Last Gasp of an Oregon Summer

This morning we woke up early to harvest hops at a friend’s house, brew beer and enjoy some sun. The morning started with Sam in a box and progressed to fiddling with crawdads in the Clackamas river while Andy and Ben did the hard work of harvesting.



A Summer in the Yard

This summer has included a few major yard projects at my parent’s house in Salem and since I love working outside, I volunteered to help out. I’m horrible at remembering to take before and after photos so the best thing I can do to show you the work we did in the yard is to show the other side of the yard:

Overgrown trees, encroaching blackberries and general chaos was pretty much the theme on the opposite side of the yard. By purchasing a ton of groupons and the like, my mom was able to buy a truckload of new plants to completely redo the yard. Here’s the after:

My mom locally sourced *free* bark to cover her landscape fabric from a program that recycles yard debris with troubled youth. Mom also used an old sewing machine treadle base with a rescued wood plank on top to create a little table (see bottom left). Grandma donated the wire ice cream chairs and the GIANT arbor that you can barely see behind the fire pit was a Portland craigslist score. Originally the seller wanted $50 but when they found out the $25 cost to my parent’s of renting a trailer because the darn thing was so big, they dropped the price to $25! In order to set-up the plants, we carefully researched the mature size of each and labeled them with huge signs so we could arrange the tall in back and shorter in front. Dad chainsawed the trimmings from all the limbs we cut in order to make wooden stepping stones that you can see in the top photo.

Years ago, my mom tried to plant this part of the yard with shade loving plants and everything died. It was only later that she realized the noon sun cuts right under the trees and the whole area is much friendlier to part-sun/full sun plants. Voila. The plants are doing great and I can’t wait for the yard to grow in!

Building a Vertical Garden

This summer, I helped my mom rip out a holly tree and a cherry tree that were overtaking her deck and replaced it with a vertical shade garden. The original idea came from A Kate Offering. We changed it by using 2x12x12 cedar planks and 4×6 center posts on edge. The project cost was estimated at $350-400 which included all of our own labor. We transported the wood, dug the post holes, poured the concrete and put the darn thing together. The garden needed 8 large bags of potting soil and possibly more after it settles. But, the hard work made a tremendous difference in the backyard area. The privacy was maintained between my parent’s house and the neighbors and the structure should last a good long time. Here are the results:


From Andrew Sullivan

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for this elaboration on an issue I’ve been feeling in my gut for the last two years. And this doesn’t even touch on the student loan numbers surpassing credit card debt.

The University Handstamp

A pseudonymous professor decries the college premium:

The college premium exists, unfortunately, but it’s an artificial construct. Colleges have inserted themselves squarely in the occupational world. Industry and academia march hand in hand to a song of credential inflation: young people who aspire to working at anything beyond fast-food assembly won’t get a look without the college diploma. Most B.A. degrees say little to employers in terms of specific skills; they are a marker, like a hand stamp that gains one entrance to a nightclub. They point to little more than a willingness to pay college tuition and complete degree requirements. Those lacking higher education find themselves ineligible for promotion, herded to lesser career tracks.

Yglesias believes college is in for a transformation on par with the one that has rocked the newspaper industry.

via The Daily Dish

Burning Man

As many people have attested over the years, Burning Man is a difficult experience to relay without being surrounded by new friends, playa dust, booming art cars and Black Rock City. It’s a temporary place that so many people carry in their hearts year round. I had a blast there making so many great friends, exploring and challenging myself. Here’s a video that captures the essence better than I can try to explain:


On the Bookshelf

  Currently Reading: A Feast for Crows is where I’m at with reading the epic Game of Thrones books. These books are a serious time investment with each one pushing 1,000 pages. They are written in the same vein as the Pillars of the Earth with a higher death rate for the main characters and a splash of fantasy (evil forest creatures, dragons, a touch of magic . . .). I’m enjoying the brutal world created in these books but the story is really meandering in this fourth book; too many freshly introduced characters that are difficult to keep straight or care about. All the books are structured by cycling through every character’s chapter, but with so many characters, it gets difficult to pick up story lines wherever they were left last. I’ve only seen one episode of the HBO show based on the books and it was pretty decent but not really my style. I’m more looking forward to the renewal of Downton Abbey.



Currently Reading: In between reading Feast for Crows and/or when I get too frustrated with George RR Martin, I’ve started Gaia’s Garden, a very practical and informative perspective on home gardening. So far, I’m in love. Anytime science is used to explain plant behavior, I figure the gardening book has got something going for it. This book is a system approach to gardening and since I’m hoping to get into the Master Gardener program through OSU Extension Services this November, I’m excited to read something that will give me some more background in permaculture.

Taking a trip

I’ve decided I must visit this house. The interior! The view!


Thanks to dwell magazine for spotlighting this amazing place!


Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior -Amy Chua

Wow. This article is one of the most interesting looks at cultural differences I’ve read in a long time. What an insight!

On the Bookshelf

Recently Read: A one sitting read, Yellow Star is a haunting example of a holocaust experience rarely seen: a child. The author details her Aunt Syvia’s story of surviving in the Lodz Ghetto. Aunt Syvia’s’s four years old in 1939 and six years later, she is one of 12 children to leave the Ghetto that held over a quarter of a million people at it’s most crowded. There are bitterly sweet moments, such as when young Syvia is forced to be left at home while her parents and sister go to work and she slowly cleans the flat and makes friends out of the dustballs. The prose is stream-of-conciousness and captivating. Highly recommended.


Recently Read: Coming to Stay: A Columbia River Journey is a tender non-fiction story of one family’s long history living and moving around the Pacific Northwest with a heavy emphasis on their interactions and work with the Native American population. I spotted the author on OPB and was immediately interested in the book based on her gentle manner and her overwhelming urge to collect bits and pieces to weave into the baskets she makes. During the OPB interview, while walking and talking, she would stoop over and snag a piece of grass or a root and start to prepare it for weaving.

Currently Reading: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Based on the author’s curiousity about the ever-present HeLa cells in modern science, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks explores the life and death, family and journey that Henrietta Lacks and her cells have taken. So far, the book is just as interesting and investigative as I was hoping for.