With autumn peeking around the corner of September, with my daughter’s second birthday days away, with cool afternoons finally settling in, we’re looking back on our first three months here.
Life is feeling lush, productive, and happy. The guestroom bed is covered with jars– canned blackberry jam, blueberry jam, applesauce, preserved lemons. The kitchen table is crowded with tomatoes, squash, and more apples.
We’re never caught-up, of course, but we don’t really need to be. I’m freeing myself to say that we’re doing enough. I’m drinking in the beauty of our parched land, dreaming of fall, and enjoying the days as they come. But crossing projects off the unending list is my true fuel.
The vegetable garden has been slow and spindly– not the jungle of produce that I had envisioned, absurdly, for our late, first-year attempt. But the tomato plants are weighted with green fruit, the reseeded beans are winding up their trellis, and fall seed is planted.
One gratifying project we took on over the weekend was planting an herb and flower bed in front of the house. The bed previously held carelessly laid lava rock (yuck, in my opinion) intermixed hopelessly with dirt and tattered old plastic mulch. We tediously picked through and relocated the rock and excavated as much of the plastic as possible.
We avoided disturbing the existing clementines, varieties of which I imagine a prior landowner collected, because the property is strewn with myriad colors and shapes– a spring treat! I also happen to love the foliage, so we worked around an area of the died-off stalks, then cut them down after filling in with soil.
The fun part was spreading topsoil and planting herbs and flowers– some we bought, determined to create an overabundance of thyme and other staples; others we transplanted from pots where they’d been languishing for months or longer.
The hazelnuts came early– weeks ago– and I’d picked the beaked variety off the tree at what turned out to be just the right time. They were small, and the trees yellowed from the drought. We picked most of the American hazelnuts off the ground this past week, where they abruptly fell all at once. When we began cracking, we were disappointed to find that most were shriveled, unformed, or bug-eaten, just like our almonds in California thanks to the lack of rainfall. Most of the good ones, like the berries and the cherry tomatoes, went straight into our toddler’s mouth.
(In the middle of the night when I laid down with her recently, she half-awakened and implored me from a daze– “mo hay-nuhs?”)
The smoke rolled in weeks ago from the fires. The air across Oregon– and all Western states– has been declared hazardous as it cloaks the mountains. Winds are supposed to soon return the haze over the Cascades, but in the meantime, mornings begin with an eerie red beam of sunshine.
Our refrigerator was becoming cluttered with to-do lists and the like, so I took on an impromptu craft project (a rare act these days.) I disassembled an old bulletin board with a beautiful redwood frame that had been stored in our shop. I covered it with pink-and-green fabric my grandmother just gave me, stapled it taut to the back, screwed the frame back on, and mounted it in the kitchen. Along with the drying coriander and soon-to-fill canning jars, I’m pleased with the summery additions.