Archive for June 2016

And The Livin’ Is Easy

June 26, 2016


Oh summertime. Those sweet early summer days when it’s hot but not suffocating, when all I want to do it be in the garden and the vineyard. And put things up.

I’ve been having a sweetly old-fashioned weekend, making vin de noix, then raspberry jam from my garden raspberries, then French-style apricot jam with fruit that was a gift from a friend. Americans like their jam set up, firm, jam that behaves itself on a piece of toast. Hence my raspberry version, seeds and all, cooked to 220° to ensure a firm set. The French like their jam runny, oozing off a buttered baguette or spooned over yogurt, with big chunks of fruit, and so my apricot jam macerates overnight, cooks to only 210°, and has mouthfuls of succulent apricot flesh. Chacun à son gout, to each her own, and I’m pretty sure that both are delicious, containing, as they do, noting but fruit and sugar. My friends and family will have to tell me, since I won’t be tasting either of them.

Nor will I drink the vin de noix, since it too contains plenty of sugar. It’s funny, this compulsion I feel, to make things with beautiful summer produce that I’ll never taste. I do it for the pure joy of working with the ingredients, all jewel-like and filled with sunshine, and for the pleasure of giving and serving my creations to others. Weird, huh?

But I’ve also been harvesting kale and chard by the armload, as well as what I fear will be the last of the broccoli, lettuces and arugula for the season, and those I do devour happily. My tomatillo plant is covered with baby fruit, the cucumbers are scrambling up the trellis and flowering like mad, the beans are twining, and the tomatoes are just beginning to flower.

That’s life in the garden, one luscious things appears just as you’re mourning the passing of what came before. If you’re lucky, that’s life on Earth.


This Is My (New) Country

June 14, 2016


I needed to get away. The news of the Orlando massacre was more than I could bear, and I was bone-weary after finishing my first year of school. I planned a little overnight getaway for myself, just me, up in Joseph, Oregon. Everyone said it was so beautiful, and that the journey was almost better than the destination.


I headed out of town and up into the Blue Mountains, Very low mountains, but still.


Normally it’s about two hours from Walla Walla to Joseph, but I dawdled along, stopping to take pictures. For example, the Blue Mountains are sometimes red,


sometimes green.


This was my first glimpse of the Wallowa River far below,


and as soon as I could get right down to it I did.


It’s no wonder that it was way past lunchtime when I pulled into the town of Enterprise, Oregon, and up to the Red Rooster Cafe. Which, if you’re ever in Enterprise, is a great place to stop, with food that really exceeded my expectations for freshness and imagination. And there’s also a Napa Auto Parts store, which saved my butt on my return trip by providing me with the new windshield wipers I’d been procrastinating about for the past few months.


Pulling in to Joseph, with its lovely backdrop of the Wallowa Mountains, I discovered that every street corner displays bronzes from local foundries, to very good effect.


This is Nez Perce country, and Chief Joseph presides over his former dominion.


But I was staying at the Wallowa Lake Lodge, so after a thorough walkabout on the main street of Joseph, I went just a few miles out of town to the lake. The lobby is everything you would want in a lodge.


And even the hallway was picturesque. It’s old-fangled, no TVs, no phones in the rooms, but, surprisingly, reliable wi-fi.


The lodge isn’t actually on the lake; instead it borders the Wallowa River which flows to the lake in the very near distance.


And here’s where the magic and the surprise entered the picture. My friends and classmates Kelly and JJ, by the purest coincidence, happened to be camping in the state park just next to the lodge. So they were able to walk over and sit on the lawn overlooking the river with me, and a really nice bottle of wine,


before we had a pretty decent dinner in the lodge’s dining room. That was followed by a sleep with all the windows open to hear the tree frogs singing. Little did I know that what they were singing about was the fact that it was about to rain for the next five days. So in the morning all was sodden, but what is a lodge lobby for, if not sitting cozily and reading?


I had planned a morning trip to the town’s foundry, which gives one guided tour each day, and then the rain convinced Kelly and JJ to delay at least some of their hiking plans and join me on the foundry visit, so what I had envisioned as a solitary trip was something entirely better.


They make a lot of amazing things in that foundry, but we weren’t allowed to take pictures until the very end, in the Life Size room. This is a firefighter in progress, I think for a memorial. And indeed, he looks deathly.


And remember that stunning eagle up top? Here he’s posing with Kelly and JJ, showing off his mighty size.


Since it was raining, and Minou was home alone, I decided to call it a trip. But wait, I forgot to mention the distillery, right near the foundry. They give tastes, and those tastes are very convincing. So’s their story, since the distiller is a grain farmer who decided to turn his rye, corn, and barley into some really nice spirits.


On the way home, just outside the little town of Lostine, was this perfect time capsule.


The weather was still unsettled when I dropped into the valley, which was looking absolutely at its best. And then I was home, heart full of beauty and camaraderie, completely transported into another mind-scape after being away only 30 hours.

And I can report that Minou didn’t approve of being left home alone one little bit, and is still talking to me about it.