A Spring Celebration By Any Other Name

No matter if you call it Alban Eilir, Ishtar, Eastre, Eostre, Ostara or Easter this time of year (around the time of the Vernal or Spring Equinox) is a time for celebrating life renewed, resurrection and fertility.

Even though we’ve had a record breaking cold, wet, icy miserable excuse for “spring” around here (with the exception of the beautiful day on Saturday when everyone in the region went nuts), the daffodils and tulips are blooming the fruit trees are bursting forth with new life, egg laying chickens are back to full production, our pets are hyper and the robin in my back yard is singing as loud as he can nearly 24/7 to attract a mate from the ladies in the park across the street. (dear Hilltop lady robins, please take pity on this poor guy, he’s driving me nuts)

Yesterday was celebrated as Easter by many in our country, most of whom do not know that it is actually a Pagan celebration. (the link is pretty cool, go ahead… give it a click)

Although I don’t celebrate the co opted Christian version of the holiday, it seemed like a great day to host a Sunday brunch honoring spring for some of my many eclectic friends. (one of the many joys of being eclectic/a spiritualist is more things to celebrate 😉

I enjoyed setting my table with my mother’s antique china and crystal (just disregard the cheap Fred Meyer champagne glasses) and fresh cut flowers from my garden (everyone got to take one home)

From Drop Box

I served cocktail shrimp, mimosas and my new gourmet deviled eggs (backyard eggs with pepper, garlic, super blue cheese dressing, garnished with bacon) as appetizers.

From Drop Box

For the main courses, we had a lovely spiral cut ham, cheesy potatoes and some lovely asparagus I picked up at the Farmers Market on Saturday.

From Drop Box

Good Food, Friends and Conversation filled the afternoon.

There were even a couple of treats courtesy of Knut and Alice. I bit the head off of the chocolate covered peep right away. The ducky pez dispenser will go into my ducky collection.

From Drop Box

Even Darwin the Slug got into the act (and will be updating his blog later)

From Drop Box

No matter your beliefs (or lack thereof) spring is certainly worth celebrating!


Mood: At Peace


What a difference a year makes

I just realized that a year ago Saturday, I made the offer on this old house.

The back yard is no longer a hardpan dumping ground for trash, rotting furniture, junk vehicles or broken television sets overgrown with grass and weeds; its’ a small urban farm. (OK, the grass is a little long right now, but it hasn’t been dry enough to mow.

Although it hasn’t fully “sprung” (pun intended) to life for the season, it is a great improvement.

Out of the nine fruit trees I planted: three apple, three cherry, plum, peach, and a pear to replace the 100 year old one that came crashing down in November’s wind storm, the new Oregon Curl Free peach is the first to bloom.

garden April 11 2011 007

The Italian Prune Plum is not far behind.

garden April 11 2011 008

The asparagus bed is planted (yes, the plants are upside down in the picture, but they aren’t planted that way)

From Drop Box

and the strawberry beds are weeded and cleaned up (I still have a dozen or so strawberry plants I need people to come get; they are trying to take over)

garden April 11 2011 012

the “cold weather” crops, lettuce, peas, brocolli are doing fine in the greenhouse and are almost ready to move outside (if icy death would quit falling out of the sky)

garden April 11 2011 004

the peppers and tomatoes are doing well with the heat mat on only at night; hopefully I’ll be able to turn that off soon. (if the weather ever cooperates, yeah right…)

garden April 11 2011 002

My lilacs that arrived from Rain Tree Nursery bare root a few weeks ago are budding out and one is already starting to bloom.

garden April 11 2011 015

The front yard was weeds and some really ugly “two man” rocks someone had painted white thinking it was “decorative”.

It’s full of flowers now…

These (several hundred) bulbs were a pain to plant (I dug them good and deep so they’d come back every year) but it’s paying off now (and I’ll never have to do it again)

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garden April 11 2011 018

The special parrot tulips that I planted in honor of mine and Bonnie’s friend Karen who tragically lost her battle with cancer this year are getting ready to bloom as well.

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The crocus and muscari I planted in the parking strip are adding some cherry color around the flowering cherry trees as well. (the Kwanzan trees will bloom next month, along with my pink flowering dogwood)

garden April 11 2011 021

I still have a lot of work to do, but it’s such a great improvement over this time last year.


Mood: Happy


Urban Farm Update

Despite the cold and torrential downpours spring has arrived in Tacoma, as evidenced in gardens all over the city showing off fabulous displays of daffodils, cherry blossoms and other lovely blooms.

I am (for the time being) no longer “the house with the lions”; I am “the house with the daffodils”

From Drop Box

The crocus I forgot to plant in the fall and found and unceremoniously plugged into the ground in the spring are happily poking up out of the lawn around the cherry trees.

From Drop Box

The other late planted daffodils and tulips I put in the side yard are coming up as well.

From Drop Box

The raspberries, loving the TAGRO are getting ready to go nuts.

From Drop Box

The Lilacs I ordered from Rain Tree Nursery are healthy and growing like crazy.

From Drop Box

Speaking of growing like crazy, the seedlings down the basement were ready to be repotted and moved out to the greenhouse.

From Drop Box

I put them into 4” peat pots (for those who think that peat pots and pellets impede root growth, you haven’t seen the roots growing out of those peat pots) and moved them out to the greenhouse.

The “cold weather” crops: peas, broccoli, lettuce, spinach are just sitting on the shelf.

From Drop Box

The crops that like a little more warmth are on one of the heat mats that I turn on at night. It’s very warm in the greenhouse during the day, but night time temperatures are still dropping down into the upper 30’s low 40’s at night, and that might be a bit of a shock for little sprouts that have been on a heat mat 24/7

From Drop Box

So far, having the heat mat on at night seems to be doing the trick. The sprouts seem quiet happy without my having to haul them in and out of the house to “harden off”.

I will purchase the “wall o water” insulators once I move the tomatoes outside, and will also use some bell cloches for the peppers until the weather finally warms up.

In other news, the chickens learned how to fly over the garden fence. I needed to stop this behavior because once I get those tender young plants out into the garden beds, I don’t want them confused for a chicken salad bar.

As you have seen by previous videos

*gratuitous chicken round up video

If the video doesn’t embed properly in your browser/reader you can view it by making with the clicky clicky here

rounding up chickens is not a one person task.

My friend and neighbor Amy came over and helped me round up the girls and clip their wings.

Here we are determining which feathers to clip on Ginger’s wing.

*photos by K Coats

From Drop Box

and an easy snip and it’s all done.

From Drop Box

Well I thought it was done. MaryAnn has escaped a couple of times. She can get out, but not back in which is weird. I’m going to try using weed cloth staples to tack the flexible fence down every few inches and am going to pick up some taller fence posts as the fence slumps down in some areas (that’s where MaryAnn flew over the one time I was able to catch her)

I also need to put new batteries in my game camera to catch her in the act.

If securing the bottom and top don’t do it, we’ll have to clip the other wing. I still don’t get how she’d be the one who could fly, she is definitely the heavier and rounder of the two.

Yes, the weather has sucked pond water lately. In March we were several degrees below normal and had three inches more rain than normal.

But as this little cell phone photo, taken from the Graffiti Garages at sunset on Saturday night show, this really is a beautiful place.

From Drop Box


Mood: Happy


Cycling around the 253

We got very lucky this weekend and had some breaks between torrential downpours, so it was time to get out on the bike for something other than a wet, soggy slog of a commute.

After a great Friday night at El Guadalajara unwinding with friends after a long work week, I hopped on my bike (sans rain pants, but they were in the panniers) Saturday morning and headed over to the Proctor Farmer’s Market for a cup of Feisty Gals Coffee and to visit with friends Janet and Daniel who also cycled over.

From Drop Box

It was the Jr Daffodil parade so it was really fun seeing the school bands and floats and it also made the market an even more busy/happening place than usual.

After visiting with lots of friends and vendors, we rode over to the Rosewood Cafe for an awesome lunch. We shared a warmed brie covered in a fabulous pecan balsamic/honey reduction served with apple slices and warm crusty bread; there was also roasted pepper soup, bruschetta and good microbrew.

Sunday also provided a rain free (albeit cold) opportunity to get outside and play. I brought my negleted road bike Flash up out of the basement and rode her figuring that I wasn’t going to need the disk brakes or ability to carry a change of clothing that I have with Xena the commuter bike. She has half fenders, so if it rained, I wouldn’t have a streak of mud up my backside. (a LiveJournal friend of mine in another state commented that he had never seen a bike with areobars AND fenders 😉

I rode over to the Narrows to meet my friend, stopped by to chat with another friend in the same neighborhood and headed over to Pt Defiance for a lovely ride through the old growth forest along Five Mile Drive.

After a stop to visit another friend, we rode down to the waterfront (always fun negotiating the Ruston tunnel on a bike) for a burger and a beer at the RAM.

Even on a cold cloudy day, Tacoma is a pretty awesome place to live.

From Drop Box

and the beer was good too 🙂

From Drop Box

Of course, the most “fun” part was climbing back up to the hill from sea level.

It doesn’t make sense, but for some reason, I think that Starr St has a gentler grade than McCarver, so we went that way. (the road bike doesn’t have the low gears that the commuter bike has)

That ride ended up being about 20 miles with around 1.100 feet of climbing.

Any spring weekend up here where you can get out on your bike both days is a good one.


Mood: Happy


A Fire Virgin No More

Saturday night was the “Super” (Perigee) Full Moon and was an Ostara (Spring Equinox) celebration hosted by some friends.

It was also the night that I decided to pop my fire cherry and light up the cathedral fire poi.

It had only been 31 days since my first time ever spinning poi. That may sound like a lot of days, but when you consider that the weather was horrid (deep freezes, snow, wind storms, hail, freezing rain) there were virtually no days to practice outdoors (ceilings, doorways and furniture are quite limiting to free artistic expression) so I was a bit nervous about scheduling something so soon. My fire mentors assured me that they thought I would do fine as long as I stuck to moves I was very comfortable with. (I had no intention of any behind the head moves 😉

We had an awesome safety crew including Michelle’s husband Jon and Becki’s son Marshall. We had wet towels, a fire blanket, an extinguisher and wet towels. There were also well defined fueling and performance/lighting areas and lots of spotters all the way around the spinners at all times to alert them if they caught on fire. Two folks did catch fire, but the spotters were on it and they were able to pat themselves out without even stopping their performances. (the safety team was at the ready if need be, but they weren’t needed) I’m quite pleased to say that I did not catch myself on fire.

So I covered up head to toe in cotton because it doesn’t ignite like synthetic fabrics which also melt, adhere to your skin and cause really nasty burns. (sexy eh?) and volunteered to go first.

Here I am about ready to “get lit”

Ostara Fire Spin 001

and away… we go…

Grabbed Frame 1

For little poi, they flamed up pretty big

Grabbed Frame 15

Here’s the Video of my first “burn” for those who haven’t seen it.

If the video doesn’t display properly in your browser/reader you can view it by making with the clicky clicky here

And yes, I made a bunch of mistakes and even hit myself once (but since the excess fuel had been squeezed out of them and I was wearing cotton, my shirt did not ignite) but it sure was a lot better than this… my first ever attempt… (when I beat the crap out of myself the whole time and actually hit myself in the face)

If the video doesn’t display properly in your browser/reader you can view it by making with the clicky clicky here

So I’m feeling pretty good about how far I’ve come in a short time (and really happy I didn’t burn myself)

I was not the only “virgin” that night, Jason totally rocked it with his fire staff; he was doing behind the back and under the leg stuff, totally amazing.

Becki broke out her fire fans for the first time and did a very sexy dance for us.

Ostara Fire Spin 014

and Deanna brought her hoop which was really amazing to watch.

Ostara Fire Spin 020

Ostara Fire Spin 021

My friend Becki took some AMAZING photos of all of us, if you have a Facebook account, you can view them by clicking here

Here are a couple nice ones that she got of me.

I can’t wait to do it again… and with BIGGER fire. I just ordered Monkey Fists.


Mood: Excited


It may not feel like spring; but the garden says otherwise

yes, it’s cold, gray rainy and windy (still) but the danger of a hard freeze is (for the most part) over this week and many of us are in full garden mode.

The roses are going nuts leafing out, They had all last summer and fall to build good root systems, I’m expecting good things from them this year.

My garlic (which I planted a couple weeks ago, not in the fall when I should have) has sprouted, and I’m pretty excited about that. It’s just grocery store garlic I bought and soaked the anti sprouting chemicals off of (mine always sprouts anyway)

Garden March 14 2011 001

Since I have all this room in the house, I decided to move my starts down into the basement under the grow lights instead of having them cluttering up the kitchen table.

They didn’t do much down there, even under the lights, so I put a thermometer out and discovered that the basement is a steady 45 degrees. Too cold for little sprouts to be excited about root formation.

So I went to Waterworks Hydroponics down on Washington Street (near S 50th) and got some heat mats.

chimney and seedling photos march 2011 008

chimney and seedling photos march 2011 009

Now, they are happy little sprouts. (check out my lettuce & broccoli)

cell phone photo of seedlings

the plum tree’s buds are just beginning to break open as are the raspberries.

As I was typing out this blog, my organic Yukon Gold seed potatoes showed up, so I’ll be planting those today. I have asparagus crowns on order coming next month.


And of course, the front flower bed is creating a cheery, sunny place even on a dreary day.

Garden March 14 2011 008

This is going to be an awesome spring and an even better summer!


Mood: Excited


It’s Starting to Look Like Spring (well… in the Garden)

Spring is doing it’s best to spring, and I’m trying to help it along.

All the hard work of planting (704) flowers bulbs is paying off. Despite tricky weather conditions; they all appear to be doing well and since I planted them well and deep and will fertilize after they bloom, they will come back each year and in most cases even multiply.

The daffodils budded out right before the first of two snow storms and deep freezes, they don’t seem any worse for wear as my first King Alfred finally opened up all the way. (I have a dozen other varieties planted as well)

March!  Spring is on the way 005

In addition to the yellow/orange crocus, the purple ones are blooming as well.

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As are the hyacinths

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The lilacs from RainTree Nursery (a local nursery that is really great) arrived in fabulous shape, ready to bud out and bloom.

March!  Spring is on the way 009

I planted the three of them along with three new roses to replace the ones the roofers smashed along the sunny side of the house. (I moved the flattened ones to containers in the back yard in hopes that I can save them)

March!  Spring is on the way 008

The roses in the front yard already have plenty of leaves on them. Hopefully now that they’ve had time to develop a strong root system, they’ll really take off this year.

March!  Spring is on the way 007

The blueberries are budding out, one even has some leaves already and the plum trees is just about ready to bloom (Francine and I saw one on 11th St that was blooming yesterday)

The girls took advantage of the sun to enjoy a nice dust bath.

March!  Spring is on the way 011

I don’t think I posted a picture of the potting bench after I got it put together. The next time we get a nice day, I’ll move it a bit closer to the greenhouse (need to finish leveling out the ground first)

I got my Urban Farm Seed Co order in (Territorial seed order is on the way) and planted my first batch of seeds last night. (Lettuce, Spinach, broccoli, three types of tomatoes including Brandywine) corn, onions, cayenne, anehim and bell peppers, peas, pole beans and watermelon. I’ll sow the carrots and radishes directly. I have artichoke, another tomato, infrared sunflowers, and asparagus crowns coming.

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Once they have tiny leaves they’ll be moved down to the basement under the grow lights to join the lavender (which I need to thin tonight) and Drama Queen poppies.

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Even the Christmas Amaryllis is getting into the act. Once it’s done, I’ll move it into my special garden corner along with the paperwhite narcissus that Ana gave me and the parrot tulips I planted in Karen’s memory.

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Mood: Squee


Making the most out of the SUNSHINE

Yesterday was the last sunny day forecast for Grit City for a while, so as soon as I got home from work I hit the yard.

What I WANTED to do was sit on my sunny front porch with a tasty beverage and enjoy the view of the park across the street.

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to sit and enjoy the beautiful day we had today?

My daffodils want to bloom oh so badly.

Garden, February 2011 002

and my tulips are coming up as well

Garden, February 2011 003

Instead of sitting there enjoying the glorious afternoon, I sucked it up and got to work.

The first thing I did was fire up the chain saw to FINALLY take care of my Yule tree. Tomorrow is yard waste pickup and the last few yard pickup days, it’s been snowy or rainy or otherwise unsuitable for being outside cutting up a tree.

*note for those who don’t live in Tacoma, there is no Christmas tree pickup here (unless you pay the Boy Scouts) if we want the city to pick them up and mulch them, we have to cut them up in pieces small enough to fit in our yard waste containers.

Garden, February 2011 005

I was cursing the cheap consumer grade saw I settled for (I got spoiled by big, burly professional saws when I worked for the Forest Service) as I was trying to start it. Then I noticed that the switch was set to “off”. UGH!

Once I got it started, I made short work out of the tree.

Garden, February 2011 006

The tree filled one yard waste container completely and the other partially. I filled the rest of the 2nd container with some other various tree and plant bits from the yard.

After this was done, I had another project. My greenhouse shelves arrived.

They were easy to put together and fit perfectly. They aren’t up against the plexiglass; there is plenty of room to walk around and I have room for my tomato containers when I move them into the greenhouse in the fall.

Garden, February 2011 007

and yes, there was MORE (although this was an inside job)

My “jump start” grow light arrived today (this was a package that UPS claimed was delayed by severe weather/natural disaster in Seattle, when if fact, it arrived well ahead of schedule and they put it on the wrong truck)

This is a GREAT setup. The light fixture can be raised and lowered according to the size and light needs of the plants. Several of the little mini greenhouses and/or bigger plants will fit underneath. I’m going to order another.

Garden, February 2011 010

My potting bench (which will arrive on Saturday when it’s snowing, raining or both so I’ll build it in the basement) will go just outside the greenhouse.

Since it’s supposed to start raining this afternoon/evening and through the foreseeable future (and maybe some snow), this will be the last gardening post for a while (until something blooms, germinates, arrives in the mail or gets planted 😉


Mood: Tired


I have an Itch and I’ve got to Scratch it

Just because there have been some rain, snow and ice free days, and the sun stays up long enough for me to have some daylight to start prepping the yard for spring after work, does not mean I can even think about planting yet right? Oh not true. In addition to bare root roses, berries, fruit trees and fall flowering bulbs, I can start growing things.


I’m in full on spring mode (yes, we have sub freezing temperatures (right now as a matter of fact) and some snow in the forecast) which means I’ve got the itch, BAD and have to scratch it.

I get this way every spring (OK, I get this way every winter when bare roots plants and fall flowering bulbs fill the nurseries) It’s an illness really. I have got to dig in the dirt and plant things.

Fairly high on the list of “best things evah” are the little Jiffy 7 seed starter/mini greenhouse sets; they come with 12 peat pellets included and it’s easy to get refills for later plantings or subsequent plantings (see the refill bag next to the kit)

starting the garden indoors 001

starting the garden indoors 002

Yes, you can start plants in egg cartons or other re-purposed items and cover with plastic, but these are super slick, cheap (you can find them for $2.50 each) are just the right size to set on a window sill (the larger “mini” greenhouses are more difficult to place and rotate) and last forever if you take care of them-buy them once, treat them well and store for use the next year.

An advantage to using peat pellets is that you don’t disturb the roots when you transplant a peat pellet; you just bury the whole thing so you can get away with transplanting things that normally don’t like to be transplanted because their roots are delicate. If the plant starts to get too big too soon to plant, just plant the peat pellet in potting soil in a larger peat pot and you’re good to go for a few more days/weeks without disturbing the roots.

These are super easy to use and not messy. Just add about 1 ¾ cups of warm water to the pellets and in about a minute they puff right up and are ready to plant.

starting the garden indoors 003

Since I buy these once, treat them well and reuse them, I label what I’ve planted with sharpie on scotch tape (interestingly enough that’s the way I mark wine glasses for folks at large parties 😉 I put the name of what I planted, how many are there, and the date I planted. It’s easy to remove the tape and re label for subsequent plantings. You can then put the scotch tape on a plant marker or popsicle stick which will go with the plants.

starting the garden indoors 004

My heirloom veggie seeds haven’t arrived yet (soon, my precious soon…) and not everything should be started quite this early, but I do have some flower seeds I just had to plant.

I started some lavender (not all my plants out front survived our deep freeze) and some fabulous poppies that a friend sent me.

She sent me three different kinds, but the ones I chose to plant first are “Drama Queen” I planted them just because I love the name.

When I looked them up on line, I knew I made the correct choice; these are truly stunning.

Drama Queen Poppies

Drama Queen Poppy

I planted six pellets with lavender and six with poppy, set the lid on to hold in warmth and moisture, and put them near a window to germinate. It just doesn’t get any easier than that (the big bulb you see is a Red Lion Amaryllis I got for Christmas, I also have some paper white narcissus that my friend Anna gave me growing next to it.

starting the garden indoors 005

I will put them under grow lights in the basement once they’re sprouted and have leaves.

In a few weeks when it’s a bit warmer out, I’ll move them out to the greenhouse.

My grow light should be delivered today. It should have been here yesterday. UPS used the excuse “extreme weather/natural disaster” for the delay AFTER it arrived here in Seattle (which probably has the least severe weather anywhere right now) and got put on a truck and driven THROUGH Tacoma down to Hermiston Oregon, then back up THROUGH Tacoma again to Redmond. Now it’s back in Tacoma on a truck for delivery.

My greenhouse shelves should also be arriving today (unless of course something weird happens with them)


Bring it!


Mood: Excited