How a Strawberry Plant Jettisons Me Back to 1960’s

How a Strawberry Plant Jettisons Me Back to 1960’s

Renaissance Man and I went shopping last week-end.  He was on a mission to find replacement bulbs and fuses for our backyard lighting.  The raccoons and Renaissance Man are at war again.  Every spring, the little bandits cleverly unscrew the little bulbs in the ground level fixtures and play with them in our backyard oasis.  Sometimes they go too far and break the fuses (equal to breaking the last straw).  That’s when the traps come out and the peanut butter treats go on the chain link buffet. I think animal control staff have our location programmed in their GPS. Who knew there were so many critters living in a large urban city?  The whole city is like a rodent exhibition at the zoo.  While Renaissance Man is shopping for the repair items, I take myself to the garden nursery.  Of course, the temperatures that day are pushing 70 degrees (next day they nose-dive to 30) so I am in the mood to plan out my spring garden.  I get suckered into this notion every year in Tejas.  I get all worked up about the garden for about 2 months and then my enthusiasm tanks as the temperature’s swelter and the rains dry up.  Nothing but geckos, herbs, sunflowers, and cactus can survive July and August in Texas.  Not even humans…especially not those sweet succulents that are all the rage.  But in late February and early March, these little green starts just seem to sing my name.  There are peppers, arugula, kale, and basil by the bushel and….Quinault strawberry plants.  Say, “wait a minute. “ I know that place called Quinault.  It brought me up short in the shopping aisle.  My maternal grandparents owned a lake house during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s on the Quinault Indian Reservation and they always grew strawberries…and blackberries….and raspberries.  I ate my weight in sweet berries when I was a little scout of a girl visiting during the summer months.  This must be the very same Quinault associated with this flat of strawberries that I was blinking back at Lowe’s.  Stumbling upon these plants released a whole string of memories….

  • Cool and damp sheets on my cheek in the mornings
  • Fat and juicy slugs between my toes
  • Cold streams perfect for cooling root beer from the little store down the path and trapping tadpoles and letting them go
  • Hikes with my parents and brothers through narrow trails bounded by tall evergreens  and stops for picnics of fresh bread and thick slabs of ham wrapped in wax paper
  • Quick dashes to the lake and out in Grandpa Hovorka’s rusty motor boat as he fished for trout and other Olympic Park protected species…Grandma always shouted as we departed, “watch your limit, Earl”.
  • Startling sightings of the Quinault Indians that owned the land and the lake as they quietly slid by in their canoes with spears aimed for fishing
  • Ordering stuffed tomatoes with my Grandma at the Quinault Lodge – still running strong in 2013
  • Long adventuresome car rides from Kansas to Washington State and back again.  One of those trips is where my brothers nearly killed me.

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My mother, father and three brothers (they look innocent but they are not) at Quinault in 1960.  I came along the next year.

The Quinault Indian Reservation is a land of magnificent forests, swift-flowing rivers, and gleaming lakes. Located on the southwestern corner of the Olympic Peninsula, its rain-drenched lands embrace a wealth of natural resources. Conifer forests composed of western red cedar, western hemlock, Sitka spruce, Douglas-fir, Pacific silver fir and lodge pole pine dominate upland sites, while extensive stands of hardwoods, such as red alder and Pacific cottonwood, can be found in the river valleys. Roosevelt elk, black bear, black tail deer, bald eagle, cougar, and many other animals make these forests their home.

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The Quinault Lodge Today

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Book exchange boxes and a new street

Book exchange boxes and a new street

After learning of a looming street renovation project planned for the summer 2013 on our residential block, I would like to look to the possibilities of building a book exchange box  for our tight knit community with a nod to thoughtful design and optimum location.

book sharing

What is a book exchange box?  They are popping up in neighborhoods across the country  and are usually the grass roots efforts of a few interested parties.  Are you an interested party? The boxes often look like birdhouses and are planted near the street and generally hold about 25 books. The use of the box is based on the honor system with a sign on the box that reads “take a book, leave a book”.  It could be a dynamic library in our own front yard.

The renovation (many view it as a demolition) of our street in the coming months will result in replacement of the road, driveways, sidewalks, and easements with new and hopefully improved materials to stand up to the torrid Texas weather.  This is our chance to reconsider tree options, plantings, and yard decor as well  as a convenient time  to install a book exchange box.   Included in the construction of the new road are plans to install large, concrete boxes under the ground, directly below the street to act as drains to trap the excessive flood waters that plague our neighborhood nearly every 5-7 years.  The four, varying sized boxes, will be installed under the roadway beginning at the intersection of El Campo and Ashland and will extend north to the middle of the block.  The boxes are designed to release the water slowly into the rocky soil as an engineered solution to correct the problem that many of the streets in the Arlington Heights neighborhood are built on an ancient creek bed.  The deep dive for these boxes may be as much as 30 feet. We are the guinea pigs for city planners in this first attempt to ease the neighborhood flooding problems. Let’s stay alert to the process – it  will certainly not all go as planned (pilot projects rarely do!).   The entertaining children’s literary piece, Holes, should be required reading this summer.   It would certainly give some real world application that educators tell us our kids need these days. We all must brace for the inconvenient truth of the hassles we will face collectively…where do we park?, where do we place the trash bins?, what about my Greenling delivery order?, and how do I get from here to there with bebe, man’s best friend and the groceries? And in suessical repetition… what about the noise, noise, noise!    I think a book exchange box is just what Ashlanders need this long, trying  summer as we escape our messy street to the possibilities found in a good book. We didn’t get to vote on the four concrete boxes placed below our street but we can certainly vote for a book exchange box on our street.  Please comment if you have thoughts on  either book exchange boxes or street reconstruction in your neighborhood.

Another Sunday

Another Sunday

Thinking about last Sunday when we hosted our first Ashland Sunday Supper for twenty-two of our friends, neighbors and workmates in our tiny little cottage estate in one of the oldest, and original settlement areas of what we casually refer to as “the fort” (Fort Worth). Growing up the last meal of the day on Sunday was always called supper while the rest of the week we called this same  meal time by the more formal word… dinner.  However, the noon meal after church on Sunday was dinner…never lunch.  Makes perfect sense to me. Menu items at our  first attempt at hosting this event included caprese salad, apple, Maytag cheese and walnut mixed greens, slow cooker roasted pig gravy on homemade pasta noodles, and a vodka sauce for the non-meat eaters.  We served a tray of chocolates for dessert (including dark chocolate covered Peep hearts).  The wine was flowing and the debates heated up even though we said oil and gas and religion are taboo topics at the dinner.  Our friends are rule breakers!