Archive for October, 2012


Apple Tasting Day

Now that I live in Portland I felt it was time to get to know my local Apples better. I know the names of British Apples quite well, Ashmead’s Kernel, Beauty of Bath, Blenheim Orange. They all have lovely traditional names. But when it comes to Apple varieties here in the Pacific Northwest I’m a beginner.

I’d love to turn part of my new garden into a mini-orchard. In reality that probably won’t materialise for about a year but that gives me plenty of time to research and prepare the ground for planting next Autumn. So when I saw that my local nursery was holding an Apple Tasting event I had to be there. For research purposes you undersand!

I’ve had most success with fruit when I’ve grown what has evolved locally. By that I mean that the variety has been perfected for my local climate and may have even originated there. When I lived in Bath, UK I grew an Apple variety called Queen Cox that was perfectly suited to the wet weather there. It blossomed and we dined on Apple Crumble all Autumn. So I’m planning to do the same here and grow what the local farms produce.

I sampled a lot of apples! To be honest by the end of it I couldn’t discern the sweet from the tart. But there were a couple of varieties that stood out for me and I’ll be trying to incorporate them into my orchard plan.

Ashmead’s Kernal – the old favourite reins. Good all rounder for eating, baking and keeping
Brock – sweet and tart and good for eating and baking
Buckeye Gala (red) – great tasting eating Apple
Cameo – Super sweet eating Apple
Cortland – Tart and great for baking
Elstar – for its taste and amazing colour, good for baking
Honey Crisp – Sweet eating Apple and a good keeper
King David – Sweet and tart and good for baking
McIntosh – sweet, good for eating, baking and keeping
Rubinette – Great for Apple sauce
Spitzenberg – Sweet and tart and can be used for drying
Swiss Gourmet – A sweet eating Apple

Starkinson – for its sweet tast and amazing bright red colour

Asian Pear
20th Century – this had a really interesting almost flowery taste.


A Late Rose

I took this photo of a late rose on the way to drop off at school the other morning. It’s amazing to me that it’s the end of October and beautiful flowers like this are just growing in the car park. The rain drops helped of course.


Make Some Flubber

I confess I had never heard of Flubber when I moved here. Back in the UK my kids played with playdough, paints, chalk etc but Flubber? No. This was a new thing to me. So when my 4 year old joined the local pre-school co-op and I was assigned the task of ‘making playdough and flubber’ I was more than a little worried. The day loomed when my new skills would be put to the test and 14 little faces would be awaiting their art supplies. Hmmm..

But I made it, the teacher said it was good, and miraculously the kids played with it! I noticed though, that they didn’t just play with it, they were mesmerised by it. And this was not down to my quality product but the fact that Flubber just is ‘mesmerising’.

Have you every played with it? You probably have – I’ve led a sheltered existence. It’s crazy stuff. It slips through your fingers, you can stretch it and break it, chop it and squish it back together again. And then leave it on a rack and it will slowly drip, drip down until all of it is on the table and not on the rack anymore. It does its own thing. It’s almost alive. It’s cold and clammy and feels weird when you put it on your skin. The dog likes to eat it (not recommended). And children? Well, they can’t stop playing with it. Bingo!

So here’s the recipe. The ingredients are simple and it’s easy to make. And it will keep the children amused, guaranteed.

How to Make Flubber

Makes 2 batches

Container 1:

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 4 cups white glue
  • Food colouring

Container 2:

  • 2 and 2/3 cups warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons of Borax

Mix thoroughly the ingredients in each container. Pour the contents of container 2 into container 1. Gently lift and turn the mixture until only about a tablespoon of liquid is left. The Flubber will be sticky for a moment or two. Let the excess liquid drip off and the Flubber will be ready. It will last for two to three weeks in an airtight container.

And if you don’t want to stop here, there are so many more ‘make your own art supplies‘ recipes too.


New Window Boxes

Since I have no garden to garden in as such (it’s a pile of dirt right now waiting for irrigation trenches to be dug) I turned my attention to the window boxes at the front of the house. They’re pretty protected by the porch so I’m thinking that any plants will be fine through the Winter.

I bought the plants at my local garden shop, Garden Fever. It’s not the cheapest shop in the world but then when you have kids there is something to be said for convenience (read: I had half an hour to do this so it had to get done quick!).

I went for a purple, sage green look with Lavenders and ever greens. They are, Artemisia Schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’, Parahebe Olsenii, Lavender Dilly Dilly, Nepeta Citriodora (Lemon Catmint), Penstemon Heterophyllus, Selaginella Moellendorffii.

Some of these plants will grow too big for a window box. But for now they seem happy and I’ll transplant them into the garden later on.


A Day at the Pumpkin Patch

Today, we visited a local Pumpkin farm with the pre-school. I was excited because I’ve never visited a Pumpkin farm before. Back in the UK Pumpkin farms are hard to come by. There are some but as the summers are not predictable I’m sure it’s not very stable business for farmers. Here in Portland, however the situation is very different. With the longer summer temperatures and sunshine (although I’ve been assured this is usually sunny for October) Pumpkins do very well here.

The children were here to harvest the Pumpkins sown by the previous class in May. It was a sweet idea – that a child who was a year older than you left you a ‘present’ in the ground and it grew to become a Pumpkin. We soon located the one for us and Jackson held on to it tightly.

The number of different varieties that were grown here was impressive. This knobbly variety is actually called, Red Warty Thing, which is a brilliant name for what can only be described as a red warty thing.

Other varieties included New Moon, Jack Be Little, Swan Neck Gourds, Baby Boo, Apple Gourd and Bat Wing Pumpkins.

This one is called Lil Pump Ke Mon.

The farmers even decorated the hay wagon with corn and dried flowers. It was all lovely.

And best of all it’s made me very excited to grow Pumpkins next year. I’m already thinking about which seed varieties I’ll be buying and where to plant them.