Well, I did it! I wrote every day from early October to New Year's Day 2010. Now I will write for fun when I feel like it and see where that gets me. Cheers to all my small-blessing-appreciating friends!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Today I bought starts of Italian parsley and bitter salad greens. In Portland it isn't at all too early. As I chose my little plants, a voice behind me said, "Soooo, it begins!" Amused, I turned to see a slender woman about half a generation younger than I am.  She turned out to be at least a generation more innocent and enthusiastic.

"Will they survive the frost?" she asked. "Indeed they will," I answered, "but they are not very happy about being buried in snow." (Ours turned mostly to mush under that challenge.) I launched enthusiastically into an explanation of parsley's biannual nature. The second season it soon bolts and goes to seed, so it is wise to keep first-year plants coming along.

She gazed at me with her guileless eyes. "Do you teach? I really want to take lessons in permaculture!" I answered that I do not teach, all the while wondering to myself, "Exactly what is permaculture?" Too vain to admit I was vague on the subject, I asked her about the course she wished to take.

What I would  like to learn is how to deal with the voracious snails and caterpillars - my approach has been hunting them by flashlight at night and by grubbing about in likely hiding places by day. My new acquaintance volunteered that her ducks took care of all the snail, slugs and other pests. Ah, ducks... and chickens. Now my memory began to dredge up some notion of permaculture - chickens fertilizing the ground for crops and clearing out pests, cattle fertilizing the fallow land and so on, returning to the ancient cycles of agriculture before we began to believe chemistry would make everything better.

"But, the raccoons ate all my ducks," she continued.

Our little urban garden is too small and too formal to sustain flocks of ducks and chickens, much less a cow. Alas, my simple organic practices will never be self-sustaining. That doesn't stop the garden being our little bit of Eden, assuming that Eden had snails.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Message

Someone left me a comment on my last post, which serves as a reminder of why I undertook this blog last fall. The comment is in Chinese. Google Translate yielded a meaning:  "I love those who make their virtues as their own goal." My purpose was to practice awareness of life's small blessings, and writing did lead to a greater awareness of the goodness surrounding me.

This weekend has been filled with blessings. On Friday we shared a beautiful dinner of roasted salmon  with friends from Seattle. On Saturday,  a dear friend and I attended a brilliant concert by the Oregon Symphony, concluding with Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique. Sunday I sang lovely music in church and attended the joyous birthday party of a friend who in December survived a brush with death from complications of swine flu. Through it all ran sunshine, warm weather and burgeoning growth in the garden. It seems all nature is bursting out at once.

It is too easy to fall into the habit of complaining. Better to take my virtues as my goal, to nurture the most generous, creative and appreciative in my own nature.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Picking Herbs

I haven't written lately, not for lack of small and large blessings. Today I am feeling grateful for having herbs in the garden, even in winter. When we moved to our house ten years ago, there was nothing whatsoever to eat in the garden. Right away we planted herbs - parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, of course, as well as tarragon for French chicken recipes, the indispensable Greek oregano, and mint. Where would we be without mint for mojitos? We have a lovely, small-leaved sage - proper sage grey-green - which has a great flavor. It is really excellent with garlic in chickpea soup.

Fortunately, in our mild Portland winters, most of the herbs are available year-round. The snow suffocated most of the parsley this year, and the oregano and mint go dormant. However, needing flavoring for a stew this evening, I was able to pick fresh, fragrant, rain-washed rosemary, thyme and sage.  What a difference fresh herbs make! I joined them with black peppercorns and juniper berries for most excellent flavoring.