Summer Soul

Each footstep was carefully placed testing for ice.  Falling uncontrollably down the front steps in to the early dawn is no way to start the day.  I should have known the steps were just wet and not frozen by seeing the first hint of thick fog through the slowly waxing light in the treetops across the valley.  Frost comes on those clear, starry nights we get so infrequently here in Western Oregon in winter.  This morning the clouds were low and thick.

Pasture ringed by forest with a valley beyond

Beautiful even in the wet and gray

As the tires of my Honda crunched up the long driveway, I skirted puddles so as not to create potholes in the gravel roadbed and realized that it had once again rained in the darkness.  In fact, mist was still coating the windshield requiring a wipe or two during the ¾ mile journey to the end of the lane to retrieve the morning newspaper.  Rain has long since stopped soaking into the ground.  Now it mostly just runs on the surface collecting in rivulets, becoming streams, joining to creeks, and eventually roiling in dark rivers of silt-laden rainwater.

But it is always on days like this, every year, that summer begins for us.  The beginning isn’t announced by anything weather related, obviously.  It’s more postal related, signaled by a growing stack of garden seed catalogues.  When the stack reaches critical mass, and includes the catalogue from our go-to local seed company, the date is set for the opening celebration, which is held, more or less formally, on a Saturday morning in February.

The summer’s opening ceremony usually lasts three or four hours and includes a critical review of last year’s valuable experience, an inspection of the stores of garden canned goods, a reminiscence of the recipes that rocked last year, a parade of old seed packets whose seeds may or may not still be viable, and frequent looks out the window and into the garden to firm up logistical ideas and proposals.

Garden catalogs, seed packets, and order forms

Summer can be drawn forth from these simple items, and some vision, and some hope.

The big event, the event that carries all the emotional power, is the reading of the most exciting sounding descriptions from each vegetable category. Having read years and years of vegetable descriptions from dozens of catalogues hasn’t diminished the joy of the event one bit, nor has it made us the least bit cynical about the veracity of those descriptions.   It’s a long way from seed to ripe vegetable and so much can happen along the way that we’re more inclined to blame the soil, or the weather, or the gardener, and give the seeds a break.  That inclination may be a little naive and somewhat unproductive, and it’s true that some seeds just don’t work well in our garden, but that never dims the hope that rushes forth from those small pictures and delicate descriptions.

So this past Saturday, during a three-hour ceremony, on a windy, rainy, cold winter’s day in February, summer began.  The seed order was placed on line, the catalogues were stacked and set aside, last year’s seeds were packed back in their airtight container, and things immediately began to brighten up around here.  New life is springing forth, if only so far from our summer souls, and the worst of the dark is over for another year.

Granted Immortality

My dog has been immortalized.  Henry’s a great dog, but, still, it makes me a little jealous.  I’m jealous despite that he was immortalized for doing something pretty stupid.  He ate a corn cob. One of the great things about being a dog, though, is that stupidity doesn’t exist.  I’m sure that when he was…

Lavender Fields Forever

Sometimes it’s a “Yippee!,” sometimes a “Woo Hoo!,” sometimes a little scream, sometimes a big scream, sometimes it’s just an “Oh Hun” delivered in a teasing, three-syllable lilt, but each time it’s filled with the joy of discovery.  I’ve heard these exultations while hunting morel mushrooms in the woods outside of McCall, Idaho, and in…

Firewood Lumberjack

For five years I’ve been waiting.  Every winter at least one violent wind storm rips in from the ocean and tosses our trees around like a bully in a school yard.  While these storms rage, I sit comfortably next to our warm wood stove and look out our picture window upon a petulant Mother Nature,…

Blacktails Aplenty

I braked suddenly early this morning at the blind corner on the private lane winding through our hill-and-valley, rural neighborhood.  Locked in rigid indecision, staring fearfully, eight feet from my front bumper, stood a small spotted fawn.  Though my countenance behind the wheel must have reflected some of the joy I feel upon encounters like…

There’s a Broiler Chicken in My Soup

              No doubt, like me, you are still reeling from the news of July 14, 2010, reporting that incontrovertible evidence had been found to solve the ancient mystery of which came first, the chicken or the egg.  As you probably already know, on that day researchers from Great Britain…

Razor Clam Fry and Fritters

Razor clams seem to be made from the very best ingredients in the ocean.  They taste fresh and clean, like any great seafood, but also buttery and rich with their own unique flavor that invariably causes people to close their eyes, tilt their heads back slightly, and moan softly while chewing.   I love crab and…

We Really Dig Clams

George’s boat hit the water at the end of the boat ramp at Netarts Bay just before 6:30 on the second morning of our clamming adventure.  We had arrived over an hour ahead of low tide, which, for the second day in a row, was predicted to be one of the year’s lowest on the…

The Razor’s Edge of the Ocean

By 5:30 that morning we had already driven two hours up the coast from Pacific City to Seaside, Oregon, and were parked on Del Ray Beach at the high tide line.  The sun hadn’t yet broken above the eastern horizon, but dawn was definitely upon us and we were right on time.  I pulled on…

Raiders of the Lost Corn

We’ve been infiltrated by sneaky corn lovers.  Who doesn’t like corn on the cob picked, shucked, and boiled only minutes before being served alongside a juicy slab of barbequed salmon filet and a Caesar salad.  Corn is a fixture in our gardens every year.  We work hard to grow corn to create dinners like the…