Monday, December 19, 2016

Can-opoly 2016

The press is on for me to get this year's canning feat recorded before it is totally out of date. Over the past several years, I've found that this annual recording is super helpful, so I don't want to miss a year.

I've scrolled through my phone and unfortunately I don't have many pictures to accompany this post. However, I did keep a log throughout the summer/fall so I do have a pretty good accounting without needing to actually go count the jars.

Peaches and fig jelly canned earlier this year.
Green Beans -- 32 pints
Corn -- 16 pints
Crushed tomatoes -- 32 pints
Italian Tomato Sauce -- 7 pints
Tuna -- 32 1/2-pints

Quick Kosher Dills - 7 pints
Pickled jalapenos - 4 pints
Fermented (refrigerator) pickles-- 2 quarts

Peach-ginger jam -- 6 1/2 1/2-pints
Prune plum jam -- 4 1/2-pints
Blackberry & Black Current Jelly -- 4 1/2-pints
Fig jam -- 11 1/2-pints
Peach Pie Filling -- 2 quarts and 5 pints
Southeast Asian Chili-garlic relish -- 1 quart (refrigerator)
Jalepeno Salsa -- 6 1/2 1/2-pints

My canning season really began in earnest in mid-August when we got tuna from a guy in Winchester Bay. Like last year, we purchased 4 tuna, I canned up two batches and D. froze the rest. It keeps us going throughout the year, and makes a good altertive to the beef and pork we buy from the local farmers.

My cucumbers did not do well this year. First my seeds didn't "take" and then the plants I put in didn't produce well. Plus, I had two different kinds of pickling cucumbers and they produced at different times and didn't store well in the 'fridge. In years past, I'd pick cucumbers as they became ripe and by the end of a week or two, I'd have 4 or 6 pounds and could do a batch of pickles. Not so this year, by the time I had 4 pounds, half of them would be soft and unfit for canning. The pickles that I did get put up did not hold their crunch. Usually we give pickles away as gifts at Christmas time, not this year. And the pickles we do have get sliced thin to put on sandwiches so their limpness isn't noticed.

I've compared this year with the past two years (2015 and 2014) and I see that I've found a good "sweet spot" for the staples. Those are really what I concentrated on this year, making sure to bump back up the amount of tomatoes I put up because last year we ran out much too early.

I also see from my notes that this year the bulk of my canning happened over two weekends, Labor Day weekend and the weekend right after that. I canned three days both weekends. I remember at the time feeling frustrated that I wasn't enjoying the summer, but the flip side is that we have a year's worth of staples put aside. Also, this is the first year that I actually made jelly in the winter with juice I'd frozen. I've often frozen juice, but haven't followed through. I did this year and it should spur me on in the future, as it was both easy and convenient.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

3 Thoughts on a Storm

Many years ago, when I was in 5th grade, we took a family vacation to Disneyland over spring break. On our return home, we stopped in San Francisco, and it was there (I believe) that my parents bought a hand-blown, clear glass figurine. I don’t remember much about it, only that it was delicate, with some of the glass almost thread-like. It was intricate and beautiful.  My dad, especially, was taken with it. In my memory it included a deer and a tree.

I was reminded of that figurine yesterday as I took my lunch-time walk in the streets of Eugene. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the temperature hovered just below freezing, and the trees were encased in a thick layer of ice. They looked like glass as they sparkled and twinkled in the sunlight. I felt like I was walking through that figurine.

The people in my office have been impacted by the ice storm in various ways. Some have hardly been impacted, but three have lost power and 2 or 3 days later are still without. One has headed to a hotel. One is hanging with friends much of the time, but sleeping at her cold house in a hat and socks. One has a generator, wood heat, and gravity-powered spring water. When someone commented how “fortunate” he was to have those things, he quickly, and gently, corrected them. He isn't "fortunate," he is prepared and has worked hard to make sure his family stays comfortable for exactly this kind of event.

I am reminded again how much just a couple miles can change things. Three years ago, we had a huge ice storm in Cottage Grove. Freezing rain left a layer of ice over everything. I remembered I was home that day and kept texting with D. who was up in Eugene. I was urging her to get home and she couldn't understand what the rush was, they had a light dusting of snow but nothing to be concerned about.

This storm hit Eugene (and further north) but in Cottage Grove, we just had some cold weather. The difference, the first night with the precipitation, Eugene got below freezing and Cottage Grove stayed just above freezing. It made all the difference.

Friday, December 9, 2016

food rant

We went to a potluck last night; my annual holiday work party. I needed to bring a good side, something I’d enjoy but that would also be okay for the work-folks who seem to prefer food from boxes, cans, and freezer bags.

I found a bulgur wheat salad that looked easy. It called for grapes which are totally out of season right now, but I've seen them in the stores, so I got lazy and made it. I think the actual salad turned out okay, there weren’t rave reviews but I enjoyed it and people seemed to at least try it.

Today, I took leftover grapes to work as my mid-afternoon snack. I ate -- maybe -- five before I gave up. They have absolutely no flavor what-so-ever, except maybe a tinge of chemical, was it pesticide? plastic bag? …..? I don’t know. I couldn’t stomach it.

I took this photo at Safeway last week. I was going to post it on facebook with a snarky comment, then changed my mind. I was appalled at what the produce section was becoming. Seriously, veggies don’t need to be wrapped in plastic, and if you don’t have time to cut your celery in 4 inch lengths then you've got a serious problem. And look at those prices! The styrofoam and plastic probably costs more than the veggies inside.

I thought of this photo as I was trying to eat my taste-less chemical-laden grapes. There are people out there who think that grapes actually taste like that! No wonder people buy things full of sodium in cans and bags, they don't know what real food tastes like!

Many years ago, during the Bush administration, I lost my confidence in the American food supply and the policies used regulate it. We've been growing more and more of our own food, buying from local farmers whenever we can, and staying away from Safeways as much as possible. After the grape-incident, I've relearned my lesson to error on the side of taste and edibility regardless of what I think others may want.

Food rant over.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Plant 'n Store

It was a nice, sunny fall day yesterday -- a sight to behold after our month of torrential rain. In all, it was a good day. We met D's nephew, his wife, and their year-old son at Creswell Bakery for breakfast and then headed to Eugene/Springfield for a 1/2-yard of bark nuggets and a stop at BRING. It's been a long time since we've been to BRING, it can be a dangerous place as it is so easy to come home with much more than we went out there for. We were good, I came home with a lot of ideas, but we focused our buying on only what we needed.

A sunny day shopping at BRING.

In the afternoon, after spreading the bark nuggets in the dog run, D planted her garlic and I picked some of my winter squash. D's always done garlic, but lately we've been planting more crops that we can store and use later, like winter squash. I've been wanting to keep some notes about our successes, failures, and learning experiences this year, so here they are.

Winter Squash

A couple years ago, we bought a 35-pound box of winter squash at the Fill Your Pantry event in Eugene. Our box consisted of a very large Galeux d’Eysines, which I enjoyed cooking with. From that box of squash I realized that we can incorporate winter squash into our dinners very nicely, and I've also discovered that winter squash doesn't always have to be "pumpkin-y." 

With our new veggie garden fence, I've been planting winter squash on the edges of my raised beds so that the plants can trellis along the fence. The deer seem fairly disinterested in them. This year I planted in three different beds -- in one bed both squash plants took off, in the other two, the growth was stunted and slow..... a learning experience for sure!

In the good bed, I will get to harvest 6 "Fairy" Squash and 5 "Delicata". In the "bad" beds I'll get two very small Fairy, and one "Potimarron" from Seed Savers.

Also this year, I read that the tromboncini summer squash that I like so well, is not a true summer squash but more like a winter squash and if you let them mature you can pick them in the fall and they'll taste like a butternut. I had two tromboncini go rouge and get much too large for harvesting as a summer squash so I let them mature. They are now a good 3' long and will be harvested soon.

In general, I've learned from this and other experiences that I am not fertilizing enough. Next year, I'm going to be much more generous!


Huckleberry Gold, harvested August 19
We've also started growing potatoes after I bought D "potato tower" a couple years ago for Valentine's Day ('cuz I'm romantic like that!). We're still working out the kinks, like figuring out how to get the best harvest and which types of potatoes that we want to grow. I thought both of our towers this year were failures until I dug into the soil and discovered some surprise nuggets. 

I feel like I got a decent harvest from the Huckleberry Gold (though I know we could do better) and the flavor was well worth it! I want to keep this potato in mind for future summers.


The last couple of years, we've really struggled with our garlic as we have some sort of burrowing critter (mole, shrew, vole, gopher....) that likes to eat the garlic bulbs, then the garlic that we have harvested, hasn't stored well. This fall, I emptied the soil from one of our garden beds, lined the bottom with wire mesh, then refilled it adding compost and fertilizer as I did so. This is the bed D planted her garlic in. And we bought garlic with an eye toward varieties that keep well (keeping in mind that we prefer hard neck varieties but the soft neck ones last much longer in storage).

This year's crop includes Music (a hard neck with big cloves and stores up to 9 months, planted in the southern 2 rows), Polish Softneck (planted in the middle 2 rows), and Italian Late (a soft neck that stores 6-9 months, planted in the northern 2 rows). Fingers crossed that this year's crop does well.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Are you prepared?

The Cascadia subduction zone.
Image from the New Yorker
Last summer, the New Yorker published the article, The Really Big One, about the great Cascadia earthquake which will hit the northwest at some point in the future. The consensus is that it will be a big earthquake, the questions of "how big" and "when" can not be answered.

That fall, we watched an excellent Oregon Field Guide special, Unprepared, on OPB. This special showed the magnitude of destruction that we might be in for, and at the same time, how unprepared Oregon is for such a disaster. We will not rebound like Japan did after their recent earthquake, nor will our coastal communities have advance warning and be able to effectively escape the resulting tsunami.

Also last summer and fall, the northwest was on fire. We watched as wildfires burned through Washington and Oregon. The Canyon Creek fire ended up burning over 110,000 acres, while the three largest fires in Washington burned over 500,000 acres. Many people were evacuated from their homes as the fires raged.

These events made me think about our own preparedness. I realized emergency preparedness wasn't just about a potential earthquake, but would serve us well for other emergencies, like fires, floods, snow or wind storms that might knock out our power (and hence, our water) for a week or two, a chemical spill on the freeway which runs past our house, or even some sort of terrorist attack. Being prepared for emergencies can also help us out during a personal crisis -- keeping plenty of gas in the tank, a small stash of cash on hand, and a first aid kit in the car are all acts of preparedness which have come in handy in the past.

An aerial view of Minato, Japan, March 18, 2011, a week after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami
(Photo by the US Navy).
After reading and watching, and attending a preparedness fair in town last fall, D. and I created an "emergency box" which we placed in the garage. It will be handy to grab on the go, and also shouldn't get too buried during an earthquake. We've got sleeping bags prepared, a solar charger, a radio, and a water purifier. We bought first aid kits for both of our cars (which came in handy last summer when I fell during one of our outings and scratched myself up). We picked a rendezvous point in Eugene should an emergency happen while we are at work. And we took down the big picture that hung above our bed, 'cuz it would seriously hurt if it fell on us during a quake.

We could do a lot more.

We've talked about getting spare shoes in the car so it will be easier to walk the 20 miles home if we have too (and which will come in handy if the car breaks down and we need to walk for help), and I've thought about the best way to get home, since we cross several bridges which would undoubtedly be damaged during a big quake. We've talked about strapping down the water heater so we'll potentially have a reservoir of drinkable water. Since I do a lot of canning, we've got plenty of food in case of a flood, but the jars wouldn't survive a tumble to the floor. We have three cats and only two cat carriers. A spare set of clothes in our emergency box would be handy, especially if something happens in the middle of the night which had us fleeing the house in a hurry.

As school is winding down (only 6 weeks to go!), my mind if coming back to being prepared, aided by the recent news that I've been hearing.

So, I'm curious, what have you done to be prepared for an emergency?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Nicked Plant

[Note, I originally wrote this in the spring of 2011, probably on my lunch break at work. I am guessing that I intended to finish it up at home that evening. That never happened and I just found it in my drafts. These are good memories, so I'm posting it now.]

I nicked a plant today -- a little penstemon growing in the crack of a rock wall. It was so pretty and will look so lovely in our yard. I don't nick a lot of plants, but I've been known to, and I come by the trait honestly.

During my mom's memorial service, my cousin reminisced about the time we went to a botanical garden in Vancouver BC. Of course, you're not supposed to nick plants from botanical gardens, and, of course, you're not supposed to bring undeclared plant items across the international border. However, when we got home, my mom proceeded to empty seeds and plant starts out of her pockets. 

Mom and I at the botanical garden in Vancouver BC.
I wonder how many seeds were in her pockets when this pic was taken.

During that same time, one spring day during my sophomore year, Mom picked me up from high school (as she did pretty much every day that year -- my first year in a new school). I got in the car and she had a devious smile on her face and a hand full of envelopes. She informed me that we were heading up to Peace Arch Park -- an international park straddling the US/Canadian border -- to gets seeds. Mom was all prepared, with ample envelopes and a ball point pen. She pinched seeds while I wrote descriptive information on the outside of the envelopes and kept watch.

It didn't stop there though. I recall her pinching seeds from a lovely columbine in the Fred Meyer nursery (while I kept watch), and nicking sedum starts from a walkway at a plant nursery. In fact, she had a whole sedum garden mostly from plants she had pinched from here and there. I now have starts from many of those sedums growing in my yard.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

One Photographer: Inspiration

[Backstory: Earlier this summer, I cleaned up my computer files which involved going through my LCC class files, including a plethora of images for my "Image Communications" class in the spring of 2014. Better than the images, I found an essay I wrote for that class about a photographer I found inspirational. For me, reading the essay and viewing this photographer's work was inspirational all over again. And it had to do with flowers so it fits with my renewed focus on photographing what I love. Here's the essay, modified a bit.]

One Photographer: Byron Jorjorian 

I selected as my professional photographer, Byron Jorjorian, a fine art photographer whom I found while Googling nature photography, more specifically abstract wildflowers. According to his online biography, Mr. Jorjorian has been a photographer for over 30 years, with images appearing on cards, calendars, posters, and advertising as well as such publications as National Geographic and Outdoor Magazine.

I was attracted to Mr. Jorjorian’s photography for several reasons, including his beautiful macro flower photography, his wildflower and nature abstracts, and his landscapes. These are all the types of photographs which I enjoy taking. I think there is a lot to learn by looking at his body of work, especially since I see that he has taken photos of landscapes which have caught my eye in the past, but which I have had difficulty executing well. However, for this paper, I’ll focus specifically on his abstract photography, since that is what brought him to my attention in the first place.

Abstract Photography 

While working on my photo shoot at Bake Stewart Park, I happened to take an abstract flower photograph during a slight breeze. I loved the effect and would have reworked my final exhibit to focus on abstract, breeze-assisted macro photography if time had allowed. However, playing with this idea just a little bit, I realized it was going to be rather complicated so I quickly shelved the idea as something to play with later, on my own.

Inspirational abstract by Colette Kimball

However, I did do a Google image search of abstract wildflower photography, and discovered that while there are tons of images of wildflowers online, there are very few wildflower abstracts. This is how I found Mr. Jorjorian. This breezy photograph by Mr. Jorjorian  is somewhat reflective of my original abstract.

"Abstract grass pattern" by Byron Jorjorian

His work also inspired me to think about other ways to create nature abstracts, like abstracts created with macro photography, such as this spiky one, which is obviously a plant-based.

"Abstract closeup of Agaveby Byron Jorjorian

This image plays on light, perhaps shining through a leaf.

"Circle of light and iris leaf" by Byron Jorjorian

Mr. Jorjorian also has some more colorful photography which I I find especially appealing. The colors are bright and pronounced, and are obviously plant-based, but I’m quite sure how he produced the images, I suspect he moved the camera ... 

"Abstract of forest in the fall" by Byron Jorjorian

"Tulip Flower Abstract"  by Byron Jorjorian

"Abstract of a field of flowers" by Byron Jorjorian

"Abstract image of tree in the fallby Byron Jorjorian

... or changed the focal length as we did in class.

"Sunlight streaming through Trees and Grassby Byron Jorjorian

I also appreciated Mr. Jorjorian’s use of landscapes to create abstracts, such as this field of blue flowers using a striking blue sky to off-set the field:

"Hillside covered with blue flowers and grass with a blue sky above by Byron Jorjorian

this morning shot along a smooth sand dune:

"Sand Dune silhouette at sunrise" by Byron Jorjorian

and this sand dune shot which also uses shadows:

"Undulating and flowing abstract of sand dunes and sky " by Byron Jorjorian

I also realized that some of my own work (like the “morning light” photograph that is part of the media art student exhibition) might be considered abstract. 

"Morning Light" by Colette Kimball

Mr. Jorjorian has done similar types of photographs:

"Maple tree abstract of fall color" by Byron Jorjorian

"Abstract reflection of fall foliage in stream" by Byron Jorjorian

[Now that I have "Design Fundamentals" under my belt -- a class which I should have taken before I took Image Communications -- many of these images have new appeal to me. I can see how the contrast of light/dark, spiky and round shapes, and flow of color lead the eye. I hope to get out my camera again this weekend. It's been a while, and I feel inspired!]