Have you ever been to a tulip festival? Chloe and I came upon one by chance yesterday. We were a few hours into our homeward journey from a friend’s house north of Seattle and were more than ready to stretch our legs. This festival was at the Holland America Bulb Farm in Woodland, Washington. Such a sight! So many colors and so many gorgeous varieties. I’ve seen pictures of masses of blooms, but to see it in person…
This was our first tulip farm experience. We stayed about an hour, enough to browse the garden gifts, sample some “deep fried popcorn”, sniff some different varieties and wander among the u-pick area to select the stems we wanted to take home. Of course, I also took a lot of photos. While most of our drive had been rainy, the sun just happened to come out when we arrived. For the record, I did not alter the color of these photos at all. They were truly that rich and vibrant against the gray intensity of the sky.
I’m so glad we took the opportunity to stop. It is so easy to focus on the destination, and not take time to savor the journey. A fitting and memorable reminder to “stop and smell the roses” (- er, tulips). Don’t you agree?
Did you know it will officially be spring next week? I’m so glad! We’re seeing signs of it throughout our neighborhood, little splashes of brightness here and there – daffodils, crocus, candy tufts – and our daphne smells divine! But most of all, I love seeing the plum blossoms start to open. Every year about this time, I take a moment to bust out the good camera and document the opening of their tiny pink buds. So sweet and serene and lovely.
This plum tree is actually in our neighbor’s yard. A few years ago she allowed us to dig up a runner that we placed it in a pot. It hasn’t gotten much bigger, but just last week David planted it in the back corner of our yard. Someday we’ll have plums! I’m looking forward to it.
Our christmas camellia is beginning to bloom! Must mean we’re getting closer to the big day! This is our first winter with this little bush – we bought it at a local nursery this summer for its glossy evergreen leaves. But seeing the little red beauties with their bright gold stamens pop open at this unexpected time of year is really a treat! Now I wish I had chosen one twice as big! Wouldn’t it be nice to someday dress a holiday table with fresh cuttings straight from the yard? Such a neat way to add to the holiday magic.
Have you seen one of these before? I hadn’t, until we moved in to our house six years ago. It is an artichoke that has been left to flower. Isn’t it magnificent? Kind of structural and prehistoric looking, in the way a passion flower is. A couple of months ago my mom was visiting. She picked a few, sliced and steamed them, and added them to couscous. I was pretty impressed. We had never eaten them before, and just enjoyed the flowering. They attract lots of bees, too. They burrow in between the florets as if in bee nirvana. Some don’t come out. I wonder if it is a sweet death, gorged on whatever it is they are eating in there.
The third photo shows the mystery plant that Chloe brought home from preschool earlier this summer. Turns out it is a sunflower. A giant sunflower. If I’d have known that I would not have planted it in our vegetable garden. It perplexes me that the teacher wouldn’t have chosen something smaller, but c’est la vie. I’ve kind of grown to like it. And the rest of our garden? Despite not giving it as much attention this year (with the baby and all), it is doing better than ever. Who would have guessed?
Our lavender is in full bloom, making all the bees and butterflies around here crazy happy. It is such a beautiful color. And the smell… gorgeous.
At the end of summer I’ll dry the stems and place the scented buds in my drawers or hanging in fine mesh bags in the closet. I didn’t get around to it last year, so I want to be extra good about it this year. There are about a million things that can be made out of lavender, too – from salt or sugar scrubs, sachets, wands, to even ice cream. So many choices, so little time.
My go-to gift for kids this summer has been Insect Lore’s Live Butterfly Garden. After about the third gift, and hearing rave reviews, I finally ordered one for myself Chloe. Basically, the kit comes with a mesh “habitat” container in which to place the caterpillars once they become chrysalides. Before that happens, you have to order the caterpillars online or by mail using the code from the kit. Ours came in about a week. It included 5 tiny caterpillars in a clear plastic cup, complete with food. We’ve been watching them grow daily, and now they are huge! Just this morning we found the first one attached to the roof, within its chrysalis. How exciting!
When I looked at them again around lunch time, I noticed the chrysalide was shaking like a leaf. I took a video of it below. According to the pamplet the shaking was “a natural instinct to ward of predators.” Huh. The other caterpillar attached to the roof looks like it’s praying, utterly still with its head reverently bent. If I become fanciful, I can imagine it in a medatative state, gathering its focus and praying for strength for the miraculous metamorphosis to come.
5 Crazy Painted Lady Butterfly Facts:
She tastes with her feet.
She has 10,000 eyes.
She breathes through her abdomen.
She can lay up to 500 eggs.
She may travel 1,000 miles in her lifetime.
Anyway, it has been interesting, and I really hope to see them transform. When I was in grade school we did a similar project, except almost all of the class insects failed. Majorly disappointing. It is nice to have this opportunity again, and to share it as a family. Hopefully this time it will be a success and we’ll have beautiful butterflies to release in a couple weeks!
Update: See photos of our emerged butterflies here!
It’s August! Wow! I need to really start soaking up the summer, because I know it will be gone all too soon. Check out this lovely week we’re in for:
While we Portlanders complain about the grey and rainy winters, it is the perfect summers that we live for (thankfully, not the scorching heat waves allotted to the rest of the nation). Everything is so sunny and green and beautiful out right now. Despite it’s early neglect, our garden is exploding. David’s mom did a bunch of weeding (among the many other tasks she accomplished) while she was here, and we are eating lots of fresh green beans, spinach and rainbow chard, and picked our first red tomato!
I’m happy to say that life is beginning to take on a pace that I am finally beginning to keep up with. For one thing, Leo is starting to have a recognizable schedule. I’m beginning to understand his needs, although sometimes still there is no telling and I have to try everything I can think of. Also, we finally finished the hall bathroom (aka Chloe’s Bathroom). I LOVE how it turned out, even more so than our master bathroom. Interestingly, too, we spent way less on the hall bath than the master bath, yet it still turned out better. I hope to share photos of it soon!
Although I lamented that our Colorado visit would include no snow, it finally did snow the day before we left. It was perfect: cold, soft, white, and a special experience for Chloe that she will rarely ever get in our part of Oregon. She had a great time, especially being pulled on her first sled ride. Despite freezing fingers and a rudolph-like red nose, she hardly seemed bothered by the falling temperature. I had to go in and warm up long before she did (plus my camera was getting soaked). Chloe was just having too much fun.
And here is the one glimpse I saw of the wood-pile rabbit. What a cutie!
Compared to last year, we’re having much better luck with tomatoes in the garden this year. We’ve got one each of Roma, Marzano, and Early Girl, plus a few volunteer cherries, which I believe are Sun Gold. Mostly we eat the tomatoes sliced (except the cherries, which we just pop in our mouths), sometimes with salad dressing, topped with a bit of feta and herbs, or simply a dash of salt and pepper.
David spent a portion of the afternoon working in our barely accessible crawl space putting up insulation, and when he came out he said he couldn’t wait to see what delicious meal I was going to cook up for dinner (hint, hint). So, considering the fact we haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while, there wasn’t much to work with except the garden.
In a big pot, I sauteed a yellow onion in olive oil until somewhat clear, then threw in maybe 4-6 cups of chopped tomatoes, 2 cups of chicken stock and a loose handful of chopped basil. It simmered about 30 minutes or so, before I added salt and pepper and pureed it in a blender. Then I strained it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lingering tomato skins. Before serving I added a dollop of heavy cream and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. Paired with just-baked cornbread (packaged Trader Joe’s is my easy favorite), it was good to the last drop.
One of the highlights of our trip to Washington, DC (besides spending time with family) was the afternoon we spent at the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory and the National Museum of the American Indian, right next door. Despite growing up here, there are still a lot of places like this that I have yet to explore. There is a cool feature on the Conservatory’s web site to take a virtual tour, but it is not the same as being there, of course. I took a ton of photos with my new camera, everything was just so beautiful. I think the orchids were my favorite, but I also found the spice (vanilla, cacao, allspice, nutmeg, etc) and other exotic plants fascinating.
Parking downtown is always tricky, but we were lucky to find a metered spot not too far away. I would highly recommend the metro, especially if you don’t have a car or want to be bothered with the traffic and parking. Like many of the memorials and monuments in DC, these two were free. I didn’t take many pictures of the American Indian Museum, but if you visit be sure to have a bite at the “Mitsitam” (meaning “Let’s eat!”) café to try the authentic Native foods of the Western Hemisphere. We tried the Tamales de Rajas with Red Chili Sauce, the Black Bean and Beef Paspusas, and Fresh Yucca Fries with Lime and Cilantro.
Click here to see more photos from the Garden Conservatory.
lithodora ‘grace ward’ & yellow swallowtail butterfly on wallflowers
It feels like it has been a while since we’ve enjoyed an entirely sunny weekend. On Saturday we took a ride out to our favorite nursery (again!) to pick up some color for the two bare spots still left. We decided on shade tolerant impatients for under our front yard japanese maple, and a contrasting mix of spreading blue lithodora and rich magenta heather to add color to the back border of our “round” garden. The only spur-of-the-moment purchase was a lovely blue flowering evergreen called ceanothus victoria. We just couldn’t pass it up, and used David’s 30% off coupon on it. No idea where it’s final resting place will be just yet, but it needs full sun
On Sunday morning we woke up early and decided to head out to Ikea. We weren’t looking for much – a couple replacement 365+ square plates that mysteriously got chipped, a cushion for my office chair, two small vases and a couple of other kitchen and house gadgets. It was also a good opportunity for us to look at the nursery furniture. I thought I’d pick up some fabric, too, but nothing really appealed to me this time around. And if you ever find yourself at Ikea in the morning, their $1.99 breakfast is a tasty value (scrambled eggs, bacon, sticks of crispy french toast and breakfast potatoes).
The butterfly photo was shot moments after we pulled into our driveway. With our side garden in bloom, we always take a moment to admire the flowers when we get in or out of the car. This butterfly was taking a quick dip into our wallflowers and I was able to snap just a few pics before it fluttered away. The rest of the day was spent reading, helping David briefly while he installed irrigation to our vegetable garden, and a quick run to the grocery store for some Ben & Jerry’s and other staples. A sweet way to end the weekend.
Last night we went and saw Cirque du Soliel’s Corteo with our friends Alex and Marcy. I don’t know how Portland ended up on the North American tour, but I am so glad because it was AWESOME. One of the best traveling shows since Allegria. If you have an opportunity to buy tickets – DO IT! You’ll be glad you did.
In other news, spring is really beginning to show her face around here. Our yard has multiple spots of color and blooms – bright pink primroses, purple hyacinths, mixed anemones, pale pink daphne, and even our rhubarb has burst upon the scene. Yesterday we even picked up several pots of primula to fill near the front steps and two gardenias (for where, I have no idea). The thing I can’t figure out is why my spinach seeds haven’t sprouted in the garden yet. Am I just being impatient? Maybe something has eaten them or the seeds were no longer viable? I guess only time will tell.
The weather has reverted to its normal cloudy grey self today. Right now all their little heads are tightly closed against the cold, but this weekend several little blooms peeked out to say hello. David and I both snapped several pictures, hoping to preserve the feeling of joy at these first little signs of spring. Neither the snowdrop or the yellow crocus shown above are ones that we’d planted, so their arrival is that much more pleasantly unexpected.
Yesterday I woke up to honest-to-goodness sunlight streaming through the house. What a miracle! There has hardly been even a partial day of sun since our return from the holidays, mostly just cold, rain, grey, rain, freezing, grey, overcast, rain, cloudy, dreary, rain. I’m sure it has been affecting my mood. The sun makes me happy. I like a few days of rain, okay, but weeks of it? No can do. So why do I suffer through this lousy weather here in Portland? Because the summers are phenomenal. As is autumn, and spring, too.
I ran out of the house almost immediately to snap photos of the frosty ice crystals that formed overnight on the plants and then later the three of us dressed warm and spent the afternoon along the Wilson River. David fished, Barkley explored and marked his territory, and I took photographs and read (fingers were too cold to knit, although I did bring it along). It was so good to go for a drive in the country and get out of the house.