booklet, AND………. a Passport. The Wallet, ID, etc., ALL that a thief could use were GONE.

I brought the cache home hoping I could find the owner to at LEAST get her passport back. This sure brought home the nightmare of ID theft, AND how easily it could happen. It IS common sense that you should NEVER leave a Purse in your car no MATTER how secure you think the area is that you’re parked in. That little parking lot down Newton Rd, almost a single lane gravel road, is hidden and remote. IF a thief were caught doing the theft, he cannot get back up the hill THAT fast because of all the blind curves. Nevertheless, when a thief sees a car there, he can surmise the people are off on hikes that may last for hours. Hence: Again, NEVER leave ANYTHING valuable in your car…in ANY unsecured area. Put your “junk” in the trunk, eh?

I googled all I could, hoping to find any phone number that may get me to her and found nothing. I DID scour her little calendar to find: 1) she’s seeing a therapist, 2) her meds are picked up at OHSU Pharmacy, 3) She just lost her job and is starting unemployment, 4) she and friends spent LAST Saturday night on the town at……….. get this, the most trendy of the gay bars here (for mixed crowds). No, I found nothing and ended up taking everything to the Police Station……Obviously THEY can look up details on this name that I cannot through several means.

I feel horribly for this girl, losing her job, and now ID and probably some cash. Months it will take to get this all taken care of for her. Whew!

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