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Tuesday, 24 August 2010


I've started cutting back the overgrowth on the creek bank behind our garden, and first in line for my wrath are the brambles. As you can see from the picture, they have grown over 30 ft long, thorny all the way, with maybe one bunch of blackberries each. These brambles, plus a load of wild roses, are strangling everything else, including the few trees left on the bank that provide a screen of privacy between ourselves and our neighbours across the creek. 

Our neighbour Robert is pleased with my activity, I suspect that the previous owners neglected this area to let it get quite so overgrown. I tried a petrol-powered strimmer, but it just mashed the stalks before getting choked. The machete looks nifty, but is currently too blunt to slice through, and mostly just bashes off the stalks. The dibber is of course totally impractical for this work, and I've settled on secateurs (aka pruning shears) as the best option. Once I got in amongst the stems it was easy to select which to cut, though removing the cut 30 ft sections takes a bit of tugging and often further cuts into manageable portions.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Lane County Fair

The third week of August brought us the Lane County Fair, suitable located at the Lane County Fairgrounds. The Fair runs from Wednesday to Sunday, and having a free Friday, Beth and I went along, arriving about half an hour after it opened. 

That is to say we arrived at the front gate in our car. Unfortunately the main car park was already full, so we drove round the corner towards the overflow carpark (and a potential $5 fee), but found an empty space on Jefferson Street before we got there. This was probably the best possible result for us, and when we left all the roadside spaces around were filled but we were able to drive away easily.

Onto the gate on foot, a rapidly lengthening queue, and a $9 entry fee (each). The annual summer fair on Ealing Common has in recent years started charging just to get in, so this was not entirely unexpected, though last April I was in Cherbourg in Normandy and had a very pleasant wander round a French Fair with no entry charge. I suspect the French, who are very good at this sort of thing, simply said an en masse "Non", and the idea was dropped. The advantage is it keeps out the riff-raff and potential trouble makers.

We had brought a packed lunch, and I'd brought a small cool bag to keep my sodas cold. Beth spotted a sign on the side of the ticket booth saying, amongst other negatives, "No Coolers", so I stuffed it into my backpack, and got through unchallenged. The reason for no coolers, of course, is to force you to buy cold drinks at inflated prices. 

On to the Fair then. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it was (mostly) a Fair much as we have been to in England. Beth and I don't "do" fairground rides, as we both suffer from motion sickness, though we like to watch other people on the rides and proceeded to do so. Some of the gentler rides might have been OK, such as the Ferris Wheel pictured above, but here we hit the next snag. Apart from the expected queue for each ride, there was also a long queue for the tickets for the rides. The system is that you buy a roll of tickets (at 75 cents each) before you start, and use those tickets for each ride, which mostly cost six tickets each (thus $4.50 a ride).  You can buy these ride tickets online beforehand, but we hadn't. Not keen on joining yet another queue, we decided to skip this queue and just enjoy watching.

In addition to the rides there were various booths with the usual nearly-impossible games offering small prizes. Basketball with a smaller than regulation hoop, burst the balloon with a dart, throw the 9" hoop over the 10" square box, that sort of thing. These also required several tickets. There were automatic ticket machines available as well as the main ticket booth, but we didn't feel the need to try these games so we passed onto the food booths. I bought and ate some candy floss, but we had brought our own lunch to avoid paying $8.50 for a burger and fries, so again our money mostly stayed firmly in our pockets.

In addition to the temporary booths and rides, the Fairgrounds has a number of permanent buildings, and several of these contained animals on show. The Lane County Fair, like the Royal County of Berkshire Show at the Newbury Showground (UK), is the occasion when people bring their sheep, goats, pigeons and other birds, horses and cows to be shown and win rosettes. We viewed the sheep and goats, and saw some chicks hatching in an incubator. Ditto vegetables, and there was a display of quilts and other fabric crafts which we enjoyed. Another hall held various booths selling jewellery, replacement windows, the ultimate glue, etc. but in semi-darkness because many of the ceiling lights had failed, and there was next to no natural light beyond the atrium.

We wandered round the trade stalls, looked at displays fruit and vegetables, voting for our favorite display and comparing the offerings unfavourably with our own garden fare, and eventually went outside to eat our packed lunches. Then we tried to go back in to the Candy and Baking Hall, but by now the building's lights had failed completely and the hall was temporarily closed.

Thus thwarted, we looked at each other and decided to call it a day. We'd been at the show for several hours, and though it was open until 11pm, we didn't bother to get our hands stamped for possible re-entry. Instead we headed home via Wal-Mart so we could stock up on a few essentials and luxuries using our discount cards.

All in all it was interesting, but probably not something we'll repeat next year. Apart from our entry fee we spent a grand total of $3.50 between us, less than the cost of one ride for one person, but would have spent more if there was something worth spending it on.

Next weekend there is the State Fair at Salem, and we had intended to go to that too with Beth's grandmother who is coming to visit, but it's an hour's drive Each way for more of the same, so chances are we'll give it a miss.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Thursday, 12 August 2010

How Many Fruit and Vegetables Grow in an Oregon Country Garden?

I'll tell you now of some that I know and those I miss you'll surely pardon.



more tomatoes...

more tomatoes


and pumpkins

yet more tomatoes


yes sweetcorn

and strawberries




chives (or maybe shallots)



and more grapes in an Oregon country garden.

Beth is the real gardener and I have lawn tending and weed pulling duties most of the time, but Beth's away this week at a music camp near Portland, so I've had the twice daily duty of watering all her plants.

We have an automatic sprinkler system which I've set to go off twice a day for 5 minutes each time, but it's mostly directed at keeping the lawns green. It hasn't rained a drop here since early June. We also have a sprinkle/drip system for some of the raised beds and grapes but we're still playing around with that, so manual watering is necessary, and a good opportunity to examine everything for growth and possible harvesting.  Our house has several outside taps (two at the front, one at the side and three out back), and we have hoses connected up to three of these for easy watering of different areas.    

The pumpkins are my one contribution so far to the growing part of our garden, intended for harvesting and making into jack-o-lanterns. They have about ten weeks to make something worth putting a candle in.
Verse Two:
How many black cats feel at home in an Oregon Country Garden? 
I'll tell you now of two that I know and those I miss must be very elusive. 
Ghost spies LB, rushes over, LB looks less than impressed

Ghost tries to start a fight, LB ignores him

Ghost pretends he didn't want a fight and examines the fence

Ghost measures himself

and LB makes good his escape.

Our cats enjoy hanging out down by the creek. We have a small gate at the southeast corner of the garden which leads out to this area, and the cats can often be found sunning themselves here between mealbreaks. It's not all fights, despite recent cinetmatic and photographic evidence, and when Ghost is sufficiently sleepy the two will settle down within paws' length and doze.

The fence here is actually a neighbour's, and they have access to this bank too but only seem to use it as a dumping ground for tree cuttings. In the Fall I plan to start chopping away at the enormous blackberry brambles on the bank, as neither Beth nor I are particularly fond of blackberries, and hopefully we'll make more room for wildlife and the other plants there.

How many creepy-crawlies find their home in an English country garden?
I'll tell you now of some I know and those I miss I hope you'll pardon.



slugs and snails


OK, well you get the idea.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Toy Train

I recently added a Western Train set to my Playmobil collection, and the above video is a quick test of the system. I hotglued (!?!) my digital camera to the caboose (guard's van), and set it running. The wires were a bit twitchy, hence the delay at the start, but I've replaced them and that seems to have fixed matters.

The track is currently 20 feet long, but I'll be adding another 24 feet including a lot more straight sections as soon as they arrive.