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), Polish Softneck, and Italian Late (a soft neck that stores 6-9 months). 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!]

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getting back in the groove.

I was starting to get worried. Here we are at the end of July and I hadn't done any canning yet. To make it worse, we have very little left in the pantry to eat from, a jar of pickles, a jar of tuna, and maybe about 5 jars of tomato jam.

This weekend that changed, I picked up 10 lbs of peaches and while shopping for them at the Coast Fork Farm Stand, I started talking with a woman who had figs and I bought 5 lbs of figs from her (and got some tips to get our figs to be more productive).

I got 7 1/2 pints of ginger-peach jam put up yesterday, and today 11 1/2 pints of fig jam and several jars of peach pie filling.

It felt good to get back in the groove. I had a failure with some fig preserves, but regrouped and got the fig jam done. We had a tad bit left over and ate it this evening with cheese and crackers. Delish!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Big C

Some time this spring, I woke up in the morning with a red, irritated area on my forehead. It was in the same spot that I had had a previous (negative) biopsy, but I knew that this time, something had changed.

It took several months to progress through the medical hoops – a referral from my primary care physician, approval from my insurance, an appointment with a dermatology nurse practitioner for a biopsy, the lab work, a positive result, and a follow-up with a surgeon who confirmed that I have melanoma skin cancer, the most common, most mild kind. I have an appointment this coming week to have it cut out; no follow-up procedures are necessary. It hasn’t given me much worry and I haven’t really talked about it much. It seems so minor compared to illnesses some of my friends have had.

Last week, though, I donated blood. Part of donation process is a medical history, and every time I've donated I mostly answer “No” to a list full of questions. Until this time, though, when I got to one that asked, “Have you ever had cancer?”

It made me pause. This one little spot, which will be gone very soon, has indeed changed things.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

3 more to go

Last fall, my mantra became "only three more to go." I had three more classes until my "1 year certificate" was complete. While school had been going well while I was unemployed and taking 2 classes a term, once I switched to taking one class a term it started taking forever to feel like I was making any progress.

Some time, late in the term, I realized that with three more classes, at one class a term, and taking summer off, that meant I wouldn't be done until December 2016 -- more than a year away. It was a crushing blow.

Winter term started and I was in Video Production 1. It is a pretty exciting class -- from my perspective -- learning to take good video, checking out all sorts of gear, and putting it together in Adobe Premiere. The down-fall is that taking good video requires a team, and teamwork gets complicated. Add to that a rather disorganized instructor and a crappy team for my final project and the term did not go well. Towards the end I was pretty much convinced that I was going to "take some time off."

Luckily, at the same time, I was actively working with two different advisers to get my transcripts recorded (so that all my intro classes from the UO back in the 80s would fill my basic math and English requirements) and also get all my class substitutes filled in.

When I mentioned to D. that I needed a break, she said something like "but you've only got two more classes left!"

So I agreed to enroll spring term and give my class a try. If it felt like it would be easy, I'd stay, but if it felt like another taxing class, I'd drop it before I was charged tuition.

The class was 3D animation -- think animated movies and video games. In case there are any doubts, animation is NOT easy, it takes a tremendous amount of work to get something designed and animated. But my instructor informed us on our first day that he would "leave no one behind" and he didn't expect anyone to have to do work outside of class. It felt like it could be done. I also told myself, repeatedly, that I seriously don't need to give every class I take every amount of energy that I can, and 3-D animation -- something I have absolutely no interest in pursuing in any form in the future -- was one I could relax on.

It took a bit, but I did relax. Initially I spent a couple Friday afternoons working independently to figure out the program (called Maya). And I got used to being the slow one in class, constantly asking questions and asking for help. (That was a shift for me too.) Finally, the term is over and I am very much looking forward to a summer doing what I want to do, and learning what I want, when I want.

I'm also looking forward to getting back to this blog.

A couple different people have asked me this year about the Multimedia Design Certificate program. Did I think it was worth it. I do, of course. It is exactly what I was looking for when I started the program. The skills I've learned complement the skills I already had and further my career goals.

I've also enjoyed being creatively challenged in many different realms, and as the program is winding down, I've enjoyed seeing how the learning is all coming together to be greater than a sum of its parts.

One of the things I hope to do this summer is share blog posts about each of my classes. It'll be good for me to go back, look at what I've done, and see it come together in a place besides my mind.  I've also been working the flower photography when I have a chance. And, my veggie garden is looking good this year, I want to share that too! And write. I want to write.