actually my poppies
First: very important: in that last post, I forgot to caption the photo! This matters only because I meant to say it was my neighbor’s garden, not mine. That daisy-and-lupine combination is magical and I’d like to copy it as soon as I can…which may not be for a long while. The vicious pandemic grocery budget has absorbed several other categories of funds at present. Plus I’m still paying off my little skin cancer adventure.
Fortunately, living in my Northeast Portland neighborhood has expanded my take on gardening. My first spring here, I walked around in wonder, dazed, drunk on beauty. The yards all around me astonished me daily with wave after wave of bloom. If you followed me on Instagram in Spring 2018, you saw my enchantment in action—every day, photo after photo of some delightful combination of petal and leaf in a neighbor’s front yard. And, knowing Portland has many dazzling corners, I kept thinking: gotta get to the rhododendron garden, gotta get to the rose garden—but I was still recovering from radiation then (it takes a long while before you feel fully yourself after treatment), and “gotta gets” weren’t in the cards yet. Then one day it struck me: I live in a giant garden. This whole neighborhood. It’s all right here rolling out from my doorstep, free for the drinking-in, and not a morsel of work required on my part.
That realization hushed the gotta-gets right up, and ever since, I walk around this neighborhood (it’s called Roseway, for Pete’s sake) feeling like Mary Lennox. Everything’s wick and wonderful and surprising.
I met the neighbor who owns the lupine garden (oh I wish you could see her entire yard; there’s no lawn (my ideal); it’s all daisies and lupines and poppies, and one big peony in the middle) once last summer, during the hot months, when I was out for a nature walk with Huck and Rilla, and the neighbor (we didn’t exchange names, pity) was out front, weeding. I gushed over her lemon balm, which smelled heavenly, and she immediately grabbed a shovel and dug up a clump for me. Gardeners and sourdough bakers are the most generous folks around, always eager to shove some treasure into your hands. It helps, I suppose, when your treasures are things that multiply abundantly.
Sourdough: of course you know I had to restart my starter this spring, what with 80% of the internet obsessed with baking at the moment. I had a good one going two years ago but never seemed up to baking with it (see above re: low energy for a good long while post radiation) and eventually I let it go. Before that, I had years of sourdough starters on and off in San Diego and Virginia. Again: much more tending of the starter, not so much baking of bread. (Sourdough bread, that is. I baked honey wheat loaves almost daily at some points. Remember when I had a whole bread blog?)
This time around, I’m baking. Yesterday’s loaf wasn’t my best: the cooler weather? A wetter dough? I got a decent oven spring but the crumb was dense, not airy like I aim for. And I thought the loaf was just a tad undercooked. Which made for a hilarious moment when Rose told me this was my best sourdough bread yet: it’s the perfect texture, she said. Rilla emphatically agreed. They like a dense, moist loaf. Which means I can never go wrong! No matter how the bread turns out, someone in the house will think it’s perfect.
Which is how I feel about my neighbors’ gardens, all of them. What you’ve nurtured here: perfection. Any gaps or flaws you may perceive are invisible to me. All I see is your magic. Those purple irises against the lime-green euphorbia: inspired! Your lawn full of tiny blue forget-me-nots: a poem I’m learning by heart.
We had so little activity on days 4 and 5 that I was starting to worry this batch of starter wasn’t going to take off. But this morning we’ve got lots of bubbles and froth. Very pleased.
Day 4—transferred to another container, cleaned the crock. Returned 1/2 cup of starter to crock, added 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour.
Day 5—in the morning, same as day 5 (except the transfer/clean step). In evening, activity had been so flat all day, I decided to feed again. This time I added a tablespoon of pineapple juice along with the flour and water, just to help discourage the growth of undesirable bacteria while the good ones are getting established.
Day 6—a.m., removed almost a cup of starter, added 1/2 c water, 1/2 c whole wheat flour.
This isn’t a great photo because I’d already stirred the starter before I remembered to take a picture. It was wonderfully bubbly this morning–lots of activity happening in there. The light here is reflecting off the little bubbles left after I stirred. Is developing a nice sour aroma already. We have high hopes.
Day 3 notes: Stirred, discarded half the starter, added 1/2 cup distilled water, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 all purpose flour.
Other tidbits from this day:
Rose sewed a quilt top this morning and we backed it with some nice rich brown fleece, no batting, no quilting—the superquick “snuggleblanket” method we used a while back for our favorite sofa throw. The fleece backing gave us fits, there was so much stretch in it, but Rose wound up with an extremely cozy little lap quilt and we’re all preparing to fight over it now. We found the precut quilt squares in our stash yesterday—a Moda Layer Cake set I’d picked up who knows when—and that meant this was a no-fuss project that could be accomplished in one morning: so satisfying.
Beanie discovered our copy of Material World and spent the morning poring over that, entranced.
On our walk yesterday we spotted a full-grown amaryllis in a neighbor’s front yard. San Diego never ceases to amaze me.
Got a few bubbles…a good sign!
Notes: Different methods give different advice for the first few days. The sites recommending the pineapple-juice method (see yesterday’s comments) say to do nothing but stir a few times on the second day. The King Arthur site suggests discarding half the starter on Day 2 and adding more flour and water. I did something in between: split the starter into two batches and added small amounts of juice and flour to each. I figure this gives me a backup in case one of them doesn’t take off. The second batch is in a small plastic container and it’s sitting on a minor heat source, which may give it a slight advantage over the other. My kitchen is a bit too cool for optimum starter-starting right now, which means progress will likely be slow. But so far, so good…
Been a while since my last go-round. This photo is day one, hour one. One cup whole wheat flour, half cup distilled water, per the instructions at the King Arthur Flour site (and lots of other places). However, after revisiting my old favorite sourdough site, Northwest Sourdough, I’ve decided to add a bit of pineapple juice. The acid in the juice (apple cider also works) encourages the growth of the right microorganisms and discourages the nasty ones.
Last time I tried starter from scratch, it bubbled along nicely at first and then fizzled on me. Before that, I’ve had great success with starters purchased from Northwest Sourdough and a King Arthur one given to me for Christmas by a friend (along with my beloved blue-and-white crock).
In between bouts of sourdough-ing, I had a good long run of regular breadmaking using the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method. (Many posts and pictures here.) We fell out of the habit when summer rolled around and none of us could bear the thought of turning on the stove. But the ABi5 recipes worked wonderfully for us, and it’s certainly a more economical path than storebought bread. I might resume the practice after Thanksgiving; right now the fridge is too full.
Lookie here, my old (way old) bread blog is still kicking around! I really should import those posts to this site one of these days.
I promised to show a picture of the table runner I made. It’s not a great picture, but that’s okay because it’s not a great table runner. But I’m pretty pleased with it. The runner, I mean. The other side is the same green floral as the ends here. The checked fabric—which has green in it and isn’t as orange in real life as in this photo—was a long scrap from the curtains I made for the kids’ craft room.
I had fun with Flickr’s “add a note” feature if you want to click through for commentary on the photo. Well, actually, it’s another photo almost exactly like this one, revealing what happens when Scott walks into the room.
I’ve been in a very handcrafty mood lately, as my last couple weeks’ worth of posts probably make obvious. I tried my hand at the zipper pouch from Bend-the-Rules Sewing, inspired by Jenn’s lovely pink patchwork pouch. This was my first-ever attempt at putting in a zipper, and, well, it zips. Just don’t inspect the ends too closely…
And now that it’s finally feeling cool enough (in the mornings, at least—we’re melting by noon) to think of baking, I’ve been pining for my lost sourdough starter. We suffered a little fridge snafu a while back, and room temperature was way too hot for my starter, which had been living in the freezer through the hot months. It got moldy. Sob. Also, ick.
So I’ve been tempted to order a new one, but I thought first I’d try my hand at starting one from scratch. Some sites describe this as a ridiculously easy undertaking. Other sources say ominous things about poor success rates in arid climates, which we certainly have here in the decidely dry eastern half of San Diego County. But hey, a cup of flour and a cup of water is pretty low overhead for an experiment. So on Thursday morning I mixed up a batch and put it in a warm corner. By Friday it was already looking promisingly bubbly.
I fed it twice yesterday, and this morning it looks frothy and vigorous. (Blurry photo: snapped hastily in the midst of getting breakfast for my little people.)
Think I’ll give it one more day to get established and maybe try it in some biscuits tomorrow. Just about time to move it into the fridge, too.
And finally, a little backyard beautification project: the kids are decorating our side of the neighbor’s big ole wall with sidewalk chalk. It’ll last a long time here in did-I-mention-it’s-very-dry? San Diego County. I think we’ve only seen rain once in the last four months.