Great Smoky Weekend

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How long had it been since my last girls’ weekend? Ages. (Really.) Even longer since I’d seen my two friends (high school). We met at the Buckhorn Inn, a lovely bed and breakfast in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Great Smoky WeekendMornings started with tasty breakfasts and a stroll to visit the inn’s swans, Penn and Teller. Swans are like geese–they bite! We still brought them bread to nibble.Great Smoky WeekendWe spent the weekend meandering around the nearby parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a peaceful backdrop for reminiscing.Great Smoky WeekendRoadside view.Great Smoky WeekendOne of the old homestead cabins. A reminder of the pioneers’ hard lives.Great Smoky WeekendOne of many roadside waterfalls. Blink and you’ll miss them.Great Smoky WeekendDeer know when it’s hunting season … and where. They are happy to come out and play. Great Smoky WeekendEven those of us who drive past don’t disturb the young deer feeding nearby.Great Smoky WeekendStreet life takes on a different meaning here.Great Smoky WeekendWhen you stop traffic, you can take as long as you like.Great Smoky WeekendSome preferred to simply pass through without fanfare.Great Smoky WeekendA rare moment without cars.Great Smoky WeekendJoli and Patty.

Far From Home

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While Bryon is tilling the garden, I am nearly on the other side of the world. Instead of picking up my regular trusty camera and walking down past the chickens and apple trees I snap what whizzes past in the chaos that is daily life in Ethiopia’s capital with a pocket Point & Shoot. The first few days it looks like this–a jumble of cars, tin shacks, and people.Far From HomeMy driver honks to warn oncoming jaywalkers (one has a package perched on his head).Far From HomeHow do you handle the load? Far From HomeAny way that works.Far From HomeApparently there are no height restrictions on moving goods by truck.From where I sat (trapped in a van), it was difficult to photograph people as they went about their business. Local women cover their hair, and sometimes their faces. Far From HomeOnce when I ventured into the nearby market, one of the hotel staff offered to show me where to buy cheaper souvenirs. Perhaps he was only trying to be friendly, but I was alone and it made me uneasy.Far From HomeNear the souvenir market. Dogs are part of the neighborhood.Far From HomeAddis is changing. A lot of construction is underway:  shopping malls, luxury highrises, office buildings.Far From HomeA local grocery.Far From HomeBarricades separate construction sites from the traffic.Far From HomeYesterday we were running late, so our driver took a shortcut … Far From Home… through a construction zone.Far From HomeMetal shacks with satellite dishes:  that pretty much sums up the contradictions.

Clean Slate

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While people far away are stuck in the grips of the polar vortex, Bryon and I ponder the garden. It had become almost feral during the August peak, but now it was simply unruly.Clean SlateIt was past time to get it under some sort of control. The alternative was to be invaded by more sorrel, sweet potatoes, and rosemary. We also decided that grape tomatoes were more trouble than they are worth–better to grow Romas or San Marzanos. Clean SlateFirst things first:  major clean up. The renegade sweet potatoes, peppers, and rosemary were dug up and tossed over the fence. How many pounds of old, purple, gold, or puny potatoes were excavated as we raked our way toward the coop? At least 40, but they’re long gone–eaten by one of the night critters.

Apricot buds, trimmed five days ago. Blossoms still blooming

Apricot buds, trimmed five days ago. Blossoms still blooming.Clean SlateThe girls, waiting for a treat.

A lone early blackberry flower. A sign of things to come.

An early blackberry flower. A sign of things to come.

Sweetwater Reservoir

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It’s January, or at least that’s what the calendar says. Last Sunday, the thermometer said otherwise:  72 degrees.Sweetwater ReservoirCalifornia drought conditions are widespread and severe, and farther north there are fires.Sweetwater ReservoirAlthough the land is not exempt from the heat, the effects are mildly tempered by its location near the reservoir.Sweetwater ReservoirThis is a popular trail with cyclists, joggers, and hikers. Bryon and I did a 3-mile round-trip hike, but it’s possible to do a longer one.Sweetwater ReservoirMiners’ lettuce. It actually has a mild flavor. Sweetwater ReservoirI had no idea why it was left there.Sweetwater ReservoirLeaves along the trail.

Home for the Holidays

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Final grades were posted, and tuition bills paid–just in time. The boys loaded backpacks into the car and headed home ahead of the pre-Christmas cold front coming to Flagstaff. The day after Christmas was set aside for family time in the garden. Here is a view from the chicken coop. Home for the HolidaysBok choy always grows well in our gardens. This came from the upper beds Bryon and I planted a few weeks ago.Home for the HolidaysBryon rigged the framing himself and draped the netting over it. Plastic sheeting covered both beds while the seeds were sprouting.Home for the HolidaysSome of our lettuce (and a stowaway). Volunteer plants sneak into the beds and make themselves at home. Not all of them are weeds.Home for the HolidaysSome, but not all, of the persimmons are ripe. This is the first year the deer, raccoons, and coyotes didn’t get to the fruit first.Home for the HolidaysLemons! Time for tea.Home for the HolidaysBryon and the boys digging for sweet potatoes. He and I had already harvested a wheelbarrow full of them for Thanksgiving, and there were plenty left down there.The goal was to dig them out intact.Home for the HolidaysNick, with one of our sweet potatoes. Home for the HolidaysThey dug out several of these, which we estimate weigh at least five or six pounds. Home for the HolidaysEven now we can still scrounge a ripe pepper or two. Home for the HolidaysSweet potato leaves, which give a hint of what’s growing on runners in the soil below.Home for the HolidaysThe final haul? We estimated about two hundred pounds of sweet potatoes. Let’s see … there’s soup, bread, pie, stew …

Long Time, No See

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The summer is winding down, and so much remains undone.Long Time, No SeeI have to watch where I step, because it is almost late afternoon. Snakes may be underfoot.Long Time, No SeeParsley to the left of me, potatoes to the right.Long Time, No SeeThe soil is quite rich. (Hat tip to our mulch pile, fortified by chicken manure).Long Time, No SeeBlack beans, which dried on the vine.Long Time, No SeeGarlic, a work in progress. Long Time, No SeeReplanting the garlic. Investing in the culinary future.Long Time, No SeeTiger melons, stalking the jungle.Long Time, No See“Even when the garden doesn’t look its best, you can always find enough here to eat for a day.” (Easily.)Long Time, No SeeThe sorrel was planted last year. Bryon tilled the soil, turning over what was left, and it just kept growing.Long Time, No SeeA sweet potato lurking in the center of a wheel of roots and leaves.Long Time, No SeeCasaba melon, very sweet and floral. Also good in fruit smoothies.Long Time, No SeeOne of today’s harvest.

Some For Now … Some For Later

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During the week Bryon filled several buckets with the Fuji and Pink Lady apples from our trees. By Sunday afternoon there were a dozen jar filled with delicious treats (and a couple of gallon bags stashed in the pantry as well for earlier snacking). Some For Now ... Some For LaterThe fact that we still have a couple of trees producing apples was reason enough to splurge on a larger dehydrator. This year we only did the apples … imagine what we’ll be able to do next summer if we prepare and start early–peaches, apricots, plums, and nectarines. I’m not even including the vegetables. Yikes!

About Those Apples …

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The birds know when they ripen before we do. It has become a race to pluck our Pink Ladies, walk off with our Wealthys, or snatch our Suntans. About Those Apples ...The apples mature at different times, and some varieties are better for cooking, eating, or pollinating.About Those Apples ...But what do you with all of them? How much pie can you bake? (Julian, the self-proclaimed apple-pie capital of our region, has this covered. Trust me on this.)About Those Apples ...First, Bryon needs to peel them. (The deer have assured us that the peels and cores do not go to waste.)About Those Apples ...Soaking them in a bath of cinnamon, citric acid and a little sugar helps preserve color and flavor.WeAbout Those Apples ... We have four layers of drying apples. With patience (and a little self-control) we can enjoy a tasty snack.About Those Apples ...The persimmons are also ripening on the tree, but the last few years have taught us that patience is not always a virtue. The raccoons have beaten us to the prize nearly every time.

Scrounging For Lunch

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It’s a typical Saturday ritual:  I’m catching up on work.

“What’s for lunch?”Scrounging For Lunch

“Oh no, I couldn’t–it’s too pretty.” (This is a French heirloom pumpkin crossed with a Jarrahdale.)Scrounging For Lunch“Do we have the ingredients?”Scrounging For LunchWe only needed the white part of the leek.Scrounging For LunchSome fennel …Scrounging For LunchA few white potatoes …Scrounging For LunchAfrican red onions …Scrounging For Lunchand some shallots. (Bryon’s shallots have done well this year.)Scrounging For LunchThe carrots would be put to use another time. It was easier–and harder–to concentrate with a pot simmering on the stove nearby.

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Summer Overgrowth

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The boys are home for a few days before school starts, so guess where Bryon put them to work?

With other projects taking over, the garden reverted to an unruly sanctuary.

With other projects taking over, the garden reverted to an unruly sanctuary.

One of the eggplant we didn't even pick today. There's so much here.
One of the eggplant we didn’t even pick today. There are so many here.

Okay, it can officially be summer now. We have heirloom tomatoes.

Okay, it can officially be summer now. We have heirloom tomatoes.

Yellow cherry tomatoes. Ripe and sweet.
Yellow cherry tomatoes. Ripe and sweet.

One of our visitors. We found him in a bucket and set him free (before Buster could chase him).

A visitor. We found him in a bucket and set him free (before Buster could chase him).

Concord grapes, almost ripe.
Concord grapes, almost ripe.

Peaches. Bryon is canning them as I blog.

Peaches. Bryon is canning them as I blog.

Nick, with more tomatoes.
Nick, with more tomatoes.

Pluots, a cross between plums and apricots. Our trees have been very productive.

Pluots, a cross between plums and apricots. Our trees have been very productive.

Spider mites have caused a lot of damage. We can only wonder how much more we would have harvested. When the boys are at school, more than we could have handled, probably.
Spider mites have caused a lot of damage. We can only wonder how much more we would have harvested. (When the boys are at school, more than we could have handled, probably.)

Squash flower.
Squash flower.

Another visitor.

Another visitor.

Summer squash.
Summer squash.

Time to start canning.

Time to start canning.