it’s a rocky road

Walking on the beach, along a river bank or just on my daily walk up our road, I am compulsive about picking up rocks. I am partial to smooth, egg-shaped rocks, though round or oblong discs will do. I have written here before about big rocks that I drag home from driving jaunts, but here I’m talking about little rocks…the kind that can fill up my pockets.

grouping of medium sized rocks

If you were to visit (and oh, how I wish you could), you would see little groupings like this collection of medium-sized rocks, and one to grow on.

kitchen windowsill bare

The kitchen windowsill did not appeal to me. This window looks out to the cherry trees and the bird feeders & bath, so it is always good for a show.

windowsill rocks

Filled with rocks (guess they are more like pebbles), it pleases me as I stand here admiring avian antics.

heart-shaped rock

I was tickled to find a heart-shaped rock. I like the way it looks at the feet of my goofy earring holder.

collection of flower frogs

Here is part of my collection of flower frogs…

rock frogs

but I rarely use them for their intended purpose, because rocks work so much better (in a tall vase,

rock frog 2

…or a shallow one.

rocks as mulch

Lately, I’ve been emptying my pockets into large container plantings. They keep the soil from splashing up and give a nice finishing touch.

rock earrings

Even my favorite earrings are a pair of matched rocks, wire wrapped, with an extra little silver dangle to dress them up a bit. What about you? Do you have a rock fetish? Or perhaps some other siren (plants don’t count here, we all share that obsession) lures you onto the rocks. I would love to hear about it.

rebuilding center on Mississippi

from across the street

Now that things are slowing down in the garden, it’s a good time to trot out some of the things stored away that didn’t quite make it into previous posts. When I visited Mississippi Ave a few weeks ago, I took quite a few pictures of a place I find inspiring, The Rebuilding Center. If you drive toward the river on Fremont, you will come upon it where Fremont intersects with Mississippi.


It is a place where builders and remodelers can drop off unwanted building materials that are then sorted, priced and put on display.

wall of windows

Bulletin boards hold ideas for ways to use cast off materials in ingenious ways, but perhaps the most inspiring examples are to be found in the building itself. Here is a wall incorporating a hodge podge of reclaimed windows. Greenhouse, anyone?

welded metal fence

Scrap metal has been welded into a decorative fence.

main entrance

The main entrance is a fantasy land, with built-in benches at the base of trees whose branches, adorned with sparkly elements reach for the vaulted skylights.

another look

Here’s another look at that entryway.


The space is huge, with enough room for separate areas dedicated to doors, windows, etc.


In the lighting department, whole fixtures hang from above while shelves of globes and shades fill the dense shelving below.

lumber, etc.

This is one of those places to come with an open mind and let the imagination roam free. Who knows what manner of garden structure might result.

solar supertrees in Singapore

solar supertrees in Singapore

We were googling solar towers for a project R was working on, and came across this vision of the future. It is one of many proposals for blending horticulture and technology in ways that look like story boards for a John Cameron flick, but are actual bids by architects to fulfill calls for new buildings in places like Singapore and Dubai. It makes me want to live a long life just to see some of these fantasies come to fruition. Go here to see more…and let me know what you think.

Portland Homestead Supply Co


Tucked way in the Sellwood-Moreland district, just a little north of Tacoma on 13th Ave., all ye home cooks and gardeners (not to mention candle makers, home brewers. etc. etc.) will find a treasure in Portland Homestead Supply Co.

merchandise display

As soon as I stepped through the door, I was struck by the quality of the goods on display. They steer away from electronic gadgets in favor of the tried and true (note the bright red hand-crank meat grinder on the nearest table). These are items that can pass for artifacts. Indeed, they raise the homely arts of home making to an art form. All of the standard jars for canning and pickling are here, but for just a little bit extra, you can buy jars that will turn your kitchen’s yummy output into gourmet gift items to make you proud. I was drawn to some stainless steel pie pans…anticipating the delight they would bring to turning out pies and quiches.

how-to library

Need a little help getting started? Many subjects are covered in their book section.


On a mezzanine overlooking the main room is a large table where classes are held. Be sure to check out the class schedule on their website if you would like to try something new with a little hands-on help. See that “fresh eggs” sign on the mantle? It is not just for show. I was there on a Friday, when fresh farm eggs had just been delivered. There were duck eggs as well as huge chickens eggs and teeny tiny ones. Once you have tried eggs straight from the farm you will never go back.

aprons and linens

Several small rooms off the classroom hold different categories of merchandise. This one had aprons and various linens, all with that homey feel executed with a modern twist. While I was there, a woman came in with oven mitts she had made using flour sacks handed down in her family. I’m not sure any of that batch will make it to the showroom floor, the way employees were snatching them up. Don’t worry: she will be back with more.

drying rack

This drying rack folds flush to the wall when it is not in service.

candle making

All the makings for candles, including an interesting array of molds (bottom shelves), and an instructional book. I think taking the class would be a fun way to get into this.

Just as I was about to pay up and take my leave, someone mentioned that there were garden related items out the side door.

Nigerian dwarf goat

Have you ever seen a sweeter looking goat? It was unclear to me if this was Wendell or Belle, but the pair of Nigerian dwarf goats provide endless entertainment, keep the grounds clear of blackberry vine and, if all goes according to plan, will provide some frolicking kids come spring.


They share the yard with chickens and ducks, all roaming freely…

alley fence

the only restraints being good looking fencing treatments that block off the alleys on both sides of the shop.

supplements and tools

As with everything else, the room holding soil amendments and tools is spick and span, and the displays are as attractive as they are utilitarian. Those galvanized bins hold all sorts of soil amendments, even hard-to-find things like Jersey Greensand…all available in bulk or in 5# bags. Now it really was time to shove off, and I found myself chomping at the bit to get back to my kitchen and garden.

Mississippi Ave – and a world of salt

Back to my original plan to take you on a stroll along Mississippi Avenue in North Portland, but first I suggest that you visit Digging to see Pam’s tour of the greatest fall display I have ever encountered.

the old and the new

This is one of those areas that has been in transition for a number of years. Unlike the urban renewal model, the process has been organic, leaving old houses like this one, complete with a yard full of roses, to cozy up next to a brand new building housing shops and businesses.

new apartments (condos?)

New housing complexes raise the density along the street,

bamboo-lined alley

complete with a bamboo-lined pedestrian alley that extends the storefront shopping experience.

funky style store-front

Many of the storefronts have a funky, reclaimed quality about them, like this Mexican restaurant.

untouched remnant of old neighborhood

A few remnants of the old neighborhood remain untouched.

alley food cart

Food carts are a big deal in Portland. Since this one is on private property, it can build some covered seating for its customers without running afoul of city ordinances.

art gallery

Art on the street runs the gamut, from this minimalist gallery presentation

metal sculpture farm animals

to these farm animals strutting their stuff on the sidewalk.


SunLan carries nothing but light bulbs. You never saw so many light bulbs…of every size, shape and description. It almost resembles a curio shop.

sleek entry

While across the street a new building sports this sleek entry

sophisticated planters

with modern, sophisticated planters. You wouldn’t think that the disparity of styles would work, but it all seems to hold together and exude personality in a way that monocultures like malls try so hard for and miss by a mile.

portal to ?

This brand new covered portal would seem to suggest something coming soon to this currently almost vacant lot, but on Mississippi you never can tell. It may have been built entirely for its own sake.

stone balls

Most of a block is lined with new shops fronted by a courtyard punctuated by these large stone orbs.

The Meadows

One of the shops is emblematic of the quirky nature of the street. The Meadow is devoted almost exclusively to the world of salt. A selmelier is to salt what a sommelier is to wine. They have one.

wall of salt

Yep, that’s a wall of salt, all right. There are tester jars of each variety, and little cups of water to clean the palate between tastes.

Himalayan salt blocks

Those handsome slabs in the foreground are Himalayan salt blocks. They can be heated or chilled to serve a variety of foods while imparting a delicate hint of salt.

flowers and chocolate

To round out a true gourmet shopping splurge you can pick from a nice selection of flowers (while I was there last summer, a biker type in studded leathers chose a perfect, small red rose, had it beautifully wrapped in tissue, tied with a ribbon and off he roared…presumably to his lady love, but it might have been his mom (there was that tattoo). The Meadow also has a selection of high end chocolates, wines and bitters.

bagging it up

Having guided me through a tasting session, this delightful young woman is bagging up my purchases: smoked Malton finishing salt, truffle sea salt and a tiny silver spoon (suspicious if I am ever in a drug bust). The salts are expensive, but potent. They are used at the end of cooking or at the table, and the tiniest bit packs a wallop. So you see, Wendy, I did wind my way around to a little bit in this post that justifies linking to your Garden to Table Challenge. I guarantee you these salts will bring out the best in anything from your garden or farmers’ market.

Sauvie Island Farms

Usually, a drive to Sauvies Island (just minutes away from downtown Portland) means a visit to Cistus Nursery, a nature hike or a picnic and a swim. This time, I wanted to check out a farm stand I had heard of. If you go left off the bridge and keep straight rather than turning right onto Reeder Road, begin watching for:

white fences andcars

pristine white fences and many cars on the right.

entry with tykes

The tykes playing around the entry sign look tidy enough here, but by the time I left, their shirts and faces showed their appreciation for the berries and other goodies.

everything you need to “pick your own posies”

Before heading out to the fields, a stop at this station provides buckets, seacateurs, check lists and pencils: all of the supplies needed to “pick your own posies”.

road through the fields

The fields stretch as far as the eye can see.


So if you don’t feel up to the trek, or you just want to show the kiddies a good time, a transport is readily available (with hunky teen boys driving the tractors).


Who needs a cutting garden when fields of zinnias (among many other types of blooms) are offered up for 25 cents a stem?


I think repeat visits will be a must. I see a bouquet of sunflowers in my future, once the zinnias pass their prime.


My mission was to get peaches for a pie. Store-bought peaches are almost always a disappointment. Here, one is primed with information about what to look for in the perfect peach: a deep red blush, a slight give to gentle pressure, and no resistance when plucking the fruit with a tug straight down (twisting tends to break the skin).

peach trees

The trees in this orchard have been kept small, so that it is easy to wander among them to choose and pluck fruit at its peak of perfection. I have visited many farm stands on the island, most often as an afterthought on the way to some other destination. This farm is well worth a planned trip with nothing else in mind…though you might want to meander up the road a bit to check out the lavender farm, or venture out Reeder Road to the Herb Farm.

Here’s what I plan to do with the peaches: arrange slices in a hot pre-baked cornmeal crust; pour over a mixture of 1 c sugar, half c flour,1 tsp ground cinnamon, quarter tsp each salt and ground nutmeg and 1 c whipping cream; bake at 400 for 40 min and chill well before serving.

new stuff

grasses from Perry

Plant sales are going on everywhere these days. Our neighbor down the road had one the other day, and I bought him out of these lovely little silvery grasses.

new bamboo

When I asked him about this pot of golden bamboo, he said I could just have it if I would bring back the pot. What a deal! We were in line at Portland Nursery the other day and the person ahead of us had the same thing, a little smaller, for $75. Do you wonder that I can never pass by a handmade “plant sale” sign?

Italian cypresses

Many people have a bone to pick with Means Nursery because of hiring (and firing) practices. It is true that they employ practically a skeleton crew of non-gardeners who have no knowledge of the plants and who all go to lunch at the same time, leaving customers to wait and chat amongst themselves. Still, we have found the plant material to be fairly high quality and they manage to keep their prices low. These two Italian cypresses were just $16 each. R tries to add a couple of them each year. It’s mighty dangerous to have to drive by this place and Joy Creek’s road every time we go to the store.

Rhododendron saluense

Speaking of Joy Creek, they have quite a few Rhododendrons in their display gardens. They were inherited from prior owners of the property, and are not featured for sale at the nursery. Still, customers are continually asking about them, so arrangements were made to bring in real experts Mike and Maria Stewart of Dover Nursery to give a talk. They also brought plants to illustrate the wide variety of possibilities within the genus. This Rhododendron saluense is among the smallest, and will go into a new berm.

Rhododendron recurvum

We were drawn to the lance-shaped leaves with velvety indumentum on their undersides. Rhododendron recurvum will make a nice addition to the evergreen drive.

R recurvum in place

It will only reach 2 to 3 feet in height over time. I wish I had had time to photograph more of the plants, but we were overbooked that day and had to cut out right after the presentation. One fun fact I will leave you with is this: the way you can tell the difference between an azalea and a Rhododendron is the number of stamens. Rhododendrons have ten, while azaleas have only five.

got your Easter chicks?

chick sign

This sign out in front of Linnton Feed and Seed on Highway 30 announces the arrival of the chicks.

dog by fire

Step inside, and it is like being transported back to simpler times. The staff is free to bring their dogs to work. This guy is planked out in front of the pellet stove when he is not wagging a greeting.

seed potatoes and onion sets

The seed potatoes and onion sets take up a good deal of floor space this time of year. Come fall, cover crop seed is available by the scoop or in large quantities.


When we moved to the country, I began buying eggs from a neighbor. Store-bought eggs just won’t cut it with us any more. These eggs have yolks that are saffron-hued, and stand up in the pan in a way that only Dolly Parton could describe. When my neighborhood source became less dependable, I discovered that the eggs went fast at farmers’ markets. Get there more than an hour or so after opening and they were likely to be gone. Now I just stop by the feed and seed, drop off my empty cartons and pick up eggs supplied by area farmers. I haven’t the temperament for keeping chickens myself, but if it came to either that or super market eggs…I might consider it…there is that much difference.

veggie starts

Tempting racks of veggie starts, bales of hay and bagged supplements line the parking lot. Get your garden goodies here! Oh, and Happy Easter!

do you kindle?

kindle and library book

My kids gave me a Kindle for Christmas. There it is next to a library book, The Complete Works of Jane Austen. Which of these would you prefer to carry around in your purse to read whenever you found yourself with a snippet of time on your hands? Don’t get me wrong: I am, and always will be, a book person. One of the first things I did when setting up housekeeping on my own was begin to build a library. When I hooked up with Richard, who shared my book habit, we quickly outgrew our shelf space. Did we cease and desist? No, R built more shelves. It is only lately that we have begun to jettison a random book or three, to make room for more. There is a limit, even for us, to the amount of wall space that can be given over to book shelves. Enter the Kindle, at precisely the right moment in time. It is slim, elegant and relatively weightless. The screen renders typography extremely legible. The number of volumes it will store is practically limitless. Order one from Amazon, and before you have even logged off it will have been uploaded, seemingly magically, to your reading device. The Kindle versions of books cost less, even, than paperbacks, and works that are in the public domain are either free or a nominal $.99. What is more, when in doubt about a book you might want to read, you can download the first chapter to give it a test drive before committing resources.

Richard was disdainful (to put it politely) of this newfangled contraption. He was casting about for some reading material the other day, and I knew he would love Just Kids, Patti Smith’s National Book Award winning account of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. It was the first book I had ordered up for the Kindle. I wouldn’t say he is exactly a convert, but he did have to admit that it was a pleasant reading experience. In the case of Just Kids, it is a book I will probably buy in its hardbound edition, just so that I can have all of the wonderful line drawings and photographs sprinkled throughout. Riffling through the pages of a book is satisfying in a way that bookmarking in an e-reader does not duplicate. There will always be books we will want to own. For reading in the tub, best to stick with ink on paper. I love my Kindle, not as a replacement, but as another tool for gobbling up words.

kindle case

It didn’t take long to figure out that if I was going to carry this thing around with me, it would need some protection. I made a case for myself, and one for Hillary. She was thrilled, and said that she had gone on Etsy to try to find something like it and had found nothing. Whoa! A new, uncrowded niche in the labyrinth that is Etsy? I made a few more and added them to my shop, by which time there were over 4,000 others ahead of me. Sigh. What about you? Have you fallen prey to the Kindle? Do you have an experience or an opinion or a rant? Please share. And if you want one of my cases, you can find one by poking around in my Etsy shop.

catch the grass ring

etsy grass ring

People are always referring to our “green thumbs”. How about wearing a little patch of grass on your ring finger? Nice twist, don’t you think? I came across this here on Etsy, and just had to share it with my gardening friends.