Thursday, October 02, 2014

Throwback Thursday

These are the only two photographs I have of my first dog, Lassie. When I was about four or five years old, my dad brought a newly weaned collie puppy home. When I saw her, the story goes, I yelled, "It's Lassie!" and that was forever her name. She and I were inseparable those first years. She naturally became the family dog, but I always thought of here as "mine."

Lassie around 1965, sitting under my dad's chair. Just a pup.

We lived in the country at the time and there were no leashes or fenced-in yards. We just went outside and played. Lassie would come and go as she pleased. She did chase cars as a puppy and actually got clipped by one, but it wasn't serious and she stopped chasing cars after that. The years went by and my family moved a lot, and Lassie adjusted every time. And still, I don't ever remember having a leash for her. We just let her out and she wandered around, always coming back home. I remember once, at a campground in the 70s, having to tie a rope around her neck to walk her because they had instituted a leash rule, but that was the only time.

A photo I took of Lassie in 1975. She was still in good health then.

In 1977 I was a senior in high school and Lassie was thirteen years old. She developed a series of problems and my dad took her to the vet a few times. The prognosis wasn't good and the last time she went to the vet she didn't come back. I was in denial about it all and pretended that everything was ok, but I really missed that dog. It wasn't until 1992 that Ken and I adopted my second dog, Collette. She was a Shetland mix and looked like a smaller version of Lassie. Now we have Callie, another collie (actually a border collie, but they're all related). There's something about sheep dogs!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Applesauce cake

When I was just barely a teenager, I saw a television movie that was the beginning of what would become "The Waltons," a long-running television series in the United States. The movie, called "The Homecoming, A Christmas Story," starred Patricia Neal as Olivia Walton, the strong mother of seven children. The film was set on a Christmas Eve during the Great Depression. Olivia spent precious money to buy sugar to make her traditional Christmas applesauce cake. I watch that movie on DVD every year now; it's become one of my holiday traditions.

My first applesauce cake of the season, topped with powdered sugar. Delicious!

I'm not sure I ever had an applesauce cake when I was a kid. We certainly had apple pie, but that's not the same thing. So now I make applesauce cake with the apples from our trees out back, inspired by Olivia Walton. It has become a holiday tradition in our house. This year is not a good year for apples, but I made applesauce last year and froze it. So on Tuesday I thawed out some of the applesauce and made the cake. It includes toasted walnuts from a friend's tree across town. It's not the holiday season yet, and this will not be the last applesauce cake I enjoy this year. That, and a little of Miss Mamie's and Miss Emily's papa's recipe...

UPDATE: Some of you asked for the recipe (for the cake, not the bootleg whiskey), so here it is:

Applesauce Cake

2½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar (I use 1
½ cups)
1½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon (I use
½ tsp.)
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. ground allspice
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup water
1½ cups unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs

1 cup roughly chopped toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9”x13” baking dish.
Combine all ingredients; pour in prepared pan.
Bake 60-65 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More harvesting

After Monday morning's rain, the harvesters got busy again. I saw two of them during my walk with Callie, and heard a third not far away. And they continued through the day. I think they are still working on the sauvignon blanc.

The yellow tractor vibrates the grapes off the vine and collects them in those white bins on either side. When the bins are full, they get dumped into the waiting blue trailer, then off to the winery they go.

We're expecting a dry week ahead, so I think that's good news for the harvest. I wonder when they'll start bringing in the red grapes?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Autumn flowers

I thought I had pulled all these flowers out last fall. They're some variety of helianthus, I think, or sunflower, although not the giant sunflower that's planted for its seeds. My goal was to move them from this spot around the well to another location out back by the garden shed. I pulled up every stalk with its tuberous roots and replanted each one. But they came back in this same spot as if I had done nothing. Oh well (c'est le cas de le dire).

After the summer's garden flowers have faded, these bloom a bright yellow and reach up to about six feet.

Only about half of the plants I moved came up, but they're ok. It takes a good year for these to get re-established once they're moved. The difficult part is actually getting rid of them once they establish themselves. I'm going to move another batch of them this fall or next spring.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Foggy mornings

As we move into fall, our mornings can be foggy. Mostly it's river fog that creeps up the stream beds on either side of the valley. The farther you walk out into the vineyards, the farther you are from the river and the less fog there is.

The rising sun shines through morning fog out in the vineyards.

Sometimes, when the conditions are right, a thick layer of fog forms over the whole region and doesn't burn off. Those gray days are normal for November; we haven't seen one yet this fall.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The harvest continues

The harvesters arrived on Friday morning even before the sun came up. By the time Ken went out for his walk with Callie, there were two harvesters plying the vine rows out back. I readied the camera for a snap or two and got this one just as Ken and Callie were getting back home. Just after I took this first picture, the guys emptied the grapes from the harvester into the waiting trailer. I missed that shot.

I took this picture on the fly. Hand-held, telephoto lens, through the window. Not too bad, eh?

A few moments later, the trailer full of sauvignon blanc grapes drove past the kitchen window. I changed lenses and nearly missed this shot of the grapes on their way to the winery. We'll be seeing a lot of this in the next weeks. The whole red grape crop is still out there. Once the right sugar levels are reached, and the weather is right, they'll be brought in, too.

A truckload of sauvignon blanc headed to the winery.

Fall is my favorite time of year. I also like summer, spring, and winter. Still, there is something about fall with the harvest, the turning of the leaves, the crisp air, and all the food that goes with it, that I really enjoy. Life is good!

Friday, September 26, 2014

In a parallel universe

The black riders caught up with Frodo and took the ring. They left his headless body as a warning to those who would oppose the dark lord Sauron. I shudder to think what they did to Sam and the others.

Callie inspects the "remains."

This "body" has been hanging in the woods up on the other side of the vineyards for years. Ken discovered it on a walk one day, and I went to see it not long after. It's still there today. I don't know whose woods these are, or why this is there. Not far from this spot, down in a ravine, I noticed a makeshift shelter, built with tree branches and old tarps. I haven't gone close enough to see if there's any sign of activity. It's probably just an old fort built by some kids -- there's an abandoned kids' fort in the woods on the north side of our house. But who knows?