17 July 2011

Harambe(e) Gardens, July

P7150206 We’ve been blessed with sunny skies so far this summer, but not terribly warm temperatures to accompany the nice weather. Things are growing along, however, with various layers of protection and crossed fingers. As always it’s a grand experiment, and a venue for heaps of learning and note-taking. Feelings of over-planting here, and under-planting there, will bear themselves out over the season. It’s hard to believe that it’s already mid-July, but that’s how summer tends to shake out – full-on until one morning you wake up and it’s dark and November. And you start wondering when would be the best time to head to Mexico..

But here we are, mid-July and in full swing of garden-life. (in addition, of course, to the work-life and the adventuring-life) Yesterday I cut my first real flush of flowers.  I’ve been picking at them over the past few weeks, a small bouquet here and there for the house. But I held off for a bit to really see if I had any capacity to create a bouquet of flowers that did justice to their vibrancy and beauty.

P7150202 It’s no secret that I’m fairly enamored with this idea of cut flowers, but without much background to guide me. It may just be in the genes, as my dad decided one day to turn a field into a cut flower side-business while I was in college. I think I got the feel of it, although it took awhile with some serious back-and-forth. I made 9 bouquets, some printed tags, and off I went to deliver around to friends and family (and one to Wendell, since he was right down the road). The first delivery of Harambee Gardens! Woohoo!

P7160235 P7160239 P7160240 P7160241 In addition, I also ate my first strawberries from the garden this weekend. Still heaps of most-beautiful spinach (Tyee, the best variety I’ve grown so far), mustard greens, mizuna (mostly bolted by now), kale, and radishes. I think I see some wee-baby plums on one of the trees, and the mock orange and monarda rose shrubs that I got from Fritz Creek earlier this summer are beautiful in bloom.

P7100182 P7100184 P7100186 P7150199 The chickens are loving their new aviary/coop…they are much more skittish than they used to be, but that’s good since they are already such easy prey…no need to have them sticking their long necks through the chicken fencing to greet us when we walk up like they did at first.

P6250102P6250097 And anyways, I’ve found the key to their little chicken hearts – jewelweed.  They eat it voraciously out of my hand, so much so that it boarders on creepy. But I love our little chicken flock…I’ll get some pictures up here soon (the one above is from when we first put them in the coop, the “aviary” is above).  Many many thanks to Nola for chain-sawing their space into being!

Of Mountains and Halibut.

The summer has largely been gardens, growing, watering, weeding, harvesting and planting some more. During July we’ve made it out and about a couple of times so far to adventure beyond the innumerable house projects.


Over fourth of July weekend, Ben, Kaya, Pemba and I headed over to spend a couple of nights exploring up on Portlock Plateau across the Bay. We moored the boat at the Saddle Trail and headed over, across the tram, and up the glacier-side to Emerald Lake. Whew ~ that trail has not had much love lately. It was definitely in worse shape than in August of 2008, the last time I was up there with Rachel and Jen. Despite a brief period of bad-attitude (while mired in mosquito/devil’s club-uphill-hell), it was a most-fabulous trip. Sleeping in a tent again was fabulous, cooking out and having the dogs in the mountains. I love it all. We found snow, beautiful alpine plants, steep cliffs, sapphire lakes, mountains mountains, glaciers, and the Gulf of Alaska! Oh, and Pemba found a porcupine. We held her down and removed the 30+ quills from her face, but it begged the question – what if that were Kaya? It’s on the list to consult with the vet about bringing some doggie-downers out with us for extended trips.


These are long days for the dogs, who aren’t accustomed to 9 mile days running back, forth, up and down. Kaya slept like a champ, and definitely seemed to be in her perferred environment. Pemba had a lot more concern about the world, and spent a lot of time shivering. On the second night we let her into the tent…she was so beat from all of the running she didn’t even try to take over all of the prime sleeping spots like she normally does. P7030140 P7030142Looking east down the mountains to the head of Kachemak Bay, across the Portlock Valley and down the Martin River valley.P7030145 P7030148Looking west, down at Grewingk Lake, Halibut Cove, and the Spit off in the distance on the right. P7030151Ben, full of joy, pushing large rocks off of high cliffs....P7040168Last weekend, following our fabulous alpine-adventuring, we headed out into the Bay/Inlet with Jason and Annelisa to try our hand at halibut fishing. It was a glassy day out there, beautiful and chock-a-block full of boats! I actually just forget about the sport fleet – all of those folks who head out at the crack of dawn for a chance to bob around with a weighted, hooked line a couple of hundred feet down on the bottom of the sea floor. We spent nearly 8 hours, moving a bit from here to there, trying to “feel'” the fish way under.

P7090170 P7090171Pemba {hearts} fishing. P7090178 Charlie and Elias joined the efforts for the day, and caught 3 nice flatty fish. For our efforts we came home with 3 ‘buts and a cod. Some of which we froze, but also that night we had a good ‘ole fish fry and it was goooooood. It felt great to be out fishing, and to catch my first halibut ever! After scanning the heads of 150,000+ halibut, it was gratifying to pull one off of the bottom myself. I didn’t even check to see if it was tagged… P7090177Ben caught a halibut! P7090180And so did I! I contend that mine was bigger, but in all of the excitement I forgot to check. So….we’ll just go with mine was bigger.P7090181

10 July 2011

Southern Exposure

Earlier this summer I took a quick 5 day trip to Charleston, South Carolina.  After twenty hours of transit, I arrived to a heat wave that had the residents complaining of the temperatures and humidity.  Last I checked, 65F = shorts weather, so I didn’t have much to prepare me for the 90+ days with high humidity.  Nor, and I would say even worse, for the –15 air conditioning at the hotel/conference center where I stayed.  I was in Charleston (to be correct, it was North Charleston (and a strip mall)(2 miles from the airport)(not that I’m complaining)) for the River Network’s annual River Rally.  This year was no less inspiring than 2009 in Baltimore, and I’m ever-grateful for the opportunity to spend a couple of days with hundreds of professionals who dedicate their lives to saving our rivers, our fish, and our wildness, for our children and our collective sanity. 

The conference was great, but so too was the exposure to the South.  In many ways it felt like traveling to another country.  I saw and felt very little of my cultural and daily life reflected around me while there.  I took one day and strolled downtown, taking pictures, trying to not pass out from the heat, and generally loving the different-ness of it all.


I started the day at Waterfront Park, at a fountain full of gleeful children, surrounded by hot and resting parents.  There is something so special when the temperatures are extreme, in one way or another, and people come together to cool off or warm up.  City parks are fabulous for people-watching, and in the heat of summer, people-watching opportunities abound.


Of course, you should be aware of the park rules while people-watching, or cooling off in the fountain.  Specifically not permitted is “running, boisterous, or rough play.”  Lest we become too boisterous in the fountain.

If you’re feeling too boisterous, you might consider getting an Italian Ice.  From the Italian Ice girls, of course.  On nearly every street corner there was an Italian Ice cart, staffed by an attractive 20-something offering free samples.  This boy in the red shirt is partaking in an Italian Ice, and from the other side of the street I felt I was witnessing an integral part of downtown Charleston summer culture. 


Charleston is really old.  My hometown is also really old, and it was so enjoyable to read plaques on houses, street corners, and in the parks that told some snapshot of a long-ago history relative to that place.  Executed and buried gentleman pirates in the nearby salt marshes was one of my favorites. 

The houses were HUGE.  I mean really really large and excessive.  An often quoted statistic from this area is that along these streets are the highest property values in the country.  I wanted so badly to see a resident from one of these places.  Just see them, maybe carrying in some groceries?  Or going out to the movies?  Who are these people?  What is it like to grow up in one of these places, to come home after a trying day, or after a romantic date or after just another-day-at-the-office to a 10+ bedroom home? 

Apparently you don’t need a normal bank.  You need “wealth management” services.  We’re not in Kansas anymore…P6050320



As best I could see, peering in the gates and being as nosey as I dared, the gardens and yards were incredibly well manicured and lush.  The churches, which were plentiful throughout, offered an opportunity to stroll through some of the backyards into the cemeteries, which were similarly maintained.


But then I found the Unitarian Universalists.  If I weren’t buried on a hilltop, on a mountain or by a free river, this is the kind of place I’d want to be buried.  Beautifully wild and cared for, with love around every corner.  Here may have been as close as I felt to home as anywhere on the trip.