Barnaby and Martin: Rabbits With a Job To Do

Meet Barnaby and Martin. I have had blogging friends request pictures of the rabbits. It is hard to get a good shot of these two when it is hot. We pull a shade down by their pen to keep them cool. These rabbits have an important job to do other than hop around and be cute. They produce rich manure that has helped our flowers grow and flourish. Amending the soil with aged rabbit manure adds rich nitrogen and phosphorus. Knowing what they eat helps in " what will come out"! Fortunately this manure doesn't have weed seeds. The rabbits used to have a helper Sherman, but he died last year (note: these names come from creeks that are close to where we live). Our rabbits like to have a job to do. They have worked nonstop for about six years. We show our appreciation for the great heaps of work they produce by giving them their favorite treat- Cheerios.

Larkspurs Set Off Summer Bouquet #13

Keep the Promises You Make To Yourself

Today I returned to school to organize my desk, pare down the papers in the file cabinets, and file the stuff in the tubs and baskets that got filled up and shoved out of site during the school year. I had made a promise to myself I would do this before July. Good night! How could I accumulate so much paper? I left the house with a thermos of good coffee, my favorite mug, some James Taylor CDs, Dove Promises, and a box of garbage bags. I needed reinforcements for this undertaking.

It was quiet at school and the only sound heard in my room was the soothing voice of JT. Actually, once I sorted out the extra copies of every handout I had given students this year, the pile of paper dropped quite a bit. I don't know why I don't just recycle extra copies. Do I really think at some point I will make a file each time I have three extra handouts on participles? I don't think so.

In the file cabinet I dumped the reading data on the students that graduated two years ago. I doubt their parents would call me now and ask me how many words per minute their child read in sixth grade! What did I think I would do with the sign -in sheet from fall open house in 2004? Did I need the list of who went on a field trip during summer school in 2000? As quickly as I dropped paper in the recycle bin, I also relabeled the file folders. The corner of the room began to take shape.
The tubs and baskets I pulled out from under my desk and on shelves in the closet were the scariest. I was thrilled when I found a recipe our transportation director gave me. I loved that salad at a potluck. Whew! I also found the secret password that gets me into the state website to register for workshops. I ended up throwing away the Werthers candy in the bottom of the basket even though they were still in the gold wrappings. I couldn't recall when I had them at school.I packed up the fork, some Ziplock containers, cough drops, and three CDs that had been missing. I defrosted my little refrigerator,hauled bags and bags of paper to the recycle bin, and took other stuff to the garbage. At 2:00 I stopped to enjoy a Dove Promise, listen to a little "Fire and Rain", sip some coffee, and gaze at an organized corner of the classroom. The message inside the dark chocolate fit the occasion perfectly.

A Great Dish for Hot Summer from the Recipe Box

My sister Silver Valley Girl served this dish a few summers ago and I have made it ever since. I think she found it on the penne package. It is a good summer recipe because you don't have to heat up the kitchen too much, it is quick, and it uses fresh ingredients from the garden or farmer's market. Add salad and bread and you have a meal for the family or an easy one for entertaining.

Penne with Cheeses, Tomatoes, and Basil

16 oz. penne
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped
( or 2 28 oz. cans whole plum tomatoes)
3 TB chopped fresh basil leaves
1 ¼ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut into ¼ inch cubes

Begin cooking pasta.
Heat ¼ cup oil, add onions and sauté.
Add tomatoes and salt. Cook ten minutes. Stir in 2 TB basil.
Drain pasta.
Put in heated bowl. Add remaining oil and tomatoes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Add mozzarella cheese and continue tossing until the cheese starts to melt. Sprinkle with the rest of the basil and serve. Serves 4

Overlapping Lilies: Inspired by Raymond Pert

Raymond Pert had taken a picture grid of flowers and created a beautiful multi-exposure collage. You can find his here. I tried it with my lily collection below. I love the way the orange

and the spots stand out.

Annie is Now an English Shorthair!

Annie, our springer spaniel knew it was time for a summer cut. She is a good sport about getting groomed.
Shelby is glad heelers don't need haircuts. She is a low maintenance dog.
Annie got a bit worn out getting beautiful and had to take five.
Finally, the grooming session was over and she could feel the cool grass again!

McDuff is thinking he might be next for a summer hair cut. Is that the sound of clippers I hear?

Lily Time and Early Summer Bouquet #12

It just worked out that I have early blooming lilies now and other varieties that bloom later. I didn't really plan this, but is works out beautifully. Many have them have also naturalized so where there used to be two now there are four or five. The orange and green contrast stands out after a few weeks of pastel colors.
JEJ loves red roses. I picked this bouquet just for him and places it in the window so the light would catch the mixture of colors. Adding an Annabelle hydrangea before it opened added an interesting chartreuse color. The fresh dill head is always a nice filler.

A Friend From the Garden of Life

Again I am using my favorite artist Mary Engelbreit to express my thoughts about my friend Bev. My garden of life contains many flowers I call friends and she is truly a kindred spirit.I facilitate the writing retreat with Bev. The two of us posed on our cabin steps before we left McCall. Bev is on the left, I am on the right. We met three years ago when I attended this retreat. We share a love of writing, family, gardening, camping, drama, good wine, good food, and good books. She has helped me grow as a writer. She listens to my words and gives me honest feedback. She has shared book titles, recipes, and stories from her home country of England. We have traveled the road to McCall and back three times and each time have deepened our friendship. Bev, as you head to England tomorrow have a safe journey. Enjoy your dear family and friends across the pond. Thanks for your friendship.

Sibling Assignment # 25: Lessons Learned from Camping

The sibling assignment this week is to write about a camping experience. You will find Raymond Pert's here and Silver Valley Girl's here.
Lesson #1: Above is Shelby when she was two and Annie when she was about five months old. We went camping at Evans Campground on Lake Roosevelt that spring break. The dogs had a fun day digging for gophers, chasing birds, and running to the water. Suddenly I saw Annie shaking her head quickly back and forth. As I got closer I realized she had a barbed fishhook in the lip attached to a line with leaded weights. JEJ knew if he tried to remove it the lip may fare worse. The vet was close so we gave her a call. She said keep Annie calm until morning them bring her in. We learned many lessons that day. Annie can be a trooper, can stay calm, and be very brave. Shelby could behave in an emergency and the two dog owners could also react in a calm way.

Lesson #2: When we were still tent camping we found a nice camp spot one morning off Coyote Creek Rd. What we discovered later in the day was the site was very hot with the afternoon sun beating on us. We didn't camp close to water so JEJ is hauling it above. We also ran out of ice.
He headed off to town for ice and left me with the three dogs we had then: Emily, Bluey, and Lucy. To pass the time I took them for a walk. Just as we rounded the corner by our camp we saw a brown bear. I froze. The bear froze. The dogs took over running full tilt after the bear. They treed the bear and barked and stood post under the tree until Everett returned. That day we learned to camp in shade and by water. Also, if you are going to leave a inexperienced camper like me there, tell her some tips for dealing with wild animals.
Lesson #3: Another time our niece the Princess was visiting so we decided to head up the lake to camp. We didn't want to go too far so pulled off a dirt road close to Kettle Falls. As we drove in I was a bit hesitant about whether it was okay to stay overnight here. JEJ convinced me it was fine. We pulled in and noticed the site had been the location for a teen party by the remains we found.
After dinner we were enjoying the sunset above when a SUV roared down the road. It startled us and we came around to see the sheriff. We wondered if there had been an emergency.
" Did you see the sign that said NO CAMPING?" he asked.
The Princess and I looked at each other and shook our heads no. He turned around to see the sign was down," Those darn kids. They love to party here and knock the sign down. I was just checking to see if a party was starting,"
We looked a bit too innocent for the first arrivals at a party.
" Could we stay until morning,"JEJ asked," we have our stuff set up and the awning is out? "
" I guess so. Just be out in the morning." he roared back out throwing dust in our faces.
" It is always so fun to come and visit you . Something exciting always happens," the Princess said laughing, " I think we are criminals now."
" How do you think we would look in striped jail clothes?" JEJ joked.
We walked back up the road and studied the sign the sheriff put back up.
I learned that day to trust my intuition. I also learned that the sheriff can be understanding. I also know how it feels to be a criminal!

Sunday Scribblings: I've Got a Secret

The Sunday Scribbling topic this week is I’ve Got a Secret.

Here are a few of my secrets:

I am enthralled with stories about people getting rescued off a mountain or out of a raging river. I don’t like reality television shows.

I grab any book by Anna Quindlen, Anne Lamott, or Elizabeth Berg. I have never read much by Steinbeck, Faulkner, Hemingway, or Twain.
I can grow roses, peonies, and clematis in my garden. I have never been successful with delphiniums, astible, or butterfly bushes.

I enjoy brewing a cup of Lipton’s tea and adding some milk. I have to choke down chamomile and green tea. In the city I spend hours in bookstores, second hand stores, and plant nurseries. I never shop at Nordstrom’s, Ann Taylor, or Victoria’s Secret.

I grew up in a town with a ski resort that went from Jackass Ski Bowl to Silverhorn to Silver Mountain. I have never snow skied in my life.

I am challenged by word puzzles, constructing an essay, and word choice in poetry. I can’t comprehend algebra, physics, or probability. I look forward to preserving pickles, jams, and applesauce every year. I can’t make a flaky pie crust, homemade bread, or any confection requiring a candy thermometer.

When I shop for clothes my first requirement is comfort. I no longer wear high heels, scratchy fabric, or fancy dancy sleepwear.

As I have moved through life I have acquired a wide group of friends. There are the childhood friends, the neighbors from another town, college friends, co-workers, my new blog friends, and friends that have been with me through the best and worst of times.
My last secret... I would love to have a friends week-end and gather all these women in one place. I think everyone would get along beautifully!
To find other Sunday Scribblings posts go here.

There is No Place Like Home!

It was good to arrive home today. McDuff said hello at the front walk. Isabelle waited on the makeshift wheelbarrow to greet me. Lily came from out in the field when she heard my voice. She rested on the stump while I called her.
The roses have bloomed profusely since I have been gone. This is the All-American Girl.

I love the sound of the fountain spilling into the pond in the back garden.The larkspur and dill reseeded from last year in the cutting garden.I love the combination of the purple blooms and the green dill heads. There is no place like home!

Postcards from McCall: See You Next Year!

The reading/writing retreat came to a close today. People lingered not wanting it to end. Conversations continued after lunch as people loaded up their stuff. The phrase I heard over and over that warmed my heart was, " See you next year!" This week people took risks with their writing. We formed a trusting community and cried over stories of struggle and loss. Some holed up in cabins and were very productive with academic projects. Others enjoyed the hiking trails, the hot sun yesterday, bike trails, writing workshop, an espresso from town, and s'mores at the final campfire.
I have much to look forward to tomorrow. A scenic drive, good coffee at Starbucks, a quick trip to the bookstore, and a country road with JEJ, two dogs, six cats, two rabbits, and summer gardens waiting for my return.

Summer Solstice, My First Reading, and a Completed Poem

Tonight we celebrated the longest day of the year with a reading, a steak dinner, great dogs, sharing of writing, and a campfire. I did my first memoir reading with my friend Bev (below) before dinner. We each picked favorite pieces and read on benches before dinner in the pine trees.

The highlight of a delicious steak dinner tonight was watching the two " resident" dogs be so well-behaved as they sat by their masters during meal time..
Later we all gathered in the yurt and shared writing written during the day. My goal was to complete some poetry since that isn't a genre I feel as comfortable writing. I shared the poem below. We then moved to the campfire to round out our last evening with s'mores, conversation, and laughter.

The writing prompt we worked on in the workshop this morning was called "baggage". It centered around those things we hang on to and keep in our lives. After hearing other people's brainstorm lists I combined them into this poem:

Digging For Keys
Faded cottage cheese tubs stuffed with rusty nails,
hooks on the wall overflowing with coats;
a ripped poncho, a manure covered barn coat, a too-small ski parka.
Hanging close are the hats;
hunting orange, hand-me-down tan, John Deere green,
The stained lavender lamp shade lingers in the corner.

Resting on the steps, plastic plant pots, trays, and saucers to catch the drips;
a leaky watering can, one silver slipper, a dead lily discarded after Easter.
nozzles, washers, sprinklers for hoses;
five Mason jars, three canning rings, a crock pot without a lid.

The drawer holds keys to doors that never open, cords to gadgets long thrown away;
Fasteners with a purpose fading from memory and doodads once with a use,
two knights from a chess set, wooden Scrabble tile, one toothpick,
pastel birthday candles, an outdated candy thermometer
resting before the next celebration.

Things of life are saved, arranged, hung, and displayed.
They join soft levis molded to our shape;
colored Avon bottles Aunt Pearl wrote into her will;
birdfeeder presented as a wedding gift;
leaning mailbox with the chipped red flag.

Things remind us of everyday life;
nails to repair the fence, crock pot Sunday soup,
batch of applesauce put up last fall, a marathon Scrabble game.
Digging for keys that frosty, winter night
Doors and windows were locked up tight.

A Retreat Summer Reading List and Moved to Tears by Writing

After the activity yesterday many people exchanged book lists for summer reading. The list below is a collection from the group. These books are for varied age levels and interests. The four above are ones I gathered before the trip for summer reading.

The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer
1001 Books You Should Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Atonement by Ian McEwan
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean
Wicked and other titles by Gregory Maguire
Snow by Orhan Pamuk
So B. It by Sarah Weeks
Dinner With Dad: How I Found My Way Back to the Family Table by Cameron Stracher ( his proud cousin-in-law is part of our group)
Writing Brave and Free by Ted Kooser and Steve Cox
mysteries by Josephine Tey
mysteries by Martha Grimes

Are there other titles you could recommend to my growing list?

Last evening the wind came up and there were whitecaps on the lake. We felt it was unsafe to have our nightly campfire.

We moved inside to this yurt that has been transformed into a comfortable classroom. It worked well with the lights dimmed to listen to writing by our participants. Serious topics such as death of parents, children leaving home, and a drowning accident were crafted into prose that brought people to tears. The evening inspired the group to continue with new writing ideas today.

Writing: Reaching a Goal and Creating a Writing Space

As I look out on Payette Lake this evening I slowed down to reflect on a very productive writing day. I reached another writing goal. I have blogged each day since I started February 11th. This makes Blog #175. Doing this ritual each day has enriched my own writing experience. I practice the craft, get feedback, and stay in a routine of making time to do it.Today I set up my own writing space with the essentials. A view of the lake and pine trees, a favorite mug and trail mix, a laptop, and music playing in the background. I revised memoir pieces early in the day. I then went to a workshop on the topic of "What We Read and How That Reflects on What We Write". Lori had us list books that have made a difference in our lives in the last year, then share them with the group. Next we listed the types of writing we do. She helped us see that there are themes between what we choose to read that may help enhance our writing. Some of us read about certain types of characters. Others focus on a time period. Often I immerse myself in a certain genre. The workshop gave us much to reflect on during our lunch on the outdoor porch. We also left the workshop with a whole new list of books for backyard reading.

When I introduced myself last night with a piece of writing I chose a copy change using "Women Who Love Angels" by Judith Ortiz Cofer. With copy change the writer imitates another poem either with structure or word choice. I have also posted this on Thursday Poetry here.
Woman Who Loves Gardening

I have dirty nails
and rarely paint them, living out
my long growing season in the flower garden, trellises
giving view to clematis, climbing Peace
where aromatic flowers
grow in profusion.
I pull the weeds
in the early morning
gritting my teeth
wiping sweat from my brow
and listening
to footsteps of my husband
coming in range to help.
Sun makes my face red;
each sniff with my nose
leaves lily pollen behind.
When I rest it’s the beauty
that causes anxiety to shake loose
from a woman in need
of a quiet place to retreat.
-with thanks to Judith Ortiz Cofer
Here is the original poem:
Women Who Love Angels
by Judith Ortiz Cofer
They are thin
and rarely marry, living out
their long lives in spacious rooms, French doors
giving view to formal gardens
where aromatic flowers
grow in profusion.
They play their pianos
in the late afternoon
tilting their heads
at a gracious angle
as if listening
to notes pitched above
the human range.
Age makes them translucent;
each palpitation of their hearts
visible at temple or neck.
When they die, it's in their sleep,
Their spirits shaking gently loose
from a hostess too well bred
to protest.
Our group is ready to wind up another day of reading, writing, discussion, and retreating. This picture captures the moon last night after twilight.

The Second Leg of the Journey: Pullman to McCall

We started our day in beautiful, sunny weather on the road to McCall. The first stop I had to make was at the top of the "old" Lewiston Hill. As I told my passenger Bev this spot was significant to traveling with my family. When we were growing up this was the route we took to my grandma's in Orofino. We usually stopped right here because we were car sick. When they replaced the old Lewiston Hill with a newer, straight, shorter route they left the old grade.
You can see it in the picture as it weaves around the mountain. The picture also show the town of Lewiston and the Clearwater River from the top of the hill. There was another grade similar past Grangeville at White Bird. They have now modernized that grade with a straighter road and this huge bridge.We have a tradition on our way to the retreat of stopping at the Canyon House at the bottom of the hill by the small town of White Bird. Where else in the world can you get wonderful espresso,gifts, arts and crafts, tackle, licenses, a bedroom suite, and antiques all in one place? Today they also had free puppies.
Next we began to view the Salmon River as we got closer to Riggins, which is a town famous for rafting trips on the river.
We stopped for lunch here and it was 89 degrees. As we traveled to a higher altitude to arrive in McCall, the temperature dropped ten degrees. We greeted our fellow retreat members, shared a marvelous dinner of tomato pesto pasta with fresh salad and homemade rolls. We sat by the shore of the lake after dinner and did a piece of writing to introduce ourselves to each other. People were already bonding and finding writing interests by the time we were done.
We ended the day along the lake shore with a perfect sunset and a campfire. Participants could bring favorite writing by others or share their own. It was a lovely way to end our first day. I can't wait for the writing workshop tomorrow. Now I am off to cozy up in my sleeping bag and listen to the crickets and the frogs singing outside.