Plein air inspiration

Monroe St Bridge
Monroe St Bridge in process.

Inspired by a memory of a brilliant sunset recently.

 

I am working on completing a plein air watercolor painting of the Spokane river today. This started with a group outing at the Spokane library last month. The day waswa cold gray winterwday so I  exercising the artist perogatvepto improvise. AddingAthat gorgeousgsunset to the winter scene. It is a work in process will share more later.

Winter With Family

Let it Snow

Winter with family in the snow can be so much fun! We were fortunate to have our cousin’s son, Sam and his lovely fiancee (Jess) over for the weekend on the start of their ski vacation trip. Yay! We are so jealous!

Always fun time with those two and their furry critter Hilti! Our dog Max and their Hilti are best friends, totally!

Here are both.

Holland Sam Jess

Now, the real personality comes out!

Holland Sam Jess 2

We spent Saturday up on the hill at 49 Degrees North Ski Resort, what a blast. Got a workout and great sunshine all day, who says winter has to be dark? 

Crooked TreeOn Sunday we were able to walk near our house to the “crooked tree”. What a destination huh? It is about a mile and a half walk for us, which is a good stretch of the over-skiied and boarded legs from the day before. Crunch, crunch, crunch. However, it must be about ten miles for the dogs running in circles around us as we go. BTW, it is amazing what nature will overcome?

Check out this old tree, wonder if it could talk what would it say? Pete proves that he is truly a tree hugger and a tree sitter while we are there.

Pete Tree Hugger

When we got back home we had breakfast with Rachel and her family to celebrate her birthday which was the day before. A great winter weekend.

 

Skiing 49 Degrees North

Ski Conditions

Skiing at 49 Degrees North in Chewelah WA this weekend varied a great deal. Yesterday (Saturday) we skied up on the hill we had good snow to try out our fat ski’s on. Now I see why everyone loves their fats. There was 3-4 inches of fluff to float over and practice on for me. Pete went up to the top to check it out and found that the cloud cover was so thick that he was skiing by feel. We opted to stay on the lower hill by chair two and play in the Hobbit forest because,visability was only 1-2 feet on top. Quite a fun day!

We saw a white little weasel, and of course no camera ready. He popped his head out of the snow and looked like he was going to get Pete. They are hard to see but so much smaller than I thought they were. Then he just popped down and dug over a few feet and popped up again. Found one on YouTube kind of like it here.

Snow Today

Today (Sunday) we drove up to the ski hill early and saw beautiful blue bird day sunshine but there were some strong gusts of wind and some chill in the air. Anticipation was really high. The wind increased as we climbed and although there is 4-5 inches of fresh snow it is on top of a solid ice base. A fluffy skating rink. It must have melted yesterday afternoon or rained, then snowed during the night. The parking lot was interesting to traverse, very very, carefully. With those wonderfully comfy, ski boots, ha ha …. the walking across a parking lot skating rink was very interesting!

The lifts delayed starting about an hour due to wind being too strong on top. I decided to go only on chair 2 to check it out since I promised myself no injuries this year. Additionally, with learning a new type of ski “fats” it is so easy to make a mistake. Good choice, self! The wind was blowing the fluff off and drifting. This wimpy old fart decided to call it a day and live to ski another when conditions were easier to survive.

Snow White Christmas Wish Granted

Snowy Snowy Night

Go to sleep dreaming of a snow white Christmas and here is what a little bit of snow overnight action looks like at out house. Isn’t it a glorious transformation? It is a truly sparkly white winter wonderland? Amazing, to say the least. Dark green trees adorned in white crystals that pick up sunlight from everywhere. See more posts of snow here at home. Or better yet, check out the snow report at 49 Degrees North, things are looking good!

snow white house 1

snow white trees 3

Plowing Snow

This snow white winter change requires another set of skills to be performed by any home-owner deciding to live in a rural setting in the inland northwest hills. Luckily, we have family willing to let us buy machinery in payments because this machine has made the clearing of this snow so much easier on these old bones. Not only that, the man driving it smiles and is happy to go outside. Pete loves his Tonka toy.

snow removal 04 Max exhaust 1 04 Max exhaust 2 snow removal back blade down

Snow plowing does something strange to our playful Swiss Mountain Dog/Pitbull named Max. Mighty Max never says no to a walk or run and is in love with the outdoors. He loves snow! Or, is it the tractor that he is in love with? Hmmm.

snow Max back at  exhaust 1 Maxbackatexhaust1Mystery Solved

I had been wondering why this bundle of love muscle has a strange smell after going out and plowing snow with Pete, and this time I discovered what it is that he likes to do. Watching while Pete started up the Kubota, I noticed Max rushing over and getting right under it in the exhaust fumes and rolling in absolute delight in the snow.

You know how some animals roll in dead things they find, well, Max rolls wherever the Kubota spews exhaust. He gets out of the way quickly when Peter starts to plow with the blade, but as soon as he can, he goes right back to where he was rolling before to smell and roll in the snow. Diesel exhaust never impressed me as attractive enough to roll myself in but… It almost looks like he is saying, “What? Mom, it smells so good! I gotta roll in it.”

Maxbackatexhaust3

You can see how Pete clears the lower road where our garden is about the most weed-free it can be, with absolutely no effort on our part. No weeding in the winter, Yay! I digress, sorry. Peter is an expert snow plower with any machine!

snow plow 2 snow white plow 3

Road & Driveway Before

Pictures of the snow white scenery before Pete plows… Here is the road in front of our property, then our driveway before he plows. Next is the lower driveway cleared looking up to the house on the hill. Pete proceeds to get all of the driveway and the road in front of our property clear, so going to work in the morning will be a breeze.snow white roadway snow white driveway

snow lower driveway house

Walking back up the hill I take some shots of the house noticing the bright red metal roof and feeling so blessed to have put such a steep roof on the place. You can see that very little snow ever accumulates. snow white house 2 snow white house 1

We have had enough shoveling of the roof on the mobile home earlier in life. We are so fortunate to not have to shovel this roof in our old age.

Melons & Cantelopes

canteloupe 2Canteloupes and melons are a welcome surprise for those of us in the Inland Pacific Northwest Region gardens. We were able to successfully get some canteloupe to produce in the garden this year. But, with our season so short we were surprised when these guys actually grew in time to harvest. The taste is sweet and great, spoiling us for store bought melon forever. We will be starting them earlier inside before putting out to see if we can actually get them up to a larger size and ripe before things get colder.

I found this article by Susan Mulvihill, about growing them here that has a lot of helpful tips.

In the Garden: Melons worth the extra effort

It is possible that we planted Napoli canteloupe but I am not sure as I did not write it down. I know that is a crime but I did have some distractions this year. Will try to improve in the future.

 

Winesap Apple Tree

This tree was trimmed back drastically year before last year after damage in a wind storm and last year had no apples. Here are the first apples coming in this year, less than a dozen, but absolutely heavenly! Sometimes the wait is worth it. Can’t wait till we have a full crop next year…

I can smell the applesauce, bubbling on the stove. The cinammon throughout the house with the apple cider stirring. Oh, and don’t forget the heavenly scent of Pete’s pies… apple pie, Yummmm. Washington State has the worlds best apples! I love them.

Winesap ApplesWhat are Winesap Apples?

These are kind of medium sized fruit fitting in the palm of your hand. They are solid skinned with firm sweet/sour honey flavored white or slightly yellow flesh. They are red with yellow/green stripes on the outside. When you sit them on the table they don’t sit perfectly straight as they are a little unevenly grown with the stem kind of off center. They are superb apple pie fruit and tasty lunch partners anytime! If you’d like to learn more about these kinds of apples check out this Apple site.

Canning Tomatoes

Garden Canning

tomato canning fooling aroundI was fortunate to have a 12-year-old fabulous helper today named Nathanael, who is doing this canning tomatoes thing for his first time. He did not volunteer for the position, but instead was coerced into it by his Grandma. We were down in the garden today and have some tomatoes harvested. You can see some of them on the table being sorted through to find the ripe ones to put in the canning pile.

 

Wait a minute. Is that worker fooling around there instead of sorting?

variety of tomatoes on counterHours later, we are finally ready to can our tomatoes with a good selection on the counter. We had quite a wide variety this year due to many volunteers popping up all over our garden. Beef steaks, Burgundy Reds, Glaciers, Early Girls, Romas and Large Cherry tomatoes. Really, really large cherry tomatoes.

 

Complicated, canning tomatoes

Nathanael learned the whole canning process this year. How to blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 10-12 seconds and then quickly set in cold water in the sink. It is fun to see how easy it is to peel and core them this way. We work to get our jar funnel with hot lid seals and rings ready and waiting for us on the counter next to the stove.Nathanael getting jarstomato canning jar bath

After a simmer in the saucepan with us stirring constantly, we are ready for the next step. Pouring the hot tomato sauce into hot jars lined-up on the counter, cleaning the jar lids and carefully placing the seal and tightening the ring. During this simmering process for the tomatoes we are also heating up our big canning pot “water bath” so we can seal the jars in it after we put the sauce into the jars.

Putting the jars into the boiling water bath is kind of tricky. Hot and a little dangerous. Canning has one of the strangest tools ever invented. Here is Nathanael getting used to the thing-a-ma-jig plier thingy used to pick up the steaming hot jars out of the boiling water.got tomatoes canned

Every year we put a supply of products; tomato sauce, catsup and salsa in the pantry covering our needs for the next 9-12 months. We also end up giving canned foods to family and friends but only if they return the empty jars. It is kind of an unspoken rule. We enjoy eating fresher, sweeter vegetables without additives.

Yellow Rose Blooms

Treasured Fragrance

Yellow Rose Blossom
Blossom Yellow Rose

A golden hybrid tea rose that we planted as a bare root one year ago, offered its first yellow rose blossom today and it is a true beauty. There is a slight fragrance from it’s petals and it is opening in a most graceful form. Though these floral beauties have an abundance of thorns, they are still a favored flowers for many gardeners. There is just an overpowering attraction to the fragrance that they fill the air with along with their soft fluffy petals.

My husband and I both love roses and gardening. The first date we had, I saw his rose garden. His green thumb showed beautifully with a dark red rose bush covering the whole corner of his garden right at the sidewalk that you walked into his house. This rose looked so happy and full of fragrant blossoms I immediately knew he was a man to take a really close look at, a keeper.

Ongoing Growth

Many years have passed since we first met, and we have both built a large garden now in the wilderness of Elk WA, a beautiful mountainous area in the rural areas of northern Spokane. We do not have an unlimited budget so the planting of beautiful flowers has taken longer than the staples like vegetables, berries, fruit, and spices, one thing at a time.

I will have to render this beauty in the studio.

 

Thrift Store Score

pot on the shelf with price tag
innocuous pot on shelf

It Pays to Keep Your Eyes Open

I was on the lookout for a thrift store score  while shopping at Value Village in downtown Spokane. I was casually walking through the kitchen utensils, pots and pans even though I had no need for more stuff like that. Suddenly, I noticed this item on the top shelf, I could see what looked like a large aluminum canning boiler for $14.99. Hmmmm, why would the price for this aluminum pot be $14.99 when the one next to it was an enamel coated canner at $8.99? Strange.

Curiosity getting the best of me, I turned the pot a little and caught site of the tube that was hiding on the back side. Oh My Gosh!

You’d have to know me better to understand why I grabbed this as fast as I could. After placing it in my cart I was doing a little jig and dancing down the isle. GIG! People started making large arcs around me in their travel patterns like there was really something wrong with me.

A Note of Explanation

This is a great canning tool I have been wanting for a long time. I’ve been saving change in the little coffee can to purchase us one.  Even though I always kept an eye out for one, I had not been successful in finding a thrift store score, or even any at garage sales for at least two canning seasons. I was no where near saving enough to buy a new one yet, even the $80 one was way out of sight for us. Here are some Google’d available purchase options from the internet to show you about these steamer juicers.

Back to Basics Aluminum Steam Juicer – A12 (Discontinued by Manufacturer) selling for $182

or this one

Victorio Steam Juicer with Glass Lid (Aluminum) selling for $80

steam juicer aluminum
aluminun steam juicer & canner

Borrowing

I have a sister-in-law whom I borrowed this exact same unit from, on a regular basis to make juices, jams, syrups etc etc etc. I honestly believe that Dan and Ann got so tired of Pete and I using her juicer every canning season, that they simply decided to move away. Not just a little move either, it was far enough away so I could not drive over and borrow the steamer again. It was all the way to Alabama from Washington state… is that far enough? Actually, I think they would have to start doing the South America thing if they wanted to get any further away. It really had nothing to do with their grandkids living there, I’m sure. LOL!

Ann! look at what I found :)! Could you send up some peaches and pears so we can make some juices? LOL!

I get a real kick out of going to garage sales, thrift stores and online at Craigslist or other places. Sometimes, people make fun of me because of the scores I find, and how I absolutely jump up and down in joy when I get a find like this.  I feel safer hoping and finding in estate sales, garage sales and thrift stores because I won’t be spending our hard earned cash on overpriced items? I don’t know. It is truly fun for me to find useful things out of someone else’s throw aways. I may be just fulfilling a deep desire or fixation to shop combined with fears of bankruptcy. This cheaper avenue to shop is probably so I don’t bankrupt our budget? What do you think?