Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Last Day of 2010!

And suddenly it is the 31st of December. A year filled with happiness, loss, learning, and joys has come to an end. The New Year is an empty canvas already starting to fill with newly hatched plans and promise for both my garden plots and this blog. If you have stopped by 4 Hills of Squash this past year I hope that you have occasionally found something of interest . And if you have taken the time to post - Thanks! It really does make my day to read your comments. Wishing you all a Happy New Year filled with happiness, health, and good growing!

2000 ? - 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Snow Flurry

Last night around 9:00 we noticed that is had started snowing quite hard and sticking. Our "Snow Storm" lasted for about 15 minutes and we awoke to a world dusted in white. The temperature was below freezing and the road were a bit icy. Tonight calls for more cold temps. Nothing here compared to the storms around the rest of the country but we will take what we can get!  Stay warm where ever you are!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope that your Christmas is filled with love, laughter, family, and cozy hiding places. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

I heard the bells on Christmas Day.
Their old familiar carols play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat.
Of peace on earth goodwill to men.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Out of the Darkness

We came out of the longest night of the year with an awe-inspiring sunrise this morning. The whole Eastern sky was various shades of pink and yellow as I stepped outside at a little after 7:30 AM. A beautiful start to our shortest day of the year. Happy first day of Winter!

Monday, December 20, 2010

To Go into the Dark

Tonight is the longest night of the year. Tomorrow will follow with the shortest day of the year and then the Earth will begin a slow re-birth toward Spring. May this dark night be filled with light and  promise for you!

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light,
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.

Wendell Berry

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cold and Clear

The last few days have been my favorite kind of Winter weather - cold & sunny. On the drive home tonight we started to view an amazing sunset, full of hot pinks, yellows, and oranges. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived home and grabbed my camera, it was all but finished. But even the tail-end of it was a joy.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A lovely December day

Today dawned sunny and bright. Through mid-afternoon the sky was blue and the air was crisp but pleasant. When I was returned from a walk down to the mailbox, I stumbled upon a group of three deer enjoying the pretty day. A young buck and two does were bedded down, chewing their cud. I hope that you are taking advantage of this rare, sunny, December day by enjoying some outdoor time too!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year;
to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow.

 ~Edward Sandford Martin

After another night dipping down into the high 20's, Thanksgiving Day dawned clear and bright. It was the perfect morning to take a hike around the property before heading off to a wonderful afternoon feast.

There are just a few leaves still clinging onto the Sweet Gum trees.

The birdbaths were all still frozen solid from 3 nights of below freezing temperatures.

Most of the snow from Tuesday has melted but there are still patches to be found. This was the north facing base of a stump, dotted with snow and mushrooms. Below, a different stump tucked away in a dense meadow.

No hike would be complete without a cat companion. Parvati was so glad to be outside after two days of cold, inclement weather. She is definitely a fair-weather girl. Wherever you may be today, I hope the sun is shining and you are surrounded by great food and lots of Friends and Family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The First Frost..and the First Snow!

This morning, around 2:30 AM it began to snow. It produced just enough snow to cover everything in a beautiful coat of white. What you can not see, underneath the snow, is the frozen sheet of ice. It rained hard last night before the temperatures dropped and the rain turned into ice and snow.The funny thing about all of this is this is not only our first snow of the season, but also our very first frost of the year!

Above, Mullen leaves stacked with snow. The funniest sights of the day were all of the still-blooming plants covered in snow. Below, a yellow cone-flower.

And the strangest combination - a  blooming sunflower in the snow!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another Mushroom Variety

Last Sunday I posted pictures of all of the different mushroom varieties that I found on my hike that day. Since posting, this amazing clump has sprouted by our front walkway. Yet another unique variety!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Farmer's Market - Last Day Outside for 2010

Today was the last outdoor Farmer's Market for 2010. Next weekend, the Market moves indoors to the Lane Events Center at the Fairgrounds. The weather was overcast and cold today. The crowds were pretty light and everyone was wearing sweaters and jackets.

Storage crops were well represented at the different stalls.

I love the ribbed texture and grey color of the "Jarrahdale" winter squash. I would really like to try to grow this variety next year.

I wasn't sure what was in the basket, pictured above. It was fresh Ginger.

Brussel Sprouts were a popular item. I think people must be practicing their Thanksgiving recipes.

Since we still haven't had a killing frost, there were buckets and buckets of cut flower for sale. I particularly loved the ornamental cabbage that a clever florist was using in bouquets. So pretty and so very clever!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Falling Back & Mushroom Hunting

This early morning we officially "fell-back" an hour and now it suddenly feels like Winter to me. Dusk came right around 5:00 tonight and it immediately felt like 8 PM . I have such a hard time being productive after dark . I am too much like chicken I guess and derive so much of my energy from the sun. Fortunately, today's weather included some sunny breaks between the downpours of rain. Since this last week had been so warm and mild, I decided it would be a good time to walk the property and look for mushrooms. Sure enough, I had lots of interesting mushroom to search out and find. I do not know my native mushrooms by name, so I just enjoyed their amazing diversity of size, form, and color.

This bunch was down in my big garden and was growing under some fir trees. They were really pretty shades of browns and and on the older mushrooms the dome was turned inside out exposing the gills.

This one was also down under the fir trees. It had a neat sunken center ring and had fairly flat dome.

 This one had such a small, delicate stem which was holding up a thin, flat top.

I love this mushroom. The orange dome caught my eye as I was walking by. Between the thick yellow stalk and the bright orange top, it looks like it was colored by an artist. And something about it just screams "poisonous" to me!

This sweet mushroom wasn't very tall, but it had a wide top that looked like a toad should be sitting on it.

I found this small, white variety all over our property. The white color really stood out against all of the greens and browns.

And isn't this bunch cool. Long stems with very rounded domes. I wonder how many other varieties I missed seeing today on my walk. If you can identify any of the above pictures, please let me know!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Paperbark Maple

Our paperbark Maple tree is finally at peak color today. It is always the last of our "domestic" trees to leaf out in the Spring and the last tree to turn in color each Fall. But it is certainly worth the wait. Unfortunately, a few Falls back, a buck rubbed off two of the lower branches on the right side. This gives it a bit of a lopsided appearance now but it is still such a showstopper each Fall.

And our 3 Sweet Gums are looking lovely too!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An old Friend - Revisited

Many years ago, I grew a mix of Zinnias called "Persian Carpet". I distinctly remember that the plants grew well and I really enjoyed the blooms. But for some reason I quit planting that variety. This Spring, while shopping the seed racks and planning my garden, I stumbled upon packets of "Persian Carpet" Zinnias from Renee's Seeds. I instantly knew that I wanted to give them a try again and grabbed two packages.

As soon as my plants started to bloom, I remembered why I had enjoyed them so very much. The delicate, but strong 24" plants become just covered with 1" multi-colored blooms. Like all zinnias, the more you cut, the more they reward you with new blooms. The colors in the "Persian Carpet" mix lean heavily toward the yellows and oranges, but there are also a few blooms in maroon and cream to add interest. Some blooms are solid in color though you will find most are two toned. The plants are airy and more delicate looking than traditional zinnias varieties like "State Fair". I have also found that the small bloom size has mostly prevented my plants from falling over after an Oregon rain shower passes by.

As a funny aside to my story, you will notice in the above picture that I grew two rows of "Persian Carpet" this year. I really only meant to have one. Some time during planting I got confused over which seed packets I had already planted. So instead of one row of zinnias and one row of bachelor buttons, I got two rows of zinnias. I sure thought that the bachelor buttons had strange looking foliage as they grew..oops! Below are just a few examples of the multitude of beautiful blooms found in this mix.

Yet another selling point with this variety is that once it begins to bloom, it doesn't stop until frost. Since we have been experiencing a mostly mild Fall this year, my plants are still loaded with blooms. I have cut  for a bouquet the last two weekends and have easily found enough quality blooms still on the plants. And once cut, if you keep the water in the vase full - they are heavy drinkers - the blooms will truly last a whole week. What's not to love ?!

 If you are thinking about giving this variety a try next year, I would recommend Renee's Seeds.  I had a chance to hear owner Renee Shepard talk a few years back. During her talk she mentioned that her seed packets cost a little more than the "average" seed packet. Then she stated why. She explained that when she sold varieties that were a mix, such as bachelor buttons or my "Persian Carpet" zinnias, the gardener who planted them could fully expect to get a full representation of color and forms from her seeds. She pays her seed growers more and demands equal seed from all variety forms. Most large seed companies do not do this. In turn, we the gardener pay a little more for Renee's seed packets- though I don't think $2.79 a package is bad- and for that we actually will get what is pictured on the cover of the seed packet.