Ramblings

Life in and around NoPo…

Chuck Palahniuk: Lullaby

Such a thin but potent book – Lullaby clocks in at 260 pages, and it was a quick and engaging read. With a number of simplistic, yet intense ideas this book rockets along from page 1. In the midst of grappling with a number of seemingly outlandish ideas (do you believe in magic or the power of the spoken word?), you have little time to ponder if you believe or even can believe such a premise or not – while you were considering it, the characters ran ahead of you to the next brightly lit scene. That the protagonist, Carl Streator, is some sort of modern hero motivated by his own horrifying experiences with a culling song is sometimes hard to recall amidst all of the unusual concepts and effects of said concepts. When the ideas play out in this written world, you’re caught up considering what would you do if it were you? Can a man who can’t control a seemingly god-like power thrust into his life be a hero? Maybe he can’t help but be a hero, since he did not seek the crazy power he was given, and he did make repeated efforts to contain it, and keep it out of the hands of others. I’d tell ya more juicy details, but I do not want to spoil it. Lullaby left a big imprint on me and you should pick up a copy for yourself. It’s intense.

Chuck Palahniuk is skilled and crafty and daring. Often mind blowing. His presentation of the human condition resonates all too well, maybe especially when his characters are buried in the frightening minutiae of daily life. It’s all in the skillfully presented details – just remember some things cannot be unseen or unread. ;)

Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk 

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Baby mantids coming soon: coolest garden accessory ever

I recently discovered that you can purchase praying mantis eggs to hatch and release into your garden. How awesome is that?! I recently went to St. Johns based City Farm and bought my own mantis egg sack for $5.95 or there-abouts. For your money you get a refrigerated egg casing on a twig that requires a few weeks of warm weather to hatch. Each egg case is said to contain between 100 and 200 potential mantis babies. It sounds awesome! I have my mantid egg casing out on the porch near my small container garden (go cukes, go cherry tomatoes!). The instruction card says they will likely hatch in the morning, and if you want to get any sense of the hatching event you have to enclose the egg case in a paper bag. Process noted, and instructions followed. Each morning I go out and check the mantis bag to see if the event has occurred or is occurring. So far, no dice. I have about 1.5 weeks until I can expect to see the tiny triangular headed insects emerge, but I check every day just in case they burst forth early. Go mantis bomb! Seems the proper name for the mantis egg casing is ootheca. Thank you wikipedia!

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tiny tomato fruits on the vine: porch gardening success

Well, this is my second year attempting a porch garden up here in the west hills of  pdx. Last year (2011) I tried my hand at growing a few plant types from seeds. My living arrangements are such that the whole house is accessible by our feline, Kingston. And if there is one thing that cat loves, it’s gardening. Of course, he “gardens” aggressively with his mouth and fangs. Many plants have fallen beneath his mighty paw. Anyhow, very few of my seedlings lived to make it out to the porch containers. This year (2012) I decided to try my luck with some plant starts, knowing that they would need to be hardy enough to move directly into their porch containers and away from Kingston’s purview. I picked up some hearty looking cherry tomato starts back at the end of April, and they have grown into some great looking plants, which are currently flowering and have some tiny fruit already set on the vine. Score! I know, just because I see tiny fruits now does not mean they will actually make it to my mouth, but here’s to hoping.

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Lemon cucumber starts: against all odds

Each year I attempt a small porch garden, and usually there are more plant deaths to report than tales of success. In 2012, I am having something of an amazing year with the plants of the porch realm. I have some thriving cherry tomatoes (several small fruits have already been spotted!) which are mid-flower, and suggest a mighty harvest could occur in the coming weeks. Will have to report back. The real miracle of the porch are the lemon cucumber plant starts I got last month. The plant seedlings looked great when I purchased them over at City Farm in St. Johns. I got them transplanted into their porch pot, and things seemed okay. Night time temps were still pretty chill, so I kept them inside. Within 48 hours, one of the three seedlings had been crushed against the side of the container. I am sort of shocked Kingston (my gardening feline buddy – he attends to all plants inside the domicile) waited a day to kill the tiny plant. Still, that meant they had to go outside to live…the cold weather rather stunted them, I think. Against all odds, yesterday afternoon I noticed something surprising and wonderful. The tiny, battered, stunted looking lemon cukes are starting to flower!

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Over ripe bananas: transformed into delicious snack cakes

Dang do I have a lower tolerance for banana ripeness – I enjoy firm, slightly green-skinned bananas and once a few dark spots appear, the compost pile is nearby. Last summer we tried making “banana ice cream” which was pretty tasty, and allowed use and enjoyment of a few over-ripe bananas. This last week when a batch of 3 yellow fruit turned the corner from edible to awaiting-outbound-trip-to-compost-pile, I decided to try a recipe for banana muffins. My initial search yielded Healthier Banana Crumb Muffins. I am not sure they are any sort of “healthy”, but I would still recommend them as delicious!

Banana Crumb Muffins

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Poppies of June: blast of color

With a slow moving springtime into summer transition this year in the pacific northwest, I was especially excited to discover these lovely blossoms bringing a shock of saturated color to our yard. I did not plant them, and so do not actually know what sort of flower they are, though I am betting on poppies. Heck, maybe they are even of the opium sort – they sure have a dark, rich purpley center.

I love the bundle of snakey, long stemmed buds this plant has – prior to blooming, I was sure this was some sort of medusa flower. In fact, I thought the buds might well open to reveal small green serpents. Alas, it was not quite to exotic as that, but the punch of saturated orange is still an eye grabber every single day.

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The robins joyful return to PDX

Late last week we noted that the joyful robins of springtime had arrived on the hill. Along with the recently spotted woodpecker (saw 3 of them scoping our bird feeder the other morning), it’s clear that spring is in the air. Throw in honest-to-goodness sunny days, and it’s hard to believe we’re supposedly getting 6 more weeks of winter. I’d like to side with the rival woodchuck in hoping for an early spring. The worms (and general bug population) must really be suffering – the robins like to move in groups, sort of mowing through grass and leaves, turning everything over, and gobbling everything up. Yay for the return of the robins!

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New woodpecker on the hill

Today we spotted a new bird at our bird feeding window. We have been feeding and watching the chickadees and another little bird (a highly selective eater known as the Alex bird) species throughout the winter. Today, our feeder and heavy bird action (first sunny morning in awhile) attracted a new bird to the viewing area. Much larger than the chickadees, and rather exotically colored (copper colored feathers underneath, white on the back, tons of speckles), the new arrival looks like a woodpecker. Sadly for him, he’s too big to perch on our feeder. Some no salt crackers have been crumbled and left for an offering…

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Go porch tomatoes!

Well, I started my seeds fairly late in the season, plus it’s my first try at a potted plant porch garden, but there is a freakin’ tomato in development! Whoopee! There shall be at least one tomato enjoyed by me due to my mad porch gardening skills. Heck, there might even be a small handful, depending on how September 2011 pans out. This week is warm and sunny, so I will be looking out for more flowers turned to fruit. Also, my pepper plants are still hanging in there – no flowers, no shrub, but the leaves seem to be delicious based on the bites that are missing.

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R.R. Martin – A Dance with Dragons: it’s finally here!

After nearly 4 years, the 5th book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series has been released! Let the reading of this great tome (over 3000 pages) commence! I know, I am using the hell out of exclamation points, but I am absolutely thrilled. I pre-ordered A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book Five in the electronic format for my iPad, and am pleased to say that the book was released yesterday (thanks for the email, itunes store) and when I booted up the Pad, there is was awaiting me. : ) There is no book review today, but I will definitely write something up once I have eaten this delicious treat. Thanks, Mr. Martin!

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Monarch butterflies and hummingbirds

Summer has finally arrived with a rather sweltering heat-wave, and it seems like most plants and many cheerful local birds are loving it. The day starts early with the liquid (and endless) trill of young robins. At least that is my primary suspect. There are bald eagles nesting way above us in the hills, and some sort of mountain jay with a black crest and bright blue body, but robins are the most numerous bird in the area. In the last week or two I have started to notice Monarch butterflies making an appearance – there are many attractive flowers in our area and they have taken note. These butterflies seem more pale than the ones I remember from Northern California. Maybe I am misremembering? Or they get more golden with age? Or based on where they grew up? Pale here in Oregon, more burnished in California, perhaps. No matter the color, I enjoy seeing them flit about. We recently hung a few small hummingbird feeders up and filled them with red sugar water – they do not get as much play as I’d imagined, but most days we do see a little action. It’s especially great since the feeders are in some of the main house windows. When they come, even briefly, the whole house is usually involved. Well, maybe not the chicken. But certainly Kingston. I like summer days full of Monarch butterflies and angry, thirsty hummingbirds!

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Tomato seedlings survive the heat-wave and fierce sun

I started my seeds-to-garden a little bit late this year. Between a surprisingly long-lived, ice-bound spring and living in a new homestead, it seems I have waited a bit long to plant my want-to-become-a-garden seeds. After finally germinating (all 3 seeds in each of 2 pots), they did pretty well inside the house, soaking in the sun through the window, and a few weeks ago I finally transplanted them to larger buckets outside on the porch. Things went pretty smoothly with the transplanting (the seedlings were grown in peat pots that are meant to go into the final living arrangements to nourish the young plants), and life on the porch was looking like a win. Then the great heat-wave came crashing down upon us, and it seems 3 of the tomato seedlings just could not take the heat. All 3 had fallen over just at the point where they enter the ground. I wanted to blame the dog, or clumsy self, but now believe it may have been extreme heat prostration. Seems this breed does not care for the heat, and it looks like the 3 plantlets will probably die. Will keep you posted. Also, once the thriving tomato plants actually flower and fruit, I can report back on which breed of tomato I had success with. Next year I will definitely start more seeds, much earlier in the season. A larger plant would have made it through this first heat-wave, I am certain.

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Declare by Tim Powers: cold war spies and djinn

I recently finished up Declare, and I have to say I am sorry to have that world closed off to me. It was a very engaging book, and even ended reasonably, but I am still sad that Andrew Hale is no longer a part of my reading life. Like all the other Powers’ books I have read, this one caught me up in its spell and made me want to know more about great entities and deities, and how humans can align with these powers, or interact with them. The super-stars of this book were the Djinn entities, the protective angel of Russia, and the collective djinn city to be found on Mount Ararat. Add a little Arabian Nights spice with time among the Bedu and the great Saudi Arabian desert and you have a taste of the ground this narrative covers. If I ever wanted to meet a genie before, the interactions described in this tale suggest the best case would be knowing someone who had the experience and was willing to talk to you about it. Meeting the djinn, or being the focal point, seems to be pretty detrimental to humans – would you make your sanity roll?

Tim Powers: Declare

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Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin: pretty gripping by the end

If you’re seeking a little light reading from the acclaimed author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series – this steamboat vampire novel set in the 1850’s was pretty interesting. I bought the title on a whim, and because I do love some of Mr. Martin’s other works – including Dying of the Light, which I recall with great pleasure (that one I’ve read a couple of times, and the book has made it through at least 6 big moves in my life). The life and times on the river with Abner Marsh proved fairly interesting, and by the end of the book I was pretty caught up in it all. It had it’s moments, and some fun characters, but this book will be passed along as rather luke-warm. Although, I do have a read-a-holic brother who might enjoy some of the poetic brutality and staunch characters – into the mail to wing your way north, book.

Fevre Dream – Worth a look, especially if you can borrow it from a friend. : )

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Under Construction – Rebuild

I am in the process of redesigning the look of my blog, plus finally choosing an actual theme/direction for it. At least that is the plan. ha ha

It is my hope that the delightful spring sunshine will help inspire me to get this rolling.

Best,
Alex

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