Category Archives: Garden

Ready, set, ex-pat

So we went to the Mexican Consulate in Porltand to apply for our temporary resident visas.

But first…..
Since we decided last winter to plan for a year’s move to Mexico, I scaled back my garden efforts this year. I also had hand surgery in March which incapacitated me for long than i expected. Still, a friend helped me shop at the Food for Lane County plant sale and I bought some most excellent starts. I grew the largest cauliflowers ever. Broccoli was good, too. It wasn’t a good pea year at our place; maybe too wet for too long. It was a productive asparagus and artichoke year, though. Summer crops, we have enjoyed green beans (mostly roasted on the grill), tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers. The garden seems small since I didn’t grow anything for canning!

Great cauli year

And great potato year

Okay, on to our upcoming travel. We put our house up for rent with a property manager and have renters lined up for a year, beginning October 1. Our stuff has been and is in the process of being divided into the following categories: sell, donate, throw out, store, or move. Carloads have gone to St. Vincent de Paul. We have sold a lot through craigslist and our yard sale, including my beloved 1995 Nissan pick up truck. I will miss that the most of everything that goes away. Still, it was a good decision as we didn’t want to pay to store a vehicle and can likely manage just fine with only one when we return from our year away.

I’ve gotten rid of some sentimental items, including a folder of old family pictures (no idea who the people were) from the 1920-50 era, sold to a woman for $2 at our sale. My army jacket, sent to me by my retired Army cousin (now deceased) that I wore every day, all winter, during high school and college. Dishes belonging to my mom. Grandma’s doilies (the better ones sent to a family member, the others sold at yard sale). The little cast-iron stove I had since I was a kid. Many many things gone.

I have such mixed feelings, jettisoning so many memory items. But how much can a person hold onto if that person also wants to have room for the future,for travelling, for moving aorund the world more easily? Don’t get me wrong; I have a big tote full of photos, my HS senior yearbook, my first pay stub from Dominick’s Finer Foods (now defunct), all the concert ticket stubs from my youth (from AC/DC to The Who to Madonna to David Bowie). So still plenty of stuff to store or lug around. But much less.


Got rid of my mom’s old address book

So where are we moving and why? We are moving to Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. It’s a very ex-pat-friendly town on Lake Chapala, about 40 minutes from the Guadalajara airport.

Why? Like, many things in life, it’s a push and a pull. The pull is pretty easy: nice people and interesting culture; great weather; wonderful food; affordable cost of living; accessible health care; and well, because we can. And perhaps SHOULD while we are sill young and agile enough to have an adventure and actively enjoy it. The push? The current state of politics in the US is ugly and heart-breaking and frightening. And we are likely to either lose our health insurance completely in 2018 or be unable to afford any, given the actons against the affordable care act and its subsidies. If I am going to be uninsured, i want it to be in a country where I can afford to go to the doctor if I need to.

So away we go, leaving in mid-September and arriving at our destination on October 1.

Stay tuned.


Kitchen Days

There are few things I like more than a kitchen day. Maybe champagne in bed day or hot air balloon over Goreme, Turkey day.  A day in the kitchen is pretty high on the list, though.  Here are some kitchen food preservation projects from a recent kitchen day:

– pickled jalepenos
– pickled garlic
– dilly beans
– whole plums in honey syrup
– grapes to raisins
– plums to prunes



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Garden update…and never look a gift box in the mouth

What’s going in the garden?

After a disappointing pea crop, we have had a good run of spring things.  Asparagus. Cabbage. Broccoli. Our tomato plants are the largest we have ever had; nothing ripe yet but I think there will be tons. Peppers look okay. We have had a few bells so far. Green beans are starting to produce. Love these beans, from seeds I purchased in Europe. Just put some leek starts in the ground for fall harvest. And our potatoes are almost ready to be dug.

Here are some of our first string beans on the grill with the almost-last broccoli, potatoes (from the store) and marinated tempeh skewers. Marinated tempeh because someone (was it you? If so, thanks) sent us a gift box from Try the World. The theme was Brazil and there were some Brazilian spices and BBQ sauce in there so I applied them to tempeh instead of their suggested beef and chicken. How lucky are we to get a mystery gift box?!


What I did over my summer vacation, part one

What I did over my summer vacation…

When you are retired, there is no real “vacation,” as any work you do is of your choosing. “Summer vacation” is a misnomer, but it sounds good, and I want to write about this season that just passed.

We spent a large portion of our summer on a house addition project. We added a master bathroom, bringing the total number of bathrooms in our house to two. Yay! While we had a fabulous contractor who built the “shell” of the building for us, we did the demolition and all the finish work ourselves. While “ourselves” consists of about 80% my husband and 20% me, the work still consumed a large portion of our summer. We are thrilled with the results.


Yep, we did all this tile and glass block work…and my husband built the vanity from a table we got on Craigslist.

I also trained for and ran my first-ever 5K!  Because if you aren’t going to do your first 5K at 50, when are you going to do it?

When you undertake a home remodeling project and a new running regime during the prime growing season, your garden (indeed, your whole yard) turns into a weedy overgrown mess. At least our vegetable garden has its water on a timer, or everything would have died of thirst. As it was, more things died than should have and others were largely ignored. Pests multiplied, blossom end rot took over before I got on it with my liquid bone meal. And weeds? Did I mention them? Despite the neglect, we had some good crops and have been eating quite well from the garden this summer — tomatoes, green beans, peppers, broccoli, greens, and even one lonely egglplant.

Preserving-wise, I managed the following:
— salsa
— pizza sauce
— dilly beans
— Marionberry pie filling
— Marionberry jam
— Dried apple rings
— Albacore tuna canning with a wonderful Master Food Preserver friend


A productive season!  Stay tuned for “part two” of my summer vacation….


Apple season in mid-August?

My husband and I have been busy adding a bathroom onto our house.  We did all the finish work ourselves, including tile, paint, trim, installing a pocket door, building a vanity.  (We=> 80% my husband, 20% me.)  We also had to tear our deck off to have the bathroom built, and are now putting the deck back on.

I tell you this because we have been consumed with this project and the garden has GOTTEN OUT OF HAND.  Climate change has also contributed, giving us 100 degree days in June and July.image

imageimageDespite my attempt to improve my thinning skills, our little Gala apple tree is overloaded.  It’s time to dry apple rings.  This is not a difficult process if you have a sturdy apple corer and an Excalibur food dehydrator.  We use these apple rings all year as snacks and in homemade granola.image

It’s time to can pizza sauce and salsa, too.  So dang early.

Is your garden also changing due to our climate extremes?

Sad gardens

I have been noticing a trend lately that makes me feel sad. I walk a fair amount. I walk mainly in my neighborhood and to downtown. These are middle class to lower-middle class neighborhoods with a mixture of apartments and single-family homes, rentals and owner-occupieds. I look at peoples’ yards a lot because I like to garden. I especially take note of nice perenniel beds or front-yard raised-bed food gardens. I like to see people growing food in their front yards, even though my own experiement with such a thing became a cat box for neighborhood cats. I now keep my food items in the back yard where cats rarely venture.
But I digress. What I notice from time to time, as I look at these small raised-bed gardens, is how sad they look when they are abandoned. Houses get new renters or change owners and what was once a tended patch of kale or beans is now a cedar box full of weeds. What is even sadder is when they are abondoned mid-season. Then, they contain perhaps a few spindly tomato plants, parched for water or brown peas on dried stalks. Did the folks move? Or just forget about the little plants that they must have put in with such enthusiasm and care? Did it become too onerous to water their box after a long day at work? Whatever the reason, I see these little neglected food gardens and find they make me feel melancholy. Somehow, they are much more bleak and forlorn than a struggling bed or roses or unwatered wilted daylilies. They represent someone’s hopes for feeding themselves, for growing sustenence, for connecting with the earth and its gifts. They represent lost hope, disruption, and slow painful death by neglect.

A cautionary tale regarding garden pests

Spring is a busy time in the garden.  At least that is my excuse for not seeing the destruction of our gooseberry plants until it was too late.  I was busy starting veggies, transplanting, checking the veggies, and harvesting spring crops and didn’t notice the rapid defoliating of the gooseberry shrubs. The culprit is evidently the sawfly larvae.  These little green larvae are too numerous to count.  I am trying to control them now by blasting them off with water and then either smashing them or serving them to the chickens. But unfortunately, it might be too late for our plants.  Once the berries ripen, we will cut the shrubs back, fertilize heavily, and hope for the best. Lesson:  walk your garden every day.  Look at everything, not just those plants needing current attention. Damn those little green vermin. 

Goosberry shrub sans leaves